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  • June 20, 2010
  • 05:10 PM

Glomalin: Carbon stored in a protein you’ve probably never heard of

by Thomas Kluyver in Thomas' Plant-Related Blog

What’s soil made of? Take out the chunks of roots and twigs, take out the particles of minerals, and what are you left with? What makes it soil, brown and lumpy, rather than something like fine sand? It’s a mixture of organic matter: stuff produced by things living in or on the soil, that can’t [...]... Read more »

  • June 20, 2010
  • 11:50 AM

Bacterial Hitchhikers

by Lab Rat in Lab Rat

There was an interesting post over at Culturing Science about the widespread dispersal of bacteria which, as well as sporting an amazing hand-drawn MS Paint picture also put forward the argument that bacterial evolution occurs in very selective environmental pockets and niches, while a sort of general 'less-evolving' population floats around the world. This helps to explain why you can find almost identical species of bacteria all over the world, yet still find very specialised colonies in disti........ Read more »

Grossart HP, Dziallas C, Leunert F, & Tang KW. (2010) Bacteria dispersal by hitchhiking on zooplankton. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 20547852  

  • June 20, 2010
  • 10:02 AM

The paternity myth: the rarity of cuckoldry

by Razib Khan in Gene Expression

An urban myth, often asserted with a wink & a nod in some circles, is that a very high proportion of children in Western countries are not raised by their biological father, and in fact are not aware that their putative biological father is not their real biological father. The numbers I see and hear [...]... Read more »

  • June 20, 2010
  • 06:20 AM

Mythbusting Booze: Myths and realities of alcohol consumption

by Michael Slezak in Good, Bad, and Bogus

This is the first part of a series that aims to bust some myths about booze.
Hangovers suck and they’re probably best avoided. But once you’ve got one, can you get rid of it? People swear by their favourite hangover cures — insisting that if you just follow their advice, you’ll free yourself of the post-intoxicated state.
Can [...]... Read more »

Verster JC. (2008) The alcohol hangover--a puzzling phenomenon. Alcohol and alcoholism (Oxford, Oxfordshire), 43(2), 124-6. PMID: 18182417  

  • June 19, 2010
  • 01:57 PM

Conquest of the land, a la Chubby Checker

by Zen Faulkes in NeuroDojo

Now this is wild:

It’s a fish. It jumps.

This picture was not taken in an aquarium filled with water; it’s in air.

The fish is a blenny, Alticus arnoldorum, and a new paper introduced me to this fish that barely deserves to be called a fish. According to the author, Shi-Tong Hsieh, this fish spends so much time on land that it actively defends territory on land. It can stay out of water indefinitely, as long as it stays moist.

That blows my mind.

Hsieh was interested how blennies wer........ Read more »

Hsieh, Shi-Tong Tonia. (2010) A Locomotor Innovation Enables Water-Land Transition in a Marine Fish. PLoS ONE, 5(6). info:/10.1371/journal.pone.0011197

  • June 19, 2010
  • 11:18 AM

The Burglar Alarm Hypothesis: The Role Of Bioluminescence

by Daniel Bassett in Chew the Fat

Anyone who has disturbed water at night, especially during a bloom, will have seen the intense bioluminescence produced (see picture above). But why this occurs has long been the subject of scientific query. Dinoflagellates are one planktonic group that bioluminesce, and this occurs due to deformation of their cell membrane caused by shear forces. This is often caused by intense water movement such as breaking waves or a predators swimming movements. One hypothesis is that this is a form of co........ Read more »

Abrahams, M., & Townsend, L. (1993) BIOLUMINESCENCE IN DINOFLAGELLATES: A TEST OF THE BURGLAR ALARM HYPOTHESIS. Ecology, 74(1), 258-260. info:/10.2307/1939521

  • June 19, 2010
  • 05:45 AM

Death by toxic goose. Amazing waterfowl facts part II

by Darren Naish in Tetrapod Zoology

Yesterday we looked briefly at goose digestion. Pretty incredible stuff, I'm sure you'll agree. Hey: wouldn't it be weird if some waterfowl were poisonous? Yeah, wouldn't it. Well... guess what? Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »

Bartram, S., & Boland, W. (2001) Chemistry and ecology of toxic birds. ChemBioChem, 809-811. info:/

  • June 18, 2010
  • 10:44 PM

Naked Mole Rats Do Not Suffer From Cancer

by Reason in Fight Aging!

