As Many Exceptions As Rules

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Exceptions to natural and biological rules are used to increase interest in biology. Recent studies, and not so recent studies, are described in order to demonstrate amazing organisms and practices. Core concepts of biology are emphasized, with side trips into the research of topics that give insight into the evolution and interelatedness of all life.

Mark Lasbury
208 posts

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  • February 10, 2016
  • 07:30 AM
  • 31 views

Form Follows Function - It’s About Time

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Animals have some interesting nocturnal/diurnal patterns, but can parasites have daytime and nighttime activity patterns? Here is a story of nocturnal owl monkeys, mosquitoes, and malaria parasites and the timing that makes owl monkeys the only primate susceptible to the human and primate forms of malaria.... Read more »

Kreysing, M., Pusch, R., Haverkate, D., Landsberger, M., Engelmann, J., Ruiter, J., Mora-Ferrer, C., Ulbricht, E., Grosche, J., Franze, K.... (2012) Photonic Crystal Light Collectors in Fish Retina Improve Vision in Turbid Water. Science, 336(6089), 1700-1703. DOI: 10.1126/science.1218072  

  • February 3, 2016
  • 08:45 AM
  • 77 views

Plants That Don’t Sleep Will Take The Dirt Nap

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

If you don't let your plants sleep at night, they die....really! Several species of plants fold their leaves up and reduce their activity at night, every night. If kept from doing that, they turn brown and shrivel up. It's called nyctinasty, and it is different from tropic movements that are directed against specifically positioned stimuli. And what directs their movements? Water! - plants are hydraulic machines.... Read more »

  • January 20, 2016
  • 06:55 AM
  • 131 views

Pump Up Your Brain

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Exercising makes you smarter! Preadolescents who begin exercising score better on a cognitive assessment not unlike an IQ test. They also perform better on a math test, even though no additional math instruction was given. But to maximize the increase in neural plasticity, you have to exercise several times a week for months. The weirdest part – different types of exercise alter different neurotrophins, so to be your smartest, you need to do aerobic training and resistance training. ... Read more »

  • January 13, 2016
  • 09:05 AM
  • 222 views

Exercise Puts Me To Sleep – You Too

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

A New Year’s resolution to exercise could also help you sleep. But how? It wears you out and reduces stress, but there is much more. Exercise manipulates the temperature of the body by messing with your brain and modulates immune cytokine levels. It’s true… your immune system controls sleep cycles!... Read more »

  • January 6, 2016
  • 08:55 AM
  • 242 views

It’s An Exercise Resolution

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

More exercise is a good New Year’s resolution, but do you know why it is good for you? Sure, you strengthen your heart and may lose some weight, but exercise affects your brain most of all. Exercise releases helps your mood releasing a chemical in your brain just like the active ingredient in marijuana.... Read more »

Galdino G, Romero TR, Silva JF, Aguiar DC, de Paula AM, Cruz JS, Parrella C, Piscitelli F, Duarte ID, Di Marzo V.... (2013) The endocannabinoid system mediates aerobic exercise-induced antinociception in rats. Neuropharmacology, 313-324. PMID: 24148812  

  • December 30, 2015
  • 10:15 AM
  • 259 views

One Myrrh-aculous Christmas Gift

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

In years gone by, myrrh made a great gift. It was known to be anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. It was woven into mythology, as Myrrha, turned into a myrrh tree, gave birth to Adonis. What the ancients didn’t know was that 2000 years later we would find that constituents of myrrh would be important in curing cancer.... Read more »

  • December 23, 2015
  • 07:20 AM
  • 283 views

The Resin For the Season

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Frankincense was important in many religions, recent evidence indicates that frankincense contains a psychoactive agent that increases feelings of well-being, this may be the key to the resin’s use in sacred rites and rituals. We are finding that other components of the resin are powerful anti-inflammatory and anticancer agents. Unfortunately, overharvesting, climate change, and even low genetic diversity are threatening the species that gives us this special resin. ... Read more »

  • December 16, 2015
  • 08:50 AM
  • 274 views

A Gift Worth Its Weight In Gold

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Gold is not considered a dietary micronutrient, and is the one of the most inert metals. But this is not to say it has no role in living systems; in fact, this metal is a veritable gold mine of biology. New research has led to a greater understanding of how gold can down-regulate inflammatory processes and gold complexes are being used in cancer and infectious disease treatments.... Read more »

