As Many Exceptions As Rules

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149 posts · 106,257 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
149 posts

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  • December 17, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 57 views

Christmas Greenery - Friend Or Foe?

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Your Christmas tree can kill you, but it can also save your life. The same holds true for mistletoe, ivy, and holly. Each is toxic, but each has uses in medicine. The least toxic Christmas plant is the most often thought of as poisonous – poinsettias really aren’t that bad, kids would have to eat 500 leaves to bring on the nastiest effects.... Read more »

  • December 10, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 72 views

Christmas Trees Have Trouble Seeing The Light

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Evergreens maintain chlorophyll all year round so that they can carryout photosynthesis in the winter and be symbols of enduring life for Christmas. No… not really. Sunlight in the winter can actually kill evergreens. You won’t believe the lengths to which they must go in order to avoid photodamage caused by light harvesting by chlorophyll in the winter. So why do they stay green?... Read more »

Ottander C, Campbell D, Öquist G. (1995) Seasonal changes in photosystem II organization and pigment composition in Pinus sylvestris. . Planta , 176-183. info:/

  • December 3, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 100 views

How Slime Molds Our World

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Fungus-like protists have amazing tales to tell. One phylum has been shown to ranch bacteria and hire cowhands to guard them. One phylum has slime mold that can find its way through a maze and is used to model mathematics for video games. Finally, one phylum is responsible for the glut of Irish priests and policeman in late 1800’s America.... Read more »

Goss, E., Tabima, J., Cooke, D., Restrepo, S., Fry, W., Forbes, G., Fieland, V., Cardenas, M., & Grunwald, N. (2014) The Irish potato famine pathogen Phytophthora infestans originated in central Mexico rather than the Andes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(24), 8791-8796. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1401884111  

Tero, A., Takagi, S., Saigusa, T., Ito, K., Bebber, D., Fricker, M., Yumiki, K., Kobayashi, R., & Nakagaki, T. (2010) Rules for Biologically Inspired Adaptive Network Design. Science, 327(5964), 439-442. DOI: 10.1126/science.1177894  

Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Hiroyasu Yamada . (2000) Intelligence: Maze-solving by an amoeboid organism. Nature, 407(470). info:/

Brock, D., Douglas, T., Queller, D., & Strassmann, J. (2011) Primitive agriculture in a social amoeba. Nature, 469(7330), 393-396. DOI: 10.1038/nature09668  

  • November 25, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 106 views

As A Bird - It's No Turkey

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

The turkey is an amazing bird, beyond it’s taste on Thanksgiving. It has some really funky structures on its head, like the caruncles, wattle and snood, but research shows that they are important in mate selection. The question is why they have been retained even though they are artificially bred nowadays. Maybe they are for more than just mate selection. And yes....turkeys can fly.... Read more »

  • November 19, 2014
  • 09:25 AM
  • 131 views

A Meal More Powerful Than The NFL

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Tryptophan supposedly puts you to sleep at Thanksgiving, but research shows that turkey isn’t really that high in this amino acid. On the other hand, tryptophan can save lives. In several old cultures, human sacrifices increased during periods of the year when tryptophan levels in the diet were low. ... Read more »

  • November 12, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 121 views

A Goat For Thanksgiving

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

The cornucopia is a symbol for unending bounty, and has become a synonym for Thanksgiving in the US. But what if we investigate this further; the goat should be the real symbol for Thanksgiving. It spawned the horn of plenty in Greek mythology, it represents a dairy and meat source that the pilgrims made use of. And as far as a sustainable source of red meat, its tops. Goat – the other green meat!... Read more »

Liu YT, Sun J, Luo ZY, Rao SQ, Su YJ, Xu RR, & Yang YJ. (2012) Chemical composition of five wild edible mushrooms collected from Southwest China and their antihyperglycemic and antioxidant activity. Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association, 50(5), 1238-44. PMID: 22300772  

  • November 5, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 135 views

Doing More With Less

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Animal-like protists are similar to animal cells, but they do many things in their single cell that we have a hard time competing with. New research shows that they may be useful in medicine, as well as lethal in some cases. N. fowleri is a brain eating amoeba, but calcium tests of foraminifera may be helpful in bone grafts and repairing skull fractures.... Read more »

Sifuentes LY, Choate BL, Gerba CP, & Bright KR. (2014) The occurrence of Naegleria fowleri in recreational waters in Arizona. Journal of environmental science and health. Part A, Toxic/hazardous substances , 49(11), 1322-30. PMID: 24967566  

  • October 29, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 146 views

Almost This Or Almost That? Must Be The Other

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

The protists are a catch-all kingdom, neither characteristics nor cladistics can easily group them, or even tell you what one is. Recent studies have begun to identify histories of the plant-like protist phyla based on their flagella. Rhodophyta are a basal phylum, and yet they have no flagella at all, while genomic studies have identified 495 different proteins in chromista flagella, with some being specific to each of the two dissimilar flagella on the organisms. Such diversity within one grou........ Read more »