When it comes to wandering Methuselah's zoo in search of comparisons between species that might lead to greater understanding of human longevity - and how to increase it - the naked mole rat stands out as a prominent point of interest. It lives for something like nine times longer than some similar rodent species, and appears to have unusually resilient biochemistry for a mammal. Naked Mole-Rats and Negligible Senescence Built Differently, Down in the Membranes You might recall that different fa........ Read more »

  • June 18, 2010
  • 08:18 PM

Toxoplasmosis and Evil Cats

by James Byrne in Disease Prone

In Australia in the year 2000 there were an estimated 2.4 million domesticated cats. That’s about 1 cat for every 10 people. One of the great thing about cats is that they form a natural reservoir for a parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii, a little protozoan creature that is best spread through eating cat poo. ... Read more »

  • June 18, 2010
  • 05:40 PM

Insect-eating not (just) for the birds

by Katie Kline in EcoTone

Nutritious, chemical-free and all-natural, insects are featured as the main protein several Latin American, Asian and African countries. For example, in the Santander region of Colombia, leaf-cutter ants (called "hormigas culonas") are sometimes eaten roasted, salted and have a slightly acidic taste. Mopane worms—the caterpillar for the moth Gonimbrasia belina—are popular in Botswana and are served dried or rehydrated with sauces and other ingredients.

... Read more »

  • June 18, 2010
  • 05:31 PM

In Brief – A Mathematical Model of Animal Movement

by Sam W in From C to Carnivore

  There are many mathematical models describing statistical movements. One of them is Brownian motion, which most of us are familiar with from basic chemistry. It is the motion that for example particles in a fluid exhibit (simplified: they move in a straight line until they hit another particle and then change their direction. In [...]... Read more »

Humphries, N., Queiroz, N., Dyer, J., Pade, N., Musyl, M., Schaefer, K., Fuller, D., Brunnschweiler, J., Doyle, T., Houghton, J.... (2010) Environmental context explains Lévy and Brownian movement patterns of marine predators. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature09116  

  • June 18, 2010
  • 04:09 PM

How screwed is the polar bear?

by TwoYaks in Gene Flow

Even deniers like Akasofu wouldn't argue that the planet isn't warming. He just casts the blame elsewhwere, in a probably incorrect manner. It's the naïve who say that global warming is a hoax because "it snowed a lot last winter" (and so are those who believe in global warming because it's hot today, but for different reasons), that or the ideologues who view this through a partisan lens. Let ... Read more »

Rode KD, Amstrup SC, & Regehr EV. (2010) Reduced body size and cub recruitment in polar bears associated with sea ice decline. Ecological applications : a publication of the Ecological Society of America, 20(3), 768-82. PMID: 20437962  

  • June 18, 2010
  • 01:40 PM

Archaea, Eukaryotes and the evolution of DNA replication complexes

by Lab Rat in Lab Rat

The relationship between bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes is an interesting one, and made slightly harder to approach as people tend to lump archaea and bacteria into the one grouping of 'prokaryotes' which is not much more than a scientific word for "blobs I don't care about". Delving deeper into the biochemistry of all three superkingdoms shows that while the metabolic pathways used by archaea are more similar to those in bacteria, their core DNA processes (such as replication and protein synt........ Read more »

  • June 18, 2010
  • 01:05 PM

Can you raise reindeer on goose shit? Amazing waterfowl facts part I

by Darren Naish in Tetrapod Zoology

I've just been writing about waterfowl for the day job. Which is fine, because waterfowl are among my favourite animals (as if that isn't obvious from Tet Zoo... what, you mean it isn't obvious?). Entirely because they're on my mind at the moment, here is the first of several, entirely random waterfowl facts... Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »

van der Wal, R., & Loonen, M. (1998) Goose droppings as food for reindeer. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 76(6), 1117-1122. DOI: 10.1139/cjz-76-6-1117  