  • December 9, 2015
  • 08:05 AM
  • 365 views

Snow Saves Lives

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

It may be warm for December, but the snow is coming. Recent studies are showing the unique ways that organisms depend on and use snow in order to survive. An antifreeze protein from snow fleas may lengthen the time that organs can be stored for transplant. More amazing, reindeer use the UV rays that bounce of the snow to see predators – they are the only mammals that can see in the UV range.... Read more »

Hogg C, Neveu M, Stokkan KA, Folkow L, Cottrill P, Douglas R, Hunt DM, & Jeffery G. (2011) Arctic reindeer extend their visual range into the ultraviolet. The Journal of experimental biology, 214(Pt 12), 2014-9. PMID: 21613517  

Kondo H, Hanada Y, Sugimoto H, Hoshino T, Garnham CP, Davies PL, & Tsuda S. (2012) Ice-binding site of snow mold fungus antifreeze protein deviates from structural regularity and high conservation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(24), 9360-5. PMID: 22645341  

  • December 2, 2015
  • 08:00 AM
  • 323 views

The Best Cure for Insomnia Is To Get A Lot Of Sleep

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

We all need to sleep, but why? Recent studies investigate the requirement of sleep for neural plasticity and learning, so how come bullfrogs never sleep?... Read more »

  • November 24, 2015
  • 06:19 AM
  • 346 views

Corn Color Concepts

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Indian corn isn’t corn, it’s maize. But not all corn is maize, corn is actually an old word that denotes the major crop of any particular region. The colors are most beautiful, including a newly breed variety called Carl’s Glass Gem corn. The spots of color were instrumental in our understanding of DNA and gene movement, but do you think we would be so fast to decorate our houses with it if it were common knowledge how much Indian corn has in common with the causative agents of........ Read more »

  • November 18, 2015
  • 07:04 AM
  • 481 views

Give Thanks For The Cranberry

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Here comes Thanksgiving! The cranberry is an amazing fruit on its own for several reasons. Its cultivation and botany are unusual, as is its seed dispersal mechanism and structure. However, a major push has been on to understand the medicinal uses of the cranberry. Much debate is taking place as to the usefulness of cranberry compounds, anthocyanidins and polyphenols, in the prevention of urinary tract infections. Cranberry is even having some success in type II diabetes and as an anti-viral age........ Read more »

Ruel G, Lapointe A, Pomerleau S, Couture P, Lemieux S, Lamarche B, & Couillard C. (2013) Evidence that cranberry juice may improve augmentation index in overweight men. Nutrition research (New York, N.Y.), 33(1), 41-9. PMID: 23351409  

Shidfar F, Heydari I, Hajimiresmaiel SJ, Hosseini S, Shidfar S, & Amiri F. (2012) The effects of cranberry juice on serum glucose, apoB, apoA-I, Lp(a), and Paraoxonase-1 activity in type 2 diabetic male patients. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 17(4), 355-60. PMID: 23267397  

  • November 11, 2015
  • 08:05 AM
  • 405 views

Fish Guts and Cancer

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

E. fishelsoni s a bacterium that breaks the rules. It grows from 10 µm long to a fully visible 0.7 mm….in twelve hours! Normally, diffusion isn’t adequate for a bacterium this big because it takes too long for two interacting proteins to find one another. But what if the bacterium make more of the protein, so much more that it can find a partner all the time. How can you make that much of each protein? E. fishelsoni does it by making 85,000 copies of its genome….. ever........ Read more »

Bresler V, Montgomery WL, Fishelson L, Pollak PE. (1998) Gigantism in a bacterium, Epulopiscium fishelsoni, correlates with complex patterns in arrangement, quantity, and segregation of DNA. J Bacteriol., 180(21), 5061-5611. info:/9791108

  • November 4, 2015
  • 08:10 AM
  • 393 views

Breaking the Size Barrier – Giant Bacteria, part 1

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

The rules of biology say that a bacterium must be small because it doesn’t have dedicated systems for moving molecules around inside the cell and diffusion can only move them so far, so fast. Well, here’s a bacterium that breaks the rule – it’s as big as 3 million other bacteria lumped together! To live this way, this bacterium stores sulfur and nitrogen in amounts that would be enough to kill your cells – everybody has their own rules.... Read more »

Schulz, H., & Jørgensen, B. (2001) Big Bacteria. Annual Review of Microbiology, 55(1), 105-137. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.micro.55.1.105  

Girnth, A., Grünke, S., Lichtschlag, A., Felden, J., Knittel, K., Wenzhöfer, F., de Beer, D., & Boetius, A. (2011) A novel, mat-forming Thiomargarita population associated with a sulfidic fluid flow from a deep-sea mud volcano. Environmental Microbiology, 13(2), 495-505. DOI: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2010.02353.x  

