Although the evolution of the eye is often pointed to by evolution's skeptics as evidence of design, biologists have been quick to point out evidence
to the contrary
. Today, Julian Partridge
of Bristol University's Ecology of Vision Research Unit
has brought to light
evidence of a Pacific fish that has evolved biological mirrors for navigating murky water.
Scientists at the Auckland Museum will be performing a necropsy of a great white Shark
between 11am and 1pm New Zealand time on Thursday. Though they will be examining the contents of its gut, they will also, among other things, look at its sex organs (female) and jaw. The necropsy will be viewable on the web
from 2pm NZ time (when's that?
). [more inside]
Bracing for Islamic Creationism
(PDF). "To avoid a vast rejection of evolution in the Muslim world, scientists can present the theory
as the bedrock of biology
and can stress its practical applications
The Orienting Stone.
"A snowy white stone that gives shape to the universe: as it happens, we all carry within our skulls the vestige of such a thing, a kind of existentially reversed qibla
(this one perspectival, the other metaphysical) that gives us our sense of being at the center of things, the sense that we are upright at the origin point of a three-dimensional space..." [Via]
Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE)
is the first video journal for biological research accepted in PubMed
, featuring hundreds of peer-reviewed video-protocols demonstrating experimental techniques in the fields of neuroscience, cellular biology, developmental biology, immunology, bioengineering, microbiology and plant biology, free of charge.
"We were looking for pretty animals that have eyes, are coloured, or glow in the dark; instead, the most interesting find was the organism that was blind, brainless, and completely covered in mud." Some of the oldest fossil records may need to be reconsidered: Dr. Mikhail Matz of the University of Texas has discovered Gromia Sphaerica
, a species of protist
, making tracks
.... [more inside]
Pictures and descriptions of sea slugs
- an absolutely stunning species of marine life
On Growth and Form
(1917) was D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson's pioneering effort to explore the mathematical principles that underlie biological form. He studied the similarity between the shapes of a jellyfish
and a drop of ink
, a splash
and a hydroid
, between dragonfly wings
and bubble froth
, the growth of radiolaria
, the spirals of nautilus
shells and sheep horns
. More recently, Adrian Bejan's Constructal Theory
aims to explain all biological shape from one thermodynamic principle. This month there is an interview with Bejan for the layman
. [more inside]
Now: The Rest of the Genome.
"Only 1 percent of the genome is made up of classic genes. Scientists are exploring the other 99 percent and uncovering new secrets and new questions."
Hunting the Hidden Dimension.
You may be familiar with fractals, but in this PBS Nova episode, divided online into 5 parts, fractals go beyond the impossible zoom of the Mandelbrot set
. Scientists are using fractals to describe complex natural occurrences, like lava
, and rain forests
. In part 5, scientists measure one tree in the rain forests, and the distribution of small and large branches mirror the distribution of small and large trees. Fractals, it seems, are nature
is a new project from the American Society for Cell Biology to release freely available lectures from leading scientists on the web. It features talks on such diverse areas as stem cells
, and biofuel production
How We Evolve:
"A growing number of scientists argue that human culture itself has become the foremost agent of biological change, making us — for the past 10,000 years or so — the inadvertent architects of our own future selves." [more inside]
its prey in your bloodstream.
paints watercolours of mutated insects from radioactively contaminated areas in Ukraine
, the United States
, and Europe
. She has recently published a scientific article incorporating these paintings (5 MB PDF
). site also available in German
Hundreds of New Reef Creatures Found in Australia.
Hundreds of new marine creatures
have been discovered
in three Australian reefs by CReefs
, a census of coral reefs which is part of the Census of Marine Life
, a ten-year initiative to assess global ocean diversity.
with Stuart Newman, The New Master
Of Evolution? Video Interview
: Evolution Politics. A reformulation of the theory of evolution. Susan Mazur presents most of the players in her latest e-book: Will the Real Theory of Evolution Please Stand Up? [more inside]
Scientists Repurpose Adult Cells
- "Scientists have transformed one type of fully developed adult cell directly into another inside a living animal, a startling advance that could lead to cures for a variety of illnesses and sidestep the political and ethical quagmires associated with embryonic stem cell research." [nature abstract
, nature writeup
, audio announcement
Get your learn on. 180+ ways of investigating the human brain = hours of fun for the whole family.
