Are we headed toward a world full of foxes, skunks and raccoons — but empty of lions, tigers and bears? Maybe. It’s a fact that many of the planet’s large carnivores are in dire straits. Where I live in the eastern U.S., we no longer have cougars or eastern wolves, top predators that used to [...]... Read more »
An idyllic lake turns threatening when heavy rainfall causes a sewage treatment plant to overflow. Within 24 hours, once-benign microbes turn into virulent pathogens, breeding incessantly and attacking the embryos of lake fish. As much as that may sound like the synopsis of a movie on Mystery Science Theater, this is an impact on lake ecosystems that is actually occurring.
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Wedekind, C., Gessner, M., Vazquez, F., Maerki, M., & Steiner, D. (2010) Elevated resource availability sufficient to turn opportunistic into virulent fish pathogens. Ecology, 91(5), 1251-1256. DOI: 10.1890/09-1067.1
Whale sharks are the largest fish in the oceans; they can grow to 20m in length and weigh many tons, although 7-9m is closer to the common average these days. Despite their tremendous size, scientists don't know that much about them. We know that they eat plankton and that they live in the tropical oceans throughout the world and there have been quite a few papers reporting their presence in ... Read more »
Brunnschweiler, J., Baensch, H., Pierce, S., & Sims, D. (2009) Deep-diving behaviour of a whale shark during long-distance movement in the western Indian Ocean . Journal of Fish Biology, 74(3), 706-714. DOI: 10.1111/j.1095-8649.2008.02155.x
CASTRO, A., STEWART, B., WILSON, S., HUETER, R., MEEKAN, M., MOTTA, P., BOWEN, B., & KARL, S. (2007) Population genetic structure of Earth's largest fish, the whale shark ( ) . Molecular Ecology, 16(24), 5183-5192. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2007.03597.x
Dove, A., Arnold, J., & Clauss, T. (2010) Blood cells and serum chemistry in the world’s largest fish: the whale shark Rhincodon typus. Aquatic Biology, 9(2), 177-183. DOI: 10.3354/ab00252
According to a short communication recently published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, an ancient marine reptile provided a feast for hungry sharks.
In 2006 paleontologists Tamaki Sato, Yoshikazu Hasegawa and Makoto Manabe described the remains of a previously-unknown kind of elasmosaurid, Futabasaurus suzukii, a long-necked predator that swam the seas in what is now Japan [...]... Read more »
Shimada, K., Tsuihiji, T., Sato, T., & Hasegawa, Y. (2010) A Remarkable Case of a Shark-Bitten Elasmosaurid Plesiosaur. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 30(2), 592-597. DOI: 10.1080/02724631003621920
Sustainability is all over the news these days. Green this, eco-friendly that, recycle everything, buy the twisty lightbulbs, and “Aren’t you going to compost that?” Much like good compost, sustainability is hot, and it’s finding its way not only into our households, but also into product design. Principles like using low-impact materials, energy efficiency and designing for [...]... Read more »
Rinaldi, A. (2007) Naturally better. Science and technology are looking to nature's successful designs for inspiration. EMBO reports, 8(11), 995-999. DOI: 10.1038/sj.embor.7401107
A few days ago I visited my friends at the Centre for Fortean Zoology (for non-Tet Zoo-related reasons), and I particularly enjoyed looking at their amphiumas. Purely because I want to share the photos I took - well, and because amphiumas are weird, little known and really, really neat - I thought I'd say a little bit about them.
As usual, that 'little bit' quickly grew into a full-length article... nuts. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
You probably are aware that different populations have different tolerances for high altitudes. Himalayan sherpas aren’t useful just because they have skills derived from their culture, they’re actually rather well adapted to high altitudes because of their biology. Additionally, different groups seem to have adapted to higher altitudes independently, exhibiting convergent evolution. But in [...]... Read more »
Tatum S. Simonson, Yingzhong Yang, Chad D. Huff, Haixia Yun, Ga Qin, David J. Witherspoon, Zhenzhong Bai, Felipe R. Lorenzo, Jinchuan Xing, Lynn B. Jorde.... (2010) Genetic Evidence for High-Altitude Adaptation in Tibet. Science. info:/10.1126/science.1189406
That evolution occurs is well resolved. Precisely how evolution occurs, in detail, is less so.
One question revolves around if present-day life arose from a single species or more than one.
Douglas Theobald from Brandeis University has tested if life arose from one or several ancestral paths.1 His results strongly support a single ancestry.
