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The hyena, "our favorite animal"

"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.
posted by Kattullus on May 7, 2008 - 32 comments

Finding Waldo

It's 15:00 UTC. Do you know where your Common Toads are...? World on the Move.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth on May 7, 2008 - 1 comment

Jerry Fodor, on Why Pigs Don't Have Wings

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 and 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."
posted by decoherence on May 6, 2008 - 142 comments

Mmmmm.....Endangered

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.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth on Apr 30, 2008 - 26 comments

"Big Bird says it's time to wake up..."

A new round of genetic tests has confirmed it: The 'big lizards' of our childhood fantasies were more likely 'big birds.' In fact, they probably even had feathers, and looked more like this than this. Mind blowing, I know, but I guess this demonstrates that, despite what some may think, science really doesn't have a problem admitting that it got something wrong when new evidence comes to light.
posted by saulgoodman on Apr 24, 2008 - 75 comments

Shedding Light on Life

Light makes a comeback. “New technologies — more sophisticated imaging techniques, fluorescent molecules that act as beacons of light in the cell, and the computing power to gather and stitch together multiple images and create videos from high-powered microscopes — make it possible to harness one of light’s key advantages: gentleness. Unlike higher-resolution techniques, light microscopes can image biological structures without killing them or chemically fixing them. At Harvard, the resurgence of light microscopy is making it possible to see structures and events that have never before been seen in the context of living cells and organisms.” Also don't miss the video samples of “in vivo” imagining.
posted by Frankieist on Apr 19, 2008 - 12 comments

Suspending Life

Suspending Life. "If almost every species on Earth was killed some 250 million years ago, how did our ancient ancestors survive and evolve into us?"
posted by homunculus on Apr 18, 2008 - 31 comments

Let Me Just Roll Up My Sleeves to Make Sure You're Not Dying

Carl Zimmer's Science Tattoo Emporium - "Underneath their sober lab coats and flannel shirts, scientists hide images of their scientific passions. Here they are revealed to all." From the science journalist and writer responsible for The Loom and numerous other published works.
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Apr 8, 2008 - 33 comments

Getting It All Wrong: Bioculture critiques Cultural Critique

Bioculture critiques Cultural Critique Until literature departments take into account that humans are not just cultural or textual phenomena but something more complex, English and related disciplines will continue to be the laughingstock of the academic world that they have been for years because of their obscurantist dogmatism and their coddled and preening pseudo-radicalism. Until they listen to searching criticism of their doctrine, rather than dismissing it as the language of the devil, literature will continue to be betrayed in academe, and academic literary departments will continue to lose students and to isolate themselves from the intellectual advances of our time.
posted by jason's_planet on Apr 7, 2008 - 107 comments

Strange New Fish May See Like Humans

A fish with forward facing eyes has been discovered in Indonesia. [more inside]
posted by chuckdarwin on Apr 3, 2008 - 47 comments

100,000,000 years

The little windows in the walls of time amber provides aren't always open. Opaque amber is common and, until now, has hidden away many fossil creatures. 100,000,000 years.... via bbc [more inside]
posted by Kronos_to_Earth on Apr 1, 2008 - 7 comments

Spinoza and Biology

Public concern over ecological damage inflicted by human activity has led to growing recognition of the general importance of issues relating to biological science. Unfortunately, the dispute between creationists and upholders of the theory of evolution tends to overshadow public discussion of other more pertinent matters. Specifically, there are significant but relatively unpublicized initiatives underway to promote holistic approaches to biology. The Nature Institute in New York is one such initiative... [more inside]
posted by No Robots on Mar 31, 2008 - 78 comments

Naive beach campers often fall victim while sleeping

This a fast offensive predator. First described by Reinthal, 1993, as voracious and a threat to shipping. Diurnal, collecting in dense aggregations along reef walls at night to sleep. Oweni is an insatiable consumer of almost everything of animal origin. Suspect in many human "shark" fatalities, although remains of victims have never been recovered - Field Notes and Drawings of Marine Creatures Captured or Observed by Xisle Expedition Biologist & Artist William Russell Curtsinger, PhD. [more inside]
posted by taz on Mar 29, 2008 - 11 comments

