Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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this blog covers evolution, ecology, animal behavior, genetics, ornithology, parrots and birds in general along with stories about other animals, mental illness, atheism and politics.

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  • July 16, 2010
  • 08:59 AM

Parrots, People and Pedagogies: A Look at Teaching and Education

by GrrlScientist in Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Like anyone who has taught science courses, and probably like anyone who has ever taught anything to a classroom in the history of mankind, I've wondered how to motivate my students to really care about the material they are learning, beyond simply "studying for the test." For example, I have used a group method of study where groups of 4 students are each assigned a specific task: to become an expert in a particular area and to share their knowledge with the other groups. This method is only p........ Read more »

  • July 1, 2010
  • 02:32 PM

Are Zombie Vultures In Our Future?

by GrrlScientist in Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

A zombie is another name for The Walking Dead -- those who are lifeless, apathetic, or totally lacking in independent judgment. But in an ecological sense, a zombie species no longer fulfills its ecological function because it is becoming extinct... Read more »

Shultz, S., Baral, H., Charman, S., Cunningham, A., Das, D., Ghalsasi, G., Goudar, M., Green, R., Jones, A., Nighot, P.... (2004) Diclofenac poisoning is widespread in declining vulture populations across the Indian subcontinent. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 271(Suppl_6). DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2004.0223  

Naidoo, V., Wolter, K., Cromarty, D., Diekmann, M., Duncan, N., Meharg, A., Taggart, M., Venter, L., & Cuthbert, R. (2009) Toxicity of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to Gyps vultures: a new threat from ketoprofen. Biology Letters, 6(3), 339-341. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2009.0818  

Swan, G., Cuthbert, R., Quevedo, M., Green, R., Pain, D., Bartels, P., Cunningham, A., Duncan, N., Meharg, A., Lindsay Oaks, J.... (2006) Toxicity of diclofenac to Gyps vultures. Biology Letters, 2(2), 279-282. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2005.0425  

  • June 30, 2010
  • 11:15 AM

Distressed Ravens Show That Consolation Is For The Birds, Too

by GrrlScientist in Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Humans have long tried to separate themselves from other animals on the basis of characters that are perceived to be unique to us, such as tool design and use, planning for the future and our capacity for empathy.... Read more »

  • June 9, 2010
  • 05:59 PM

Gulf Oil Spill Disaster: Spawn of the Living Dead for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna?

by GrrlScientist in Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

A recently published study suggests that the Deepwater Horizon oil leak may devastate the endangered Atlantic bluefin population, causing it to completely collapse or possibly go extinct.... Read more »

Steven L. H. Teo, & Barbara A. Block. (2010) Comparative Influence of Ocean Conditions on Yellowfin and Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Catch from Longlines in the Gulf of Mexico. PLoS ONE, 5(5). info:/10.1371/journal.pone.0010756

  • June 5, 2010
  • 08:41 AM

Oiled SeaBirds: To Kill Or Not To Kill?

by GrrlScientist in Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

tags: ecology, marine biology, conservation biology, endangered species, environmental toxicology, seabirds, marine mammals,,peer-reviewed research, journal club

Bird rescue personnel Danene Birtell (L) and Heather Nevill (R) hold an oiled brown pelican, found on Storm Island in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, that will be washed at the treatment facility at Fort Jackson, Louisiana, USA. BP has contracted bird rescue groups to rehabilitate wildlife affected by........ Read more »

David A. Jessup, & Jonna A. K. Mazet. (1999) Rehabilitation of Oiled Wildlife: Why Do It?. 1999 International Oil Spill Conference. info:/

Stowe, T. (1982) An oil spillage at a Guillemot colony. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 13(7), 237-239. DOI: 10.1016/0025-326X(82)90346-0  

  • April 20, 2010
  • 01:11 PM

(How) Are Birds Affected by Volcanic Ash?

by GrrlScientist in Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

tags: Eyjafjallajökull, volcanic particulate material, ash clouds, airborne-particle deposition, respiratory physiology, respiratory toxicology, medicine, veterinary medicine, birds, avian health, bioassay, anatomy,,peer-reviewed research, journal club

Figure 1: The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, photographed by an unidentified farmer in Iceland. This eruption sent massive billowing clouds of volcanic ash several miles into the atmosphere.

