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  • March 11, 2011
  • 10:00 AM

The bacteria in your gut can affect the neurons in your head.

by Brooke N in Smaller Questions

Reviews a recent article about commensal bacteria influencing neural development.... Read more »

Heijtz RD, Wang S, Anuar F, Qian Y, Björkholm B, Samuelsson A, Hibberd ML, Forssberg H, & Pettersson S. (2011) Normal gut microbiota modulates brain development and behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(7), 3047-52. PMID: 21282636  

  • March 11, 2011
  • 09:51 AM

Evolution in action in Harlequin ladybirds

by Africa Gomez in BugBlog

I find invasive species fascinating. Either on their own steam or with a little help from us they have expanded their geographical distribution and, with time, they start forming part of the network of ecological links in each environment. Furthermore, - although they might have a negative impact on the economy and/or native species -  they provide unique natural experiments that allow us to witness evolution in action and to investigate which evolutionary forces are be involved. One such i........ Read more »

Facon B, Hufbauer RA, Tayeh A, Loiseau A, Lombaert E, Vitalis R, Guillemaud T, Lundgren JG, & Estoup A. (2011) Inbreeding Depression Is Purged in the Invasive Insect Harmonia axyridis. Current biology : CB, 21(5), 424-7. PMID: 21333536  

Maderspacher, F. (2011) The benefits of bottlenecks. Current Biology : CB, 21(5). info:/

  • March 11, 2011
  • 09:00 AM

Stop, Hey What’s That Sound?: Chimps Know Social Upheaval When they Hear it.

by Matt Soniak in

The “Ooooooohhhh!” a human being cries out when they stub their toe might sound a pretty similar to the “Ooooooohhhh!” they cry out at the end of their mating ritual, but they two calls are different. An important part of human-to-human communication is our ability to extract information from context-specific calls and integrate it with [...]... Read more »

  • March 11, 2011
  • 08:20 AM

The error of genebanks’ ways

by Jeremy in Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog

The Crop Science paper by Mark van de Wouw, Rob van Treurena and Theo van Hintum of the Centre for Genetic Resources, the Netherlands (CGN) probably deserves more than the rather cryptic Nibble we gave it yesterday. It certainly seems to be eliciting some interest in the media. What van de Wouw and friends did [...]... Read more »

  • March 11, 2011
  • 07:33 AM

Viruses, vaccination and the inflammasome. Part 1.

by Connor Bamford in The Rule of 6ix

The inflammasome
Daily, our immune system deals with multiple microbial threats, including viral, bacterial, fungal and parasitic pathogens that have evolved to evade our defences. One major obstacle to infection is our 'innate' immune system - the one that doesn't include all our B and T cells; has no memory and is generally pretty fast in acting. This set of barriers is made of anatomical, chemical, molecular and cellular obstacles that must be overcome if a pathogen is to successfully se........ Read more »

  • March 11, 2011
  • 05:30 AM

The random walk of evolution

by Becky in It Takes 30

One of the reasons that some people have a hard time accepting evolution is that the organisms we can study today are so darn complicated that it’s hard to see how they could have arisen from many small steps.  Take chemotaxis in bacteria, for example.  The motor for movement, the flagellum, has frequently been cited [...]... Read more »

Wei Y, Wang X, Liu J, Nememan I, Singh AH, Weiss H, & Levin BR. (2011) The population dynamics of bacteria in physically structured habitats and the adaptive virtue of random motility. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 21325053  

  • March 11, 2011
  • 03:40 AM

Tears = Turn Off

by Pranab Chatterjee in Scepticemia

How many of us have been reduced to blubbering idiots by the tears of a distressed damsel? I am sure the casualties are too many to put a number. Almost all of us have come across a time when we … Continue reading →... Read more »

Gelstein, S., Yeshurun, Y., Rozenkrantz, L., Shushan, S., Frumin, I., Roth, Y., & Sobel, N. (2011) Human Tears Contain a Chemosignal. Science, 331(6014), 226-230. DOI: 10.1126/science.1198331  