Hairbeast from the watery deeps

The partially decomposed sea monster has 4 paws, a tail, and long fur. Is that you, Dagon?
Other famous sea-monster bodies (known as "globsters") include
The St. Augustine Monster ^
The New Zealand globster
Several more recent blobs
And here's how to tell a blob from a sea monster
posted by BlackLeotardFront on Mar 24, 2008 - 14 comments

Neanderthal-Human Babies

Any admixture would have to be driven by male Neanderthals. Two years ago we discussed morphological evidence of nontrivial interbreeding. Since then Neanderthal DNA has been examined for genetic support for this model of human evolution, largely contradicting the belief in Neanderthal contribution to modern humanity. Indeed any contribution from the Neanderthal gene pool to the evolution of modern humans might be very rare and indeed it appears that the best candidate gene thus (MC1R) far likely was a result of convergent evolution. [more inside]
posted by wantwit on Mar 20, 2008 - 19 comments

Regrowing Limbs

Can People Regenerate Body Parts? "Progress on the road to regenerating major body parts, salamander-style, could transform the treatment of amputations and major wounds."
posted by homunculus on Mar 18, 2008 - 37 comments

Brok en Pip e l ine

An unprecedented five consecutive years of stagnant funding for the National Institutes of Health is putting America at risk - a few prominent research institutions get together to voice their concern over flat funding of the National Institutes of Health over the past 5 years, in their report The Broken Pipeline (pdf). Bloggers comment [1, 2, 3].
posted by Gyan on Mar 14, 2008 - 40 comments

Who thought cancer could be so beautiful

The Wellcome Image Awards. Gallery. How they were made. From the Welcome Collection (previously)
posted by fearfulsymmetry on Mar 11, 2008 - 2 comments

Watching Paint Dry

Prof Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan looks at the physics of wrinkles, creases and folds - from the small to the very large (video demos), feeds his venus flytrap, then rides on his magic carpet.
posted by fearfulsymmetry on Mar 5, 2008 - 3 comments

Another day, another Ankylosaur

Tetrapod Zoology just celebrated Ankylosaur Week. Days 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, and 1.
posted by mediareport on Feb 25, 2008 - 11 comments

DIY Biotech

Worried about the state of biodiversity? Why not make some of your own? Moore’s law is all over biotechnology right now. Can the hackers be far behind? MIT's Drew Endy doesn’t think so. Ready to get started? You might already have some of the tools that you will need. Plans for others are available on the web. All you need now are some parts.
posted by Kid Charlemagne on Feb 11, 2008 - 12 comments

New peer-reviewed Creationist Research Journal

Answers Research Journal is a new "professional peer-reviewed technical journal for the publication of interdisciplinary scientific and other relevant research from the perspective of the recent Creation and the global Flood within a biblical framework." Current Volume. Call for Papers.
posted by Rumple on Feb 2, 2008 - 32 comments

The Immortal Species

While the dream of immortality might be as old as mankind, the jellyfish Turritopsis nutricula (image) seems to be living it:
The hydrozoan Turritopsis nutricula has evolved a remarkable variation on this theme, and in so doing appears to have achieved immortality. The solitary medusa of this species can revert to its polyp stage after becoming sexually mature (Bavestrello et al., 1992; Piraino et al., 1996). In the laboratory, 100% of these medusae regularly undergo this change. Thus, it is possible that organismic death does not occur in this species!
An in-depth research paper.
posted by Foci for Analysis on Jan 30, 2008 - 48 comments

I soon found myself observing when plants first blossomed and leafed

Thoreau was into it. Scientists are using it to understand climate change. When Project Budburst starts again on Febraury 15th, you can participate, too. [more inside]
posted by Tehanu on Jan 27, 2008 - 15 comments

