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 »
Rillig, M., Wright, S., Nichols, K., Schmidt, W., & Torn, M. (2001) Large contribution of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to soil carbon pools in tropical forest soils. Plant and Soil, 233(2), 167-177. DOI: 10.1023/A:1010364221169
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 »
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 »
Anderson, K. (2006) How Well Does Paternity Confidence Match Actual Paternity? Evidence from Worldwide Nonpaternity Rates. Current Anthropology, 47(3), 513-520. DOI: 10.1086/504167
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 »
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
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
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:/
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 »
Liang S, Mele J, Wu Y, Buffenstein R, & Hornsby PJ. (2010) Resistance to experimental tumorigenesis in cells of a long-lived mammal, the naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber). Aging cell. PMID: 20550519
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 »
Jones JL, Kruszon-Moran D, & Wilson M. (2003) Toxoplasma gondii infection in the United States, 1999-2000. Emerging infectious diseases, 9(11), 1371-4. PMID: 14718078
Flegr, J., Klose, J., Novotná, M., Berenreitterová, M., & Havlíček, J. (2009) Increased incidence of traffic accidents in Toxoplasma-infected military drivers and protective effect RhD molecule revealed by a large-scale prospective cohort study. BMC Infectious Diseases, 9(1), 72. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2334-9-72
YERELI, K., BALCIOGLU, I., & OZBILGIN, A. (2006) Is Toxoplasma gondii a potential risk for traffic accidents in Turkey?☆. Forensic Science International, 163(1-2), 34-37. DOI: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2005.11.002
NOVOTNÁ, M., HAVLÍČEK, J., SMITH, A., KOLBEKOVÁ, P., SKALLOVÁ, A., KLOSE, J., GAŠOVÁ, Z., PÍSAČKA, M., SECHOVSKÁ, M., & FLEGR, J. (2008) Toxoplasma and reaction time: role of toxoplasmosis in the origin, preservation and geographical distribution of Rh blood group polymorphism. Parasitology, 135(11). DOI: 10.1017/S003118200800485X
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 »
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
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
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 »
Chia N, Cann I, & Olsen GJ. (2010) Evolution of DNA replication protein complexes in eukaryotes and Archaea. PloS one, 5(6). PMID: 20532250
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 »
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 »
Cermeño, P., de Vargas, C., Abrantes, F., & Falkowski, P. (2010) Phytoplankton Biogeography and Community Stability in the Ocean. PLoS ONE, 5(4). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010037
Fenchel, T., & Finlay, B. (2004) The Ubiquity of Small Species: Patterns of Local and Global Diversity. BioScience, 54(8), 777. DOI: 10.1641/0006-3568(2004)054[0777:TUOSSP]2.0.CO;2
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
O'Malley, M. (2007) The nineteenth century roots of 'everything is everywhere'. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 5(8), 647-651. DOI: 10.1038/nrmicro1711
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
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 »
Ryan, P. (1987) The incidence and characteristics of plastic particles ingested by seabirds. Marine Environmental Research, 23(3), 175-206. DOI: 10.1016/0141-1136(87)90028-6
Mato, Y., Isobe, T., Takada, H., Kanehiro, H., Ohtake, C., & Kaminuma, T. (2001) Plastic Resin Pellets as a Transport Medium for Toxic Chemicals in the Marine Environment. Environmental Science , 35(2), 318-324. DOI: 10.1021/es0010498
DERRAIK, J. (2002) The pollution of the marine environment by plastic debris: a review. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 44(9), 842-852. DOI: 10.1016/S0025-326X(02)00220-5
Sazima I, Gadig OB, Namora RC, & Motta FS. (2002) Plastic debris collars on juvenile carcharhinid sharks (Rhizoprionodon lalandii) in southwest Atlantic. Marine pollution bulletin, 44(10), 1149-51. PMID: 12474977
MOORE, C. (2008) Synthetic polymers in the marine environment: A rapidly increasing, long-term threat. Environmental Research, 108(2), 131-139. DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2008.07.025
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 »
Kosova G, Pickrell JK, Kelley JL, McArdle PF, Shuldiner AR, Abney M, & Ober C. (2010) The CFTR Met 470 allele is associated with lower birth rates in fertile men from a population isolate. PLoS genetics, 6(6). PMID: 20532200
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
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 »
Shafik A. (1993) Effect of different types of textile fabric on spermatogenesis: an experimental study. Urological research, 21(5), 367-70. PMID: 8279095
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