  • March 10, 2011
  • 11:21 PM

The Private Bits of Gregarious Carnivores

by potto in terrible puny rightness

Female spotted hyenas give birth through the tip of a penis-like clitoris. That sounds unpleasant, right? It’s also quite damaging. First-time birth through this “peniform” clitoris is long and difficult and results in the clitoral opening tearing when the relatively large, open-eyed pup (with teeth and claws) is born. Quite often, the first birth through [...]... Read more »

  • March 10, 2011
  • 07:22 PM

Maned Wolf Pee Demystified

by Laelaps in Laelaps

Asking weird questions is an essential part of being a science writer. The sort of stuff that stops dinner conversations cold or makes listeners respond “You really are a nerd, aren’t you?” It’s almost hopeless trying to defend oneself in these situations: “What? Who hasn’t wondered about what happened in the digestive system of Tyrannosaurus?”
The [...]... Read more »

Childs-Sanford, S. (2005) THE CAPTIVE MANED WOLF (Chrysocyon brachyurus): NUTRITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS WITH EMPHASIS ON MANAGEMENT OF CYSTINURIA. Master's Thesis: University of Maryland, College Park, 1-163. info:/

  • March 10, 2011
  • 07:10 PM


by Julia Whitty in Deep Blue Home

(High-temperature white smokers emitting liquid carbon dioxide from the Champagne vent in the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. Credit: NOAA, via Wikimedia Commons.)It's possible the first life on Earth evolved at remote "extremophile" ecosystems like deep-sea hydrothermal vents. These otherworldly ecosystems were discovered only in 1977 by a group of marine geologists exploring the Galapagos Rift. From Deep Blue Home:[Hydrothermal vents] form at fissures torn into Earth’s crust by ou........ Read more »

  • March 10, 2011
  • 05:01 PM

Defending Your Territory: Be Smelly, Be Fast

by Jason Goldman in The Thoughtful Animal

Welcome to the third installment of Animal Territoriality Week. See part 1 here, and part 2 here.

In 1994, a disease called sarcoptic mange swept through Bristol's fox population, severely crippling the population and killing most of the individuals. Professor Stephen Harris of the University of Bristol, who had been studying the movements and territories of those foxes, noticed that as the animals in one territory died, neighboring foxes were able to colonize the vacant areas in 3-4 days. He........ Read more »

Luca Giuggioli, Jonathan R. Potts, & Stephen Harris. (2011) Animal Interactions and the Emergence of Territoriality. PLoS Computational Biology, 7(3). info:/10.1371/ journal.pcbi.1002008

  • March 10, 2011
  • 04:27 PM

The benefits of losing DNA: smoother penises and bigger brains

by Katie Pratt in

“Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.” [Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 1859] What makes us human? As a species, we have colonized our planet like no other. We have asserted our presence through agriculture, industry, and curiosity. We have evolved complex languages and customs. We can fall [...]... Read more »

McLean, C., Reno, P., Pollen, A., Bassan, A., Capellini, T., Guenther, C., Indjeian, V., Lim, X., Menke, D., Schaar, B.... (2011) Human-specific loss of regulatory DNA and the evolution of human-specific traits. Nature, 471(7337), 216-219. DOI: 10.1038/nature09774  

  • March 10, 2011
  • 10:36 AM

Tapeworms, Trematodes and Other Dinosaur Pests

by Brian Switek in Dinosaur Tracking

In one short section of his book Parasite Rex, science writer Carl Zimmer asked a simple question: “Did tapeworms live in dinosaurs?” There is no reason to think they didn’t. Both the living descendants of dinosaurs (birds) and their crocodylian cousins harbor tapeworms, Zimmer pointed out, and so it isn’t unreasonable to imagine monstrous, prehistoric [...]... Read more »

Wolff, E., Salisbury, S., Horner, J., & Varricchio, D. (2009) Common Avian Infection Plagued the Tyrant Dinosaurs. PLoS ONE, 4(9). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007288  