A Genetic Basis for 'Race'

'Race' graphically illustrated - "most Europeans" vs. Ashkenazim (previously; see also IQ & Gladwell, viz. ;) [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Jan 23, 2008 - 101 comments

Children's Hospital Boston

Interactive Features at the Children's Hospital Boston's Website. [Via Mind Hacks.]
posted by homunculus on Dec 17, 2007 - 4 comments

Cephalopods Galore

Like squid? What about the good ol' octopus? The cuttlefish and nautilus? If you answered yes to these questions Dr. James B. Wood's Cephalopod Page is your go-to site, with information on and pictures of 25+ species of cephalopods including the aptly named (I'm sure) vampire squid from hell. The site also hosts many articles. Not sure where you stand on the coolness of cephalopods? Why don't you start by watching this video of an octopus squeezing through a one inch hole (previously on MetaFilter).
posted by Kattullus on Dec 2, 2007 - 25 comments

Why are evolutionary biologists bringing back extinct deadly viruses?

Darwin's Surprise. "There may be no biological process more complicated than the relationships that viruses have with their hosts. Could it be that their persistence made it possible for humans to thrive?" [Via Disinformation.]
posted by homunculus on Nov 27, 2007 - 63 comments

Surrealistic Lilliputian Realm

The Inner Life of an Intelligently Designed Cell? Remember The Inner Life of a Cell animation (discussed here)? Apparently the Discovery Institute (recently discussed here) is showing it in presentations with a new title and narration, and without attribution.
posted by homunculus on Nov 20, 2007 - 20 comments

Swarm

From Ants to People, an Instinct to Swarm. Carl Zimmer looks at the work of Iain Couzin. [Via The Loom.]
posted by homunculus on Nov 13, 2007 - 17 comments

Redesign human body parts?

The pancreas is a completely crummy organ...... so which parts of the human body could you design better? Interesting article and comments.
posted by Rumple on Nov 3, 2007 - 71 comments

Poor Devils

Devil facial tumor disease has ravaged the population of Tasmanian Devils in the last decade. DFTD is a transmissible cancer, i.e. the tumor cells themselves (which differ genetically from their host animal) are the agent responsible. The disease is spread by biting and other contact, and the resulting grotesque tumors interfere with feeding and lead to starvation. Poor immune response may be partially responsible. This is actually not the only such disease: canine transmissible venereal tumor is an analogue that has been known to be contagious since the 19th century. (CTVT, however, gets a proper immune response.) [more inside]
posted by parudox on Oct 29, 2007 - 7 comments

A Profound Sense of Time

A Profound Sense of Time. "PZ Myers on the process that prompts the growth of all vertebrates from embryos to unspecialized segments to multicellular animals."
posted by homunculus on Oct 20, 2007 - 12 comments

"We Few, We Happy Few, We Band of Brothers"

"We Few, We Happy Few, We Band of Brothers." Evolutionary psychologist Andy Thomson analyzes suicide terrorism from the perspective of evolutionary biology. The presentation was part of the Atheist Alliance International convention in D.C. last month.
posted by McLir on Oct 13, 2007 - 19 comments

Fishy miscegenation

More cuckoo than cuckoos: mate two salmon, get a... trout! Just give the parents a sperm transplant. And the sperm stem cells work in females too:
...Injecting the male cells into female salmon sometimes worked, too, prompting five female salmon to ovulate trout eggs.... The stem cells were still primitive enough to switch gears from sperm-producers to egg-producers when they wound up inside female organs....

posted by orthogonality on Sep 15, 2007 - 10 comments

Life

The Meaning of Life. "We create life, we search for it, we manipulate and revere it. Is it possible that we haven't yet defined the term (PDF)?" [Via The Loom.]
posted by homunculus on Sep 6, 2007 - 43 comments