  • October 28, 2015
  • 08:29 AM
  • 408 views

It’s All in the Numbers - Sizes in Nature

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Sizes in nature are hard to compare. Can you believe that there are 200 million insects for every human on Earth? And it’s an unimaginably bigger difference when you compare bacteria number to humans. Sizes vary as well, but why? Why do bacteria have to be so small? It’s about moving molecules through a cell - diffusion.... Read more »

Schulz, H., & Jørgensen, B. (2001) Big Bacteria. Annual Review of Microbiology, 55(1), 105-137. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.micro.55.1.105  

  • October 21, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 394 views

Mostly Dead Is Slightly Alive

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Halloween brings stories of the undead, the dead coming back to life, and the dead staying dead but still coming to visit you. But the scariest of all is the prospect of being buried alive. It happened all to often in the most recent three centuries, so people devised some amazing precautions to prevent premature burial. Nowadays it’s less likely to happen, but there are several conditions that can mimic death and could lead to fingernail scratches inside the lid of a casket.... Read more »

Christopher Dibble. (2010) The Dead Ringer: Medicine, Poe, and the fear of premature burial. Historia Medicinae. info:/

  • October 14, 2015
  • 08:10 AM
  • 382 views

Blood --- Not Just For Vampires Anymore

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Halloween brings talk of vampires, but is consuming blood what makes a person a vampire? If so, almost everyone is a vampire. The vampire bat is an amazing biological exception, and it’s biology saves lives and has inspired a new drone. But not ever person who looks like a vampire sucks blood; several diseases mimic vampirism.... Read more »

  • October 7, 2015
  • 08:00 AM
  • 474 views

Twin Sons Of Different Mothers…… Or Fathers

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Can a pregnant woman get pregnant? Sounds like a riddle, but really it is superfetation. Getting pregnant in two successive cycles and having twins with different fathers really creates a problem in defining what twins actually are. Twins don’t have to be conceived at the same time, born at the same time, have the same father, or even be of the same “race.”... Read more »

Claas, M., Timmermans, A., & Bruinse, H. (2010) Case report: a black and white twin. Journal of Perinatology, 30(6), 434-436. DOI: 10.1038/jp.2009.156  

  • September 30, 2015
  • 07:55 AM
  • 389 views

Twins of Different Seasons

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Twins are born near the same time, that’s one of the things that makes them twins. But do they have to be born close to one another? The record is twins born 104 days apart. The key is to get the twins past 25 weeks so the lungs will be mature enough, but if one twin is delivered, the second might be subjected to delayed interval delivery to give the lungs longer to grow.... Read more »

Reinhard, J., Reichenbach, L., Ernst, T., Reitter, A., Antwerpen, I., Herrmann, E., Schlösser, R., & Louwen, F. (2012) Delayed interval delivery in twin and triplet pregnancies: 6 years of experience in one perinatal center. Journal of Perinatal Medicine, 40(5). DOI: 10.1515/jpm-2011-0267  

Padilla-Iserte, P., Vila-Vives, J., Ferri, B., Gómez-Portero, R., Diago, V., & Perales-Marín, A. (2014) Delayed Interval Delivery of the Second Twin: Obstetric Management, Neonatal Outcomes, and 2-Year Follow-Up. The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology of India, 64(5), 344-348. DOI: 10.1007/s13224-014-0544-1  

Lewi, L., Devlieger, R., De Catte, L., & Deprest, J. (2014) Growth discordance. Best Practice , 28(2), 295-303. DOI: 10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2013.12.003  

  • September 23, 2015
  • 08:10 AM
  • 470 views

Twins Versus Siblings, Where’s The Line?

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

What makes two babies twins? Do they have to look similar; be born at the same time; be conceived at the same time? Twins of different races give us idea just how genetics can play out in siblings and how complex the control of skin pigmentation, hair and eye color and hair texture can be.... Read more »

Duffy DL, Montgomery GW, Chen W, Zhao ZZ, Le L, James MR, Hayward NK, Martin NG, & Sturm RA. (2007) A three-single-nucleotide polymorphism haplotype in intron 1 of OCA2 explains most human eye-color variation. American journal of human genetics, 80(2), 241-52. PMID: 17236130  

Maroñas, O., Phillips, C., Söchtig, J., Gomez-Tato, A., Cruz, R., Alvarez-Dios, J., de Cal, M., Ruiz, Y., Fondevila, M., Carracedo, �.... (2014) Development of a forensic skin colour predictive test. Forensic Science International: Genetics, 34-44. DOI: 10.1016/j.fsigen.2014.06.017  

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