  • March 10, 2011
  • 07:13 AM

Deep-sea additions to the Nematode Tree of Life

by Holly Bik in Deep Sea News

Sometimes I am stunned by the vastness of the internet, as well as the brief 15-nanoseconds of fame that go along with most of its content. The other day I discovered the ‘Charlie the Unicorn’ videos on YouTube, after (ironically?) having a conversation with a real three-dimensional human.
I was excited by this hilarity and went . . . → Read More: Deep-sea additions to the Nematode Tree of Life... Read more »

  • March 10, 2011
  • 07:00 AM

Building Policies for Stewardship

by Bluegrass Blue Crab in Southern Fried Science

A dream? We as humans and especially here at SFS like to picture an ideal government and hope that as we learn more about science and political theory, government can take steps in that direction. By any measure, governance within the United States is far from meeting the theoretical ideal. Implementation and [...]... Read more »

  • March 10, 2011
  • 07:00 AM

March 10, 2011

by Erin Campbell in HighMag Blog

Think of the first time you kissed your partner…I’m sure it led to piloerection. Nerds, stop the giggling…I’m talking about goosebumps! The stunning image above is from a paper describing the relationship between hair follicles and the muscles that cause goosebumps. We have epidermal stem cells in our hair follicles in a region called the bulge. The cells in the bulge are closely associated with the arrector pili muscle (APM), which is the muscle responsible for cau........ Read more »

Fujiwara, H., Ferreira, M., Donati, G., Marciano, D., Linton, J., Sato, Y., Hartner, A., Sekiguchi, K., Reichardt, L., & Watt, F. (2011) The Basement Membrane of Hair Follicle Stem Cells Is a Muscle Cell Niche. Cell, 144(4), 577-589. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.01.014  

  • March 10, 2011
  • 04:57 AM

An adaptive fairytale with no happy ending

by Jeremy Yoder in Denim and Tweed

The evolution of human traits and behaviors is, as I've noted before, a contentious and personal subject. This is enough of a problem when there's some data to inform the contentiousness. In the absence of meaningful data, it's downright dangerous.

Take, for instance, Jesse Bering's recent post about the evolution of homophobia, which Steve Silberman just pointed out to me.

.flickr-photo { }.flickr-framewide { float: right; text-align: left; margin-left: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px; width:100%;}........ Read more »

Young, K., Brodie, E.D., Jr., & Brodie, E.D., III. (2004) How the horned lizard got its horns. Science, 304(5667), 65. DOI: 10.1126/science.1094790  

  • March 9, 2011
  • 09:43 PM

Unraveling the Nature of the Whorl-Toothed Shark

by Laelaps in Laelaps

Reconstructing the anatomy of prehistoric sharks isn’t easy. With few exceptions – an exquisitely-preserved body fossil here, some calcified bits of skeleton there – teeth make up the majority of the shark fossil record. When those teeth come from a relatively recent species with close living relatives, it is not difficult to imagine what the [...]... Read more »

Eastman, C. (1900) Karpinsky's Genus Helicoprion. The American Naturalist, 34(403), 579. DOI: 10.1086/277706  

Mutter, R.J. and Neuman, A. (2008) Jaws and dentition in an Early Triassic, 3-dimensionally preserved eugeneodontid skull (Chondrichthyes). Acta Geologica Polonica, 58(2), 223-227. info:/

  • March 9, 2011
  • 02:58 PM

The amazing neural crest

by Erin Campbell in the Node

The power of stem cells lies in the ability to give rise to many different cell types.  The stem cells found in the neural crest are no exception, and a recent Development paper describes the importance of Foxd3 in maintaining self-renewal and multipotency of these stem cells, and in regulating the fate choice of these [...]... Read more »

  • March 9, 2011
  • 02:30 PM

Out of Body Experiences & Soul Beliefs

by Cris Campbell in Genealogy of Religion

Anyone who has watched an episode of “I Survived: Beyond and Back” on the Biography Channel knows that accounts of near death experiences mesmerize the public. They also drive ratings. The typical “I Survived” vignette features someone whose heart has stopped beating and is considered “clinically dead.”
Because everyone who appears on the show  is very [...]... Read more »

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