  • October 22, 2014
  • 08:05 AM
  • 178 views

Death By Haunted House

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

People enjoy a good scare at Halloween, it’s an epinephrine rush without the bother of real danger. But could you actually be scared to death? Science says yes, it should really be called the fight, flight, faint, or fatality response. In susceptible people, a severe fright can literally change the shape of the heart and destroy the efficient pumping of blood. Unfortunately, something similar can happen in infants, and it can be lethal as well.... Read more »

  • October 15, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 185 views

Frankenstein Meets Genetic Modification

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Halloween conjures up monsters, like Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. Her story is just as applicable for us today – the story of science being responsible for what it creates. The so-called Frankenfoods are called dangerous – but why? Studies that label them dangerous have been retracted or are merely correlative. New studies have shown that genetically modified crops are safe for livestock and humans. However, there are valid concerns, so every GMO must be tested rigorously.... Read more »

Snell C, Bernheim A, Bergé JB, Kuntz M, Pascal G, Paris A, & Ricroch AE. (2012) Assessment of the health impact of GM plant diets in long-term and multigenerational animal feeding trials: a literature review. Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association, 50(3-4), 1134-48. PMID: 22155268  

McCall WV, Andrade C, & Sienaert P. (2014) Searching for the mechanism(s) of ECT's therapeutic effect. The journal of ECT, 30(2), 87-9. PMID: 24755719  

  • October 8, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 192 views

A Tale Of Two Tails

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Recent, and not so recent studies, are showing just how specialized eukaryotic flagella can be. Structures are rigid, except for when they aren’t. Sperm from two species of diatoms have very different sperm tail basal bodies, which might affect how they move and function. On the other hand, rabbits have flagella with at least three different structures. Does each have it’s own function?... Read more »

Prensier, G., Vivier, E., Goldstein, S., & Schrevel, J. (1980) Motile flagellum with a "3 0" ultrastructure. Science, 207(4438), 1493-1494. DOI: 10.1126/science.7189065  

Feistel K, & Blum M. (2006) Three types of cilia including a novel 9 4 axoneme on the notochordal plate of the rabbit embryo. Developmental dynamics : an official publication of the American Association of Anatomists, 235(12), 3348-58. PMID: 17061268  

  • October 1, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 235 views

One Thing Is Just Like The Other – Sort Of

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Recent studies have illustrated how complicated evolution by descent with adaptation can be. Convergent evolution and parallel evolution explain the fingerprints of koalas and the marsupial and placental saber-toothed cats. Dollo’s Law of Irreversibility has been shown to be plastic, as frogs have re-evolved mandibular teeth and stick insects have lost and regained wings several times. ... Read more »

Lahti, D. C., N. A. Johnson, et al. (2009) Relaxed selection in the wild. . Trends in Ecology and Evolution, , 24(9), 487-496. info:/

Stone G, & French V. (2003) Evolution: have wings come, gone and come again?. Current biology : CB, 13(11). PMID: 12781152  

  • September 24, 2014
  • 06:00 AM
  • 326 views

Chase The Good, Evade The Bad

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

New research has found a bacterium that is spherical, yet has flagella all over its surface (peritrichous). This bacterium is also the only magnetotactic organism discovered that has both magnetite and Greigite crystals. Other research is showing that changing fields can turn magnetotactic bacteria on command. With some bacteria able to generate electrical circuits and others being able to open and close circuits on command, can bacterial computers be far away?... Read more »

  • September 17, 2014
  • 08:05 AM
  • 291 views

Should I Stay Or Should I Go

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Bacteria can swarm to conquer new territory or settle into structured biofilms, not unlike tribes that are nomadic versus those that build cities. New research indicates has shed light on the mechanics of swarming and biofilm production, including the function of extracellular DNA and secreted polysaccharides. Both biofilms and swarming depend on quorum sensing, and several new papers have identified chemicals that can interrupt quorum sensing in pathogenic bacteria and therefore prevent disease........ Read more »

Gloag ES, Turnbull L, Huang A, Vallotton P, Wang H, Nolan LM, Mililli L, Hunt C, Lu J, Osvath SR.... (2013) Self-organization of bacterial biofilms is facilitated by extracellular DNA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(28), 11541-6. PMID: 23798445  

Alteri CJ, Himpsl SD, Pickens SR, Lindner JR, Zora JS, Miller JE, Arno PD, Straight SW, & Mobley HL. (2013) Multicellular bacteria deploy the type VI secretion system to preemptively strike neighboring cells. PLoS pathogens, 9(9). PMID: 24039579  

  • September 10, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 207 views

Bacteria Can Really Get Around

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Bacteria have evolved a type of motion that is a lot like a snot-powered rocket, so getting from point A to point B must be pretty important. Bacteria have evolved no fewer, and probably a lot more, than eight different ways to move around. New research is defining the physics and molecular biology of these modes of transportation, including a pseudo-cytoskeleton, helical conveyor belts, and something called “reverse and flick.”... Read more »