Adult skin stem cells heal spinal injuries

Canadian scientists heal spinal injuries with stem cells from skin (in rats). "Over the course of their research, the team found that skin-derived stem cells share characteristics with embryonic neural stem cells, which generate the nervous system. ... After 12 weeks, the rats were able to walk better, with more co-ordination." [more inside]
posted by Artifice_Eternity on Sep 6, 2007 - 40 comments

Video Ergo Sum

Virtual Out-of-Body Experience. Using two procedures to deliberately scramble a person's visual and tactile senses, neuroscientists are able to induce "out-of-body" experiences in people. The effect is the same as the 'rubber hand illusion', but extends the effect to the whole body instead of just one limb (you can try the hand illusion for yourself).
posted by homunculus on Aug 24, 2007 - 11 comments

49 unusual creatures with whom we share the planet

25 Weirdest Animals. See also: 24 bizarre creatures of the deep. Not responsible for nightmares related to the viperfish, the oarfish, or the star-nosed mole.
posted by bijou on Aug 20, 2007 - 63 comments

Genetic discrimination

U.S. military practices genetic discrimination in denying benefits. "Those medically discharged with genetic diseases are left without disability or retirement benefits. Some are fighting back."
posted by homunculus on Aug 20, 2007 - 43 comments

Prime Vertebrae

Prime Vertebrae. PZ Myers discusses the critical difference between having six or seven cervical vertebrae.
posted by homunculus on Aug 13, 2007 - 15 comments

Evolution and Cooperation

In Games, an Insight Into the Rules of Evolution. Carl Zimmer writes about Martin Nowak (previously mentioned here), a mathematical biologist who uses games to understand how cooperation evolved. [Via MindHacks.]
posted by homunculus on Aug 11, 2007 - 4 comments

I'm a cold Italian pizza / I could use a lemon squeezer

Bonobo chimpanzees are commonly thought to be "an example of amicability, sensitivity and, well, humaneness" in the animal kingdom. Ian Parker's Swingers suggests a darker, more savage side to the species that belies popular perception.
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Aug 3, 2007 - 20 comments

Biologists Helping Bookstores

Can't ever find what you are looking for at the bookstore? Tired of seeing pseudoscience or pop psychology books in the science section? Join a grassroots effort to re-shelve books to the appropriate section of the store: Biologists Helping Bookstores.
posted by corpse on Jul 28, 2007 - 31 comments

I smell a rat|dog|cat|mouse

Do You Taste What I Taste? - The first of Slate's 3-part series on the physiology of taste [parts 2, 3]
posted by Gyan on Jul 15, 2007 - 13 comments

Gelatinous red semi-immensity

I think we all know what this "squoctopus" thing should be named. After vigintillions of years baby Cthulhu is loose again, and ravening for delight.
posted by BlackLeotardFront on Jul 5, 2007 - 25 comments

Life from scratch

Dr. Craig Venter, known for his role as a pioneer in the human genome project, has taken a major step towards creating life from scratch: transplanting the entire genome from one bacterium cell to another. Commence the ethics wars.
posted by charmston on Jun 28, 2007 - 32 comments

Plants can recognize siblings

According to a new study in Biology Letters (Royal Society journal), plants respond competitively when forced to share their pot with strangers of the same species, but when placed in a pot with their siblings are more accomodating. PDF, HTML.
posted by christopherious on Jun 17, 2007 - 41 comments

Embryo-free Embryonic Stem-Cells

Simple switch turns cells embryonic. "Researchers have finally hit the jackpot: Embryo-free embryonic stem-cells!"
posted by homunculus on Jun 7, 2007 - 55 comments

What's this for, love?

Useless body parts. Nearly a century and a quarter after Darwin’s death, science still can’t offer a full explanation for why one outdated anatomic trait lingers in the gene pool and another goes. Modern genomics research has revealed that our DNA carries broken genes for things that seem as though they might be useful, like odor receptors for a bloodhound’s sense of smell or enzymes that once enabled us to make our own vitamin C. In a few million years, humans may very well have shed a few more odd features. So look now before they’re gone.
posted by psmealey on Jun 5, 2007 - 113 comments

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