Thanks to an innocuous question by a 5 year old, my entire evening is now being spent investigating and discussing the structure and workings of the human brain. This flash site lets you explore the workings of the brain according to 12 subject areas (each with subtopics which are not included in the "180" count), within each of which are 5 levels of organization from social to molecular, within each of which are three levels of explanation (beginner, intermediate, and advanced.) discovered via Wikipedia.
"The new generation of resistant infections is almost impossible to treat."
When you first hear of a shrimp breaking out of it's tank, the prospect isn't really frightening. But when you learn that the mantis shrimp
has punched through the glass container
, it becomes a little more serious. [more inside]
Festooning The Tree Of Life.
Carl Zimmer describes new research
on lateral gene transfer which makes the Tree of Life look
more like a Gordian Knot.
was first observed on November 14, 1963, as a pillar of smoke
on the water some ways south of Iceland. The very next day lava and tephra broke the surface of the Atlantic and by May, 1964 the formation had grown to 2.4 km². Over the next three years lava eruptions continued, coating the loose debris in a hard shell and protecting it from erosion. An island born
. Naturally, Surtsey has been under close scientific observation since its emergence, and courtesy The Surtsey Research Society
you can read published reports on the geology
and biological colonization
of this new earth.
The Cosmic Womb:
Recently published findings from researchers with the Imperial College
London’s Department of Earth Science and Engineering seem to bolster the case for
extra-terrestrial sources for the origins of life on Earth. (A PDF of the published results can be downloaded here
, if you want the technical specifics.) [more inside]
What Is A Species?
"To this day, scientists struggle with that question. A better definition can influence which animals make the endangered list."
Tens of millions of brittlestars
have been discovered
inhabiting the peak of a sea mount in the Macquarie Ridge south of New Zealand. Strong currents are believed to be responsible for sweeping their predators away, more or less recreating their home
300 million years gone
The first ever, it is believed, has been produced at Cornell University. The feat was apparently much overlooked, and has many concerned
over the lack of public debate
of this field of research. Genetically modified human embryos
West Nile virus and Avian influenza and Chronic wasting disease, oh, my! (and Monkeypox...) Outbreaks of disease in
populations of wild and domestic animals, having such a heavy impact on human health, has led the United States
and the University of Wisconson to develop a way to track news of disease outbreaks
planet: The Global Wildlife Disease News Map
"With most animals, males duke it out and the winner gets the girls," says Holekamp. "But with hyenas, females have 100 percent say." They decide when and under what conditions they will tolerate deferential sperm donors. At age 2 or 3 a male leaves his natal clan and wanders off to beg acceptance into another clan. After vicious rejections, he eventually succeeds and reaps his reward: brutal harassment as the clan's nadir, one of the last in line for food and sex. This probation, which biologists call "endurance rivalry," is a test, Holekamp explains: "The guy who can stick it out the longest wins." The trial lasts about two years, after which some females may grant him access. "You do not want to be a male hyena," Holekamp says.
-From an article in Smithsonian Magazine, Who's Laughing Now?
Professor Holekamp's hyena site
. Also, hyena pictures
and The Hyena Pages
, a fine site about this fascinating animal.
It's 15:00 UTC. Do you know where your Common Toads are...? World on the Move
Rutgers professor of philosophy Jerry Fodor created a bit of a stir
last October when he wrote an article for the London Review of Books arguing that natural selection may not be such a great theory after all, and that a "major revision of evolutionary theory... is in the offing." Not many fellow philosophers and academics agree
, it seems. Fodor responds to his critics here
. Six months later, it's still not entirely clear whether his argument is, as Justin E.H. Smith put it
, "irresponsible and stupid or so subtle that none of his adversaries, defending a status quo interpretation of the theory of natural selection, have been able to get it yet."
Well, that's one less Carolina flying squirrel, but having it for dinner might actually help keep them around. A list of endangered American species once common on the dinner table has become a book
, its author, Gary Paul Nabham, encouraging the reader to keep disappearing
local culinary traditions alive
. Endangered Dinners