  • June 18, 2010
  • 11:49 AM

Microbe biogeography: the distribution, dispersal and evolution of the littlest organisms

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

In any high school biology class1, we learn that isolation is key to the evolution of species.  For example, take Australia, where an array of marsupials such as koalas and kangaroos reproduce like no other animals on the planet.  Isolation on a continental island allowed ancestral marsupials to evolve gestation via pouch, a trait which [...]... Read more »

Martiny, J., Bohannan, B., Brown, J., Colwell, R., Fuhrman, J., Green, J., Horner-Devine, M., Kane, M., Krumins, J., Kuske, C.... (2006) Microbial biogeography: putting microorganisms on the map. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 4(2), 102-112. DOI: 10.1038/nrmicro1341  

  • June 18, 2010
  • 11:17 AM

Some Extinct “Sea Dragons” Ran Hot

by Brian Switek in Dinosaur Tracking

During the 1970s a major debate erupted among paleontologists. On the basis of new evidence, from the anatomy of the recently-discovered dinosaur Deinonychus to the microscopic bone structure of dinosaurs, paleontologists such as John Ostrom and Bob Bakker proposed that dinosaurs may have been endotherms—animals able to internally regulate their own body temperature. The work [...]... Read more »

Bernard, A., Lecuyer, C., Vincent, P., Amiot, R., Bardet, N., Buffetaut, E., Cuny, G., Fourel, F., Martineau, F., Mazin, J.... (2010) Regulation of Body Temperature by Some Mesozoic Marine Reptiles. Science, 328(5984), 1379-1382. DOI: 10.1126/science.1187443  

  • June 18, 2010
  • 09:47 AM

Effect of Plastics in Fauna (particularly marine fauna)

by Sarah Stephen in Our Gossamer Planet

We may not be strangers to scary sights, photographs, and news: a cow and its calf chewing a plastic bag in rural Kerala whilst the daily newspaper cites the number of animals which have died after ingesting plastic bags and wastes discarded by the roadsides, a little puppy being trapped in that suffocating cloak, and a turtle inquisitively approaching a plastic bag. Although I have already referred to the plastic menace in this blog, as well as while highlighting David de Rothschild’s Plastik........ Read more »

  • June 18, 2010
  • 09:39 AM

The “how” of cystic fibrosis through the “why”

by Razib Khan in Gene Expression

It’s just a fact that contemporary human evolutionary genetics has relied upon its potential insights into disease to generate funding, support and interest. I don’t think that this is much of a silver lining when set next to the suffering caused by disease, but it’s a silver lining nevertheless.  Therefore findings which would be of [...]... Read more »

  • June 18, 2010
  • 09:02 AM

HBCU medical schools at Morehouse, Meharry, and Howard lead "social mission" metric - Annals of Internal Medicine

by David J Kroll in Terra Sigillata

Reuters Health Executive Editor and proprietor of the excellent Embargo Watch blog, Ivan Oransky, was kind to alert me to this topical paper that appeared in Monday's issue of Annals of Internal Medicine entitled, The Social Mission of Medical Education: Ranking the Schools.

To the credit of the Annals, the full text of the primary article is currently free. An accompanying editorial is behind the subscription wall.

The study was conducted led by Fitzhugh Mullan with Candice Chen, MD, Gretchen........ Read more »

Mullan F, Chen C, Petterson S, Kolsky G, & Spagnola M. (2010) The social mission of medical education: ranking the schools. Annals of internal medicine, 152(12), 804-11. PMID: 20547907  

  • June 18, 2010
  • 07:49 AM

A Cup for your Pup: Friday Weird Science Companion Post

by Jason Goldman in The Thoughtful Animal

Once upon a Thursday night, blog bff Scicurious asked a particular blogger named Jason if he had access to a paper titled, Contraceptive efficacy of polyester-induced azoospermia in normal men. "I certainly hope so," he said. And so he logged in to his university's library proxy website, and searched for the paper.

She said, "PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell me you have access to this article" and then "it's about ball sacks I MUST HAVE IT." As it happens, he did have institutional access. So Jason do........ Read more »

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