The question of if life has [...]... Read more »
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Richardson, P., Lundholm, J., & Larson, D. (2010) Natural analogues of degraded ecosystems enhance conservation and reconstruction in extreme environments. Ecological Applications, 20(3), 728-740. DOI: 10.1890/08-1092.1
Sci watched the new Sherlock Holmes movie the other night. It's cute, and one of the things that she really enjoyed was watching Sherlock Holmes use his amazing power of deduction:
Sherlock Holmes: As to where I am, I was, admittedly, lost for a moment, between Charing Cross and Holborn, but I was saved by the bread shop on Southford Hill. The only baker to use a certain French glaze on their loaves - a Brittany sage. After that, the carriage forked left and right, and then a tell-tale bump at........ Read more »
Tsuchihashi, Y. (1974) Studies on personal identification by means of lip prints. Forensic Science, 233-248. DOI: 10.1016/0300-9432(74)90034-X
Orlaith Fraser (University of Vienna, Austria) and Thomas Bugnyar (Konrad Lorenz Forschungstelle, Austria) have presented strong initial evidence of empathy among non-primates. This news feature was written on May 13, 2010.... Read more »
Fraser, O. N., & Bugnyar, T. (2010) Do Ravens Show Consolation? Responses to Distressed Others. PLoS ONE, 5(5). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010605
A large merged double edition of the journal Rejuvenation Research is now online, bringing with it a lot of papers to look through. I thought I'd direct your attention to one of those many papers, as it presents an interesting evolutionary background to the SENS approach to the mitochondrial DNA damage that accumulates with age. Our mitochondria are biological power plants within our cells, the evolved descendants of symbiotic bacterial species. They convert food into ATP, the chemical used as f........ Read more »
Components of the newly-described Fezouata fauna. a, Demosponge Pirania auraeum b, Choiid demosponge c, Annelid worm d, Organism showing possible similarities to halkieriids e, Possible armoured lobopod f, Thelxiope-like arthropod g, Marrellomorph arthropod, probably belonging to the genus Furca h, Skaniid arthropod i, Spinose arthropod appendage
apparatus consisting of six overlapping elements. From Van Roy et al, 2010.
When the Cambrian period comes up in conversation, it is usually in re........ Read more »
I bet you never wondered why the black ghost knifefish hunts at an uncomfortable angle of -30°! Prepare to take a journey on the intersection of animal behaviour, neurobiology and biomechanics!
Suppose you’re one of your animal ancestors, swimming around in one of the warm and shallow Cambrian seas 500 million years ago. You’re a small [...]... Read more »
MacIver, M., Patankar, N., & Shirgaonkar, A. (2010) Energy-Information Trade-Offs between Movement and Sensing. PLoS Computational Biology, 6(5). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000769
Global warming may already be driving lizard populations extinct
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Sinervo, B. et al. (2010) Erosion of lizard diversity by climate change and altered thermal niches. Science. info:/10.1126/science.1184695
Huey, R.B., Losos, J.B., & C. Moritz. (2010) Are lizards toast?. Science. info:/10.1126/science.1190374
“Human beings are now carrying out a large scale geophysical experiment of a kind that could not have happened in the past nor be reproduced in the future. Within a few centuries, we are returning to the atmosphere and oceans the concentrated organic carbon stored in sedimentary rocks over hundreds of millions of years.” - [...]... Read more »
Veron, J. (2008) Mass extinctions and ocean acidification: biological constraints on geological dilemmas. Coral Reefs, 27(3), 459-472. DOI: 10.1007/s00338-008-0381-8
Yesterday, the CBC reported a story of a University of Alberta scientist who managed to raise funds from private donors to test the effects of an unconventional (and unpatented) drug in the fight against cancer (see Potential brain-cancer drug shows promise). The study was recently published in The Journal Science Translational Medicine (see bottom of [...]... Read more »
Michelakis, E., Sutendra, G., Dromparis, P., Webster, L., Haromy, A., Niven, E., Maguire, C., Gammer, T., Mackey, J., Fulton, D.... (2010) Metabolic Modulation of Glioblastoma with Dichloroacetate. Science Translational Medicine, 2(31), 31-31. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3000677
by Southern Fried Scientist and Bluegrass Blue Crab in Southern Fried Science
Menhaden were the most important fisheries throughout American history. When the first settlers learn to farm corn, it was with menhaden that they fertilized the seeds. When the whaling industry reached its height, it was outweighed by menhaden oil. Menhaden ruled the ocean from the middle of the food chain, they [...]... Read more »
G. Brown Goode. (1880) A History of the Menhaden. Menhaden Fisheries. info:/
When it comes to habitat destruction, startling events like oil spills and deforestation are certain to grab the headlines.
Yet as a new study in the journal Animal Conservation shows, sometimes habitat destruction can be so subtle that it passes under the eyes of all but the most astute scientists.... Read more »
Pike, D., Croak, B., Webb, J., & Shine, R. (2010) Subtle - but easily reversible - anthropogenic disturbance seriously degrades habitat quality for rock-dwelling reptiles. Animal Conservation. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-1795.2010.00356.x
In a bid to find a solution to the dual crises of climate change and deforestation, the REDD program has emerged as a potential "win-win" conservation idea. However, the question arises whether underlying social and economic preconditions exist in many countries for REDD to be successful...... Read more »
Börner, J., Wunder, S., Wertz-Kanounnikoff, S., Tito, M., Pereira, L., & Nascimento, N. (2010) Direct conservation payments in the Brazilian Amazon: Scope and equity implications. Ecological Economics, 69(6), 1272-1282. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2009.11.003
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