Kinosita Y, Nakane D, Sugawa M, Masaike T, Mizutani K, Miyata M, & Nishizaka T. (2014) Unitary step of gliding machinery in Mycoplasma mobile. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(23), 8601-6. PMID: 24912194  

Jin F, Conrad JC, Gibiansky ML, & Wong GC. (2011) Bacteria use type-IV pili to slingshot on surfaces. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(31), 12617-22. PMID: 21768344  

Stocker R. (2011) Reverse and flick: Hybrid locomotion in bacteria. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(7), 2635-6. PMID: 21289282  

  • September 3, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 241 views

Bacteria Are Intelligent Designers

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

The bacterial flagellum is quite an intricate system for such a “primitive” organism. New research is telling us about how the flagellum is assembled and how it is regulated. A series of new work is related to the switching of the torque in the C ring so that flagella can spin counter clockwise or clockwise without a change in proton ion gradient flow. A series of conformation changes in the FLiD alter the position of charge clouds so that opposite charges drive a turn in the opposit........ Read more »

  • August 27, 2014
  • 08:25 AM
  • 320 views

Let’s Chew The Fat

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

If vegetables are low fat, how can we make cooking oils from them? The key is that vegetable oils aren’t really vegetable oils- they’re fruit oils. In some plant fruits, the fats are sued to entice animals to eat them and disperse seeds. In other, the fats are used to provide energy for the embryonic plants. New research is showing that some plant oils have unique uses. A 2014 study shows that avocado oil is as good or better at stabilizing biochemical markers in patients with metabo........ Read more »

Carvajal-Zarrabal O, Nolasco-Hipolito C, Aguilar-Uscanga MG, Melo Santiesteban G, Hayward-Jones PM, & Barradas-Dermitz DM. (2014) Effect of dietary intake of avocado oil and olive oil on biochemical markers of liver function in sucrose-fed rats. BioMed research international, 595479. PMID: 24860825  

  • August 20, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 265 views

Because He Is The One

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Swatting a fly is hard. They always seem to know you’re coming, and even if you do surprise them, they often avoid your assassination attempts. New research is showing how they do it. A 2014 paper indicates that animals with faster metabolic rates actually process information and react quicker than larger animals. This, along with recent data showing how flies can jump away from a visual stimulus before taking flight and how they can coordinate a 0.03 second banking turn with incoming visu........ Read more »

Muijres FT, Elzinga MJ, Melis JM, & Dickinson MH. (2014) Flies evade looming targets by executing rapid visually directed banked turns. Science (New York, N.Y.), 344(6180), 172-7. PMID: 24723606  

Jumpertz R, Hanson RL, Sievers ML, Bennett PH, Nelson RG, & Krakoff J. (2011) Higher energy expenditure in humans predicts natural mortality. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 96(6). PMID: 21450984  

  • August 14, 2014
  • 01:55 PM
  • 288 views

Getting High On Life

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Living organisms can survive and thrive in all kinds of rough environments. This would include the edges of space. There are bird species that can fly at almost 40,000 ft., as high as the highest clouds. New research is showing just how the bar headed goose is able to fly when the air is thin and the oxygen is scarce. But more impressive are the bacteria. They can actually live their whole lives in the air, dividing and growing nearly 25 miles (41 km) above the surface of the Earth. A study from........ Read more »

Pawar SP, Dhotre DP, Shetty SA, Chowdhury SP, Chaudhari BL, & Shouche YS. (2012) Genome sequence of Janibacter hoylei MTCC8307, isolated from the stratospheric air. Journal of bacteriology, 194(23), 6629-30. PMID: 23144385  

Hawkes LA, Balachandran S, Batbayar N, Butler PJ, Chua B, Douglas DC, Frappell PB, Hou Y, Milsom WK, Newman SH.... (2013) The paradox of extreme high-altitude migration in bar-headed geese Anser indicus. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 280(1750), 20122114. PMID: 23118436  

  • August 13, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 277 views

Getting High On Life

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Living organisms can survive and thrive in all kinds of rough environments. This would include the edges of space. There are bird species that can fly at almost 40,000 ft., as high as the highest clouds. New research is showing just how the bar headed goose is able to fly when the air is thin and the oxygen is scarce. But more impressive are the bacteria. They can actually live their whole lives in the air, dividing and growing nearly 25 miles (41 km) above the surface of the Earth. A study from........ Read more »

Pawar SP, Dhotre DP, Shetty SA, Chowdhury SP, Chaudhari BL, & Shouche YS. (2012) Genome sequence of Janibacter hoylei MTCC8307, isolated from the stratospheric air. Journal of bacteriology, 194(23), 6629-30. PMID: 23144385  

Hawkes LA, Balachandran S, Batbayar N, Butler PJ, Chua B, Douglas DC, Frappell PB, Hou Y, Milsom WK, Newman SH.... (2013) The paradox of extreme high-altitude migration in bar-headed geese Anser indicus. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 280(1750), 20122114. PMID: 23118436  

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