Image: Newscom/Zuma [larger view........ Read more »

  • April 19, 2010
  • 10:00 AM

Is That A T. rex Up Your Nose? New Species of Nose-dwelling Leech Discovered

by GrrlScientist in Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

tags: evolutionary biology, evolutionary biogeography, molecular biology, medicine, ectoparasite, orificial hirudiniasis, mucosal leech infestation, hirudinoids, leech, Tyrannobdella rex, public health, zoology, PLoS ONE, anatomy, phylogenetic analysis, taxonomy,,peer-reviewed research, journal club

Figure 1. Mucosally invasive hirudinoid leeches. Known from a wide variety of anatomical sites including eyes (A) as in this case involving Dinobdella ferox (B), mucosal leech sp........ Read more »

Phillips, A., Arauco-Brown, R., Oceguera-Figueroa, A., Gomez, G., Beltrán, M., Lai, Y., & Siddall, M. (2010) Tyrannobdella rex N. Gen. N. Sp. and the Evolutionary Origins of Mucosal Leech Infestations. PLoS ONE, 5(4). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010057  

  • April 8, 2010
  • 12:26 PM

What do Great Tits Reveal about the Genetics of Personality?

by GrrlScientist in Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

tags: evolutionary biology, behavioral ecology, molecular ecology, personality, novelty seeking, exploratory behavior, dopamine receptor, dopamine receptor D4 gene, DRD4 gene polymorphism, ornithology, birds, Great Tit, Parus major,,peer-reviewed research, peer-reviewed paper

Bold or cautious? Individuals with a particular gene variant are very curious --
but only in some populations.

Image: Henk Dikkers.

Research shows that personality variations are heritable in hum........ Read more »

KORSTEN, P., MUELLER, J., HERMANNSTÄDTER, C., BOUWMAN, K., DINGEMANSE, N., DRENT, P., LIEDVOGEL, M., MATTHYSEN, E., van OERS, K., van OVERVELD, T.... (2010) Association between DRD4 gene polymorphism and personality variation in great tits: a test across four wild populations. Molecular Ecology, 19(4), 832-843. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2009.04518.x  

  • April 1, 2010
  • 09:59 AM

Publish or Perish: A Brief Review of Unsuccessful Attempts to Treat Writer's Block

by GrrlScientist in Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

tags: writer's block, psychology, abnormal psychology, cognitive psychology, writing, publishing, career, publish or perish,,peer-reviewed research, peer-reviewed paper, journal club

Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »

  • March 30, 2010
  • 02:51 PM

UV, You See? Black Light Reveals Secrets in Fossils

by GrrlScientist in Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

tags: evolution, evolutionary biology, UV light, flight, dinosaur, dromaeosaur, theropods, Microraptor gui, paleontology, fossils, birds,,peer-reviewed research, peer-reviewed paper, journal club

Figure 1. The holotype of Microraptor gui, IVPP V 13352 under normal light. This shows the preserved feathers (white arrow) and the 'halo' around the specimen where they appear to be absent (black arrows). Scale bar at 5 cm. [larger view]
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009223

It has l........ Read more »

  • March 29, 2010
  • 09:47 AM

Made for Each Other: Evolution of Monogamy in Poison Frogs

by GrrlScientist in Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

tags: evolution, evolutionary biology, behavioral ecology, animal behavior, molecular ecology, parental care, mating systems, monogamy, sexual selection, frogs, poison dart frogs, Dendrobatidae, Ranitomeya,,peer-reviewed research, peer-reviewed paper, journal club

Peruvian mimic poison frog, Ranitomeya imitator.

