As Many Exceptions As Rules

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219 posts · 208,973 views

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
219 posts

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  • April 27, 2016
  • 08:35 AM
  • 83 views

Your Body Has A Photographic Memory

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

For the first time anywhere - an easy explanation of your immune system in 1500 words! For the low, low price of zero dollars you can find out how your body protects you better the second time you are exposed to a disease. Special bonus offer – we’ll throw in how vaccines work and why you need one every year for the flu, although your old flu vaccines might still be helping you. ... Read more »

  • April 20, 2016
  • 09:30 AM
  • 151 views

Lucky For Me, I'm Diseased

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

When people are sick we isolate, we feel sorry for them, we avoid them. But we don’t think about the many times that being sick is actually good for your health. One example – vaccines. Many vaccines give you disease to prevent disease. Unfortunately, too many people are foregoing vaccination for their children based on fraudulent data. Think anti-vaxxers don’t affect you because you and your kids are vaccinated? Read on and learn better.... Read more »

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2012) Pertussis epidemic - washington, 2012. MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report, 517-22. PMID: 22810264  

  • April 13, 2016
  • 07:10 AM
  • 157 views

Ivy League Climber

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

English ivy doesn’t send out entwining tendrils, it doesn’t burrow into cracks as an anchor. It doesn’t have hooked thorns like a climbing rose – no, English ivy can grow up the side of Wrigley Field because its millions of adventitious roots secrete the strongest glue in the world. However, it doesn’t work like most glues – it works like a gecko’s feet. Oh, and it will help protect you from skin cancer too!... Read more »

  • April 6, 2016
  • 09:00 AM
  • 209 views

I’ll Fly Home—Or Not

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Why do some birds migrate and others don’t? It’s not that simple. The reason isn’t genetics, it isn’t necessarily food or weather either. There are birds that can allow their feet to go to one degree above freezing while keeping the rest of the body toasty – so they don’t need to migrate, yet other birds that are close to them genetically will fly thousands of miles. Other birds species only have a few of the adults migrate – who decides which ones make ........ Read more »

  • March 30, 2016
  • 08:30 AM
  • 203 views

Lions And Tigers and Ligers, Oh My!

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Thankfully, “stick to your own kind” is not something that animals always consider. Ligers, tigons, even wolphins (false killer whales mate with a dolphin) are all amazing exceptions. These example aren’t new species because they are often sterile of the wrong size- ligers are often too big to deliver. However, there are rare times when a new species can emerge from hybridizations. The Lornicera fly was a wild hybrid between the snowberry bush and blueberry bush flies, but sinc........ Read more »

Jesús Mavárez1, Camilo A. Salazar, Eldredge Bermingham1, Christian Salcedo, Chris D. Jiggins . (2006) Speciation by hybridization in Heliconius butterflies. Nature, 868-871. DOI: 10.1038/nature04738  

  • March 23, 2016
  • 07:25 AM
  • 252 views

Leaves Suck!

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

People need the power of an elevator or our legs to rise high in a building, so how does water get from the roots of a tree to the very top leaves? Hint, it isn’t capillary action – even capillary tubes can move water only a few centimeters. The key is evaporation. But if water evaporates off plants, how do they survive during droughts? They have tricks to retain water, including developing big leaves and little leaves. Look carefully at some trees, you’ll find that they have t........ Read more »

  • March 16, 2016
  • 06:45 AM
  • 232 views

How Fast Is Fast

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

What’s the fastest organism in the world? The cheetah s fast on land, and the white throated needle tail is fast in the air, but there are bacteria faster than these animals. It all depends on how you measure speed. The fastest? A beetle from down under – it’s confirmed by science!... Read more »

  • March 9, 2016
  • 10:55 AM
  • 293 views

Look Who's Talking

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Would you believe that the anatomy of your ribs is why you can sing and an ape can’t, or that one of the same reasons you can speak is the same reason you are likely to choke to death on a hotdog? Biology is weird, and you can tell it I said so.... Read more »

  • March 2, 2016
  • 07:05 AM
  • 254 views

Big Bugs, Little Bugs

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Insects used to be huge – dragonflies the size of kites – so why are they so much smaller today? Believe it or not, it has to do with the evolution of tree trunks and the fact that many of insects breathe through holes in their sides. ... Read more »

  • February 24, 2016
  • 09:15 AM
  • 298 views

When The Early Bird Is Also The Night Owl

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Quick – name an animal with the body of a cat, tail of a lemur, face of a mongoose, lives in the trees, and has its big toe on the outside. It lives in a place where some of its food is nocturnal and some is diurnal – so it can be awake either days or nights and still find something to eat. Therefore, this animal has no set activity pattern, just like a college student.... Read more »

  • February 17, 2016
  • 06:50 AM
  • 254 views

Sunrise, Sunset – Life In the Twilight

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Who runs the world? – Plants! Some plants are active just as the sun rises and as the sun sets in order to save water. And this drives insect activity patterns which forces some birds to be awake only at sunrise and sunset. Who knew that a morning glory has so much power.... Read more »

  • February 10, 2016
  • 07:30 AM
  • 298 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
  • 373 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
  • 381 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
  • 490 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
  • 560 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
  • 561 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
  • 482 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
  • 458 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
  • 695 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  

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