Image: Jason Brown [larger view]

To know the breeding system is to know the genetic architecture of a species.
To know the evolution of a breeding system is to kn........ Read more »

  • March 12, 2010
  • 12:59 PM

Gender-Bending Chickens: Mixed, Not Scrambled

by GrrlScientist in Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

tags: evolution, evolutionary biology, gynandromorph, bilateral gynandromorph bird, half-sider, mixed-sex chimaera, sex determination, molecular biology, genetics, developmental biology, endocrinology, birds, chicken, Gallus gallus, ornithology,,peer-reviewed research, peer-reviewed paper, journal club


Almost exactly one year ago, hundreds of American birders
were thrilled by sightings and photographs of this remarkable
Northern Cardinal, or Redbird, Cardinali........ Read more »

Zhao, D., McBride, D., Nandi, S., McQueen, H., McGrew, M., Hocking, P., Lewis, P., Sang, H., & Clinton, M. (2010) Somatic sex identity is cell autonomous in the chicken. Nature, 464(7286), 237-242. DOI: 10.1038/nature08852  

  • March 10, 2010
  • 03:50 PM

Ancient DNA Isolated from Fossil Eggshells May Provide Clues to Eggstinction of Giant Birds

by GrrlScientist in Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

tags: evolution, evolutionary biology, ancient DNA, aDNA, molecular biology, molecular ecology, archaeology, paleontology, fossil eggshell, extinct birds, giant moa, Dinornis robustus, elephant birds, Aepyornis maximus, Mullerornis, Thunderbirds, Genyornis,,peer-reviewed research, peer-reviewed paper, journal club

Elephant bird, Aepyornis maximus, egg
compared to a human hand with a hummingbird egg balanced on a fingertip.

To conduct my avian research, I've isolated and........ Read more »

Charlotte L. Oskam, James Haile, Emma McLay, Paul Rigby, Morten E. Allentoft, Maia E. Olsen, Camilla Bengtsson, Gifford H. Miller, Jean-Luc Schwenninger, Chris Jacomb, Richard Walter, Alexander Baynes, Joe Dortch, Michael Parker-Pearson, M. Thomas P. Gilb. (2010) Fossil avian eggshell preserves ancient DNA. Proc. R. Soc. B. info:/10.1098/rspb.2009.2019

  • February 12, 2010
  • 02:30 PM

Faith-Based Birding 201: Fraudulent Photos and Federal Funding

by GrrlScientist in Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

tags: faith-based birding, mass hysteria, endangered species, extinct species, conservation, politics, Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Campephilus principalis, IBWO, ornithology, birds,,peer-reviewed research, peer-reviewed paper

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has posted a reward of $50,000
to be given to anyone who can provide "video, photographic, or
other compelling information and lead a project scientist to a
living wild Ivory-billed Woodpecker."

Mass hysteria is that........ Read more »

Dalton, R. (2010) Still looking for that woodpecker. Nature, 463(7282), 718-719. DOI: 10.1038/463718a  

  • February 8, 2010
  • 03:10 PM

Racehorse Research Identifies Speed Gene

by GrrlScientist in Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

tags: evolutionary biology, molecular biology, Thoroughbred race horses, horses, aerobic capacity, muscle development, myostatin, MSTN, myostatin-suppressing C variant, myostatin-suppressing T variant, Horse Genome Project, Equinome,,peer-reviewed research, peer-reviewed paper

Emerging from the mist is Rachel Alexandra, a champion American Thoroughbred who excels at winning both long and short distance races.

Image: Rob Carr, 2009, Associated Press [larger view]

If you'........ Read more »

  • February 5, 2010
  • 10:10 AM

Fossil Feather Colors Really ARE Written In Stone

by GrrlScientist in Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

tags: evolutionary biology, paleontology, taphonomy, plumage color, feathers, color, melanin, eumelanin, phaeomelanin, dinosaurs, theropod, paravian, avialae, fossils, Anchiornis huxleyi, ornithology, birds,,peer-reviewed research, peer-reviewed paper

New research reveals that recently-described 155-million-year-old Anchiornis huxleyi,
a woodpecker-like dinosaur the size of a modern-day domesticated chicken,
had black-and-white spangled wings and a rusty red crown.

Image:........ Read more »

Li, Q., Gao, K., Vinther, J., Shawkey, M., Clarke, J., D'Alba, L., Meng, Q., Briggs, D., Miao, L., & Prum, R. (2010) Plumage Color Patterns of an Extinct Dinosaur. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.1186290  

Vinther, J., Briggs, D., Clarke, J., Mayr, G., & Prum, R. (2009) Structural coloration in a fossil feather. Biology Letters, 6(1), 128-131. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2009.0524  

  • February 1, 2010
  • 01:19 PM

Fetid Fish Revise Understanding of Fossil Formation

by GrrlScientist in Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

tags: evolutionary biology, paleontology, fossils, fossilization, fossil forensics, Taphonomy, taxonomy, zoology, deep time, paleoceanography, amphioxus, Branchiostoma lanceolatum, lamprey, Lampetra fluviatilis, chordates,,peer-reviewed research, peer-reviewed paper

Three rotting Amphioxus heads.
A sequence of images showing how the characteristic features of the body of amphioxus, a close living relative of vertebrates, change during decay. Colours are caused by interferen........ Read more »

  • January 30, 2010
  • 02:45 PM

Newly Described Bird-like Dinosaur Predates Archaeopteryx by 63 Million Years

by GrrlScientist in Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

tags: evolutionary biology, convergent evolution, paleontology, taxonomy, zoology, basal birds, theropods, dinosaurs, ornithology, birds, Alvarezsauroidea, Haplocheirus sollers, Maniraptora, Archaeopteryx,,peer-reviewed research, peer-reviewed paper

A Newly Discovered Basal Alvarezsauroid Theropod from the Early Late Jurassic.

Artwork: Portia Sloan [larger view]
DOI: 10.1126/science.1182143

A long-standing scientific debate focuses on the origins of birds: did they evo........ Read more »

  • January 28, 2010
  • 02:39 PM

Orange Stripey Dinosaurs? Fossil Feathers Reveal Their Secret Colors

by GrrlScientist in Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

tags: evolutionary biology, fossils, feathers, plumage color, color, dinosaurs, theropods, Sinosauropteryx, Sinornithosaurus, birds, Confuciusornis, melanosomes, phaeomelanosomes, eumelanosomes, keratinocytes, SEM, scanning electron microscopy, 10.1038/nature08740,, peer-reviewed research, peer-reviewed paper

Reconstruction of two Sinosauropteryx, sporting their orange and white striped tails.

Artwork by Chuang Zhao and Lida Xing [larger view]
DOI: 10.1038/nature08740

........ Read more »

Zhang, F., Kearns, S., Orr, P., Benton, M., Zhou, Z., Johnson, D., Xu, X., & Wang, X. (2010) Fossilized melanosomes and the colour of Cretaceous dinosaurs and birds. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature08740  

  • January 26, 2010
  • 08:59 AM

Migratory Monarch Butterflies See Earth's GeoMagnetic Field

by GrrlScientist in Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

tags: evolutionary biology, behavioral ecology, biochemistry, biophysics, magnetoreception, photochemical mechanism, cryptochromes, geomagnetic fields, butterflies, Monarch Butterfly, Danaus plexippus, birds, migration, Cryptochrome,,peer-reviewed research, peer-reviewed paper

Every autumn, millions of monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus, each weighing less than one gram (one US penny weighs 2.5 grams), migrate nearly 4000 kilometers (3000 miles) between their summer bree........ Read more »

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