Since the pandas’ arrival, the team at Edinburgh zoo had already tried three times to breed the bears – with considerable fanfare and public attention – and each attempt had ended in disappointment. After a thoroughgoing review of these attempts in late 2014, this year’s season carried with it a sense of added pressure. But the keepers had also come up with one or two new tricks. A few weeks earlier, Maclean had daubed urine from Long Hui, an impressive male panda kept at Schönbrunn zoo, in Vienna, all over Yang Guang and Tian Tian’s enclosures, in order to spice the air with competition and possibility. “She spent a lot of time sniffing and seeing what was going on,” said Maclean. “He came out and was just like, ‘Whoa!’ He was all over the place.”
I Was a Proud Non-Breeder. Then I Changed My Mind, by Michelle Goldberg, author of To Breed Or Not To Breed [more inside]
American art as the production of widely circulating likenesses—to be traced by limners, peddled to clients, collected by the bushel, featured in Home Decorating, tallied at auction, and absorbed by image banks.
This is my vision of life. A conversation with evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins. (Video and transcript)
This Jay Is Evolving in a Very, Very Weird Way. As she gathered more and more data on different populations of the island scrub jays around Santa Cruz Island, Katie Langin, a biologist at Colorado State University, had a revelation: The birds, members of one single species, had split into two varieties in different habitats. Ever since Darwin and his famous finches, biologists have thought that in order for a species to diverge into two new species, the two populations had to be physically isolated. Those finches, for instance, each live on a different Galapagos island, where their special circumstances have resulted in specialized bill shapes. Yet the two varieties of island scrub jay (they haven’t technically speciated—yet) live on the same tiny island. If they wanted to meet each other for a brunch of acorns and/or pine nuts and perhaps later some mating, they could just fly right over. [more inside]
"Today, most American adults can call up some memory of sex ed in their school, whether it was watching corny menstruation movies or seeing their school nurse demonstrate putting a condom on a banana. The movies, in particular, tend to stick in our minds. Screening films at school to teach kids how babies are made has always been a touchy issue, particularly for people who fear such knowledge will steer their children toward sexual behavior. But sex education actually has its roots in moralizing: American sex-ed films emerged from concerns that social morals and the family structure were breaking down." — Slut-Shaming, Eugenics, and Donald Duck: The Scandalous History of Sex-Ed Movies
Koryos, who previously explained how cats got domesticated using tumblr, now explains why homosexual pair-bonding can be a successful reproductive stratagem. Also, Coot Parenting Tips, Queen Cowbird Of The Brood Parasites , There's No Such Thing As An Alpha Wolf, and Can Animals Have Pets?
"For many a female octopus, laying eggs marks the beginning of the end (pdf, 1.11MB). She needs to cover them and defend them against would-be predators. She needs to gently waft currents over them so they get a constant supply of fresh, oxygenated water. And she does this continuously, never leaving and never eating. (via)."
What tools did the Vikings use to construct their ships? During the early years of the Song dynasty, while Sridhar Acharya's concept of "zero" was making it's way westward and a pair of anonymous Anglo-Saxon poets was committing the tale of Beowulf to animal skin, a Viking craftsman lost his tool chest. It is speculated that the chest fell overboard off a ship or through the ice into what was then a swamp on the modern island of Gotland, Sweden. The chest was unearthed in 1936 when a chain attached to the chest got caught on a farmer's plow. In it were the tools a Viking blacksmith/ship builder would need to ply his trade. Named the Mästermyr chest its discovery was a boon to archaeologists, historians, re-enactors, woodworkers and blacksmiths. The original tools (catalogue of the items) were restored and put on display. Numerous copies and tributes of the chest or selected tools have been made over the years including a complete replica of both the chest and contents made using period techniques as a 'net project of a blacksmiths and woodworkers. [more inside]
"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.[more inside]
CreatureCast - Rhizocephala - a charmingly animated look at the lifecycle of rhizocephalan barnacles, one of the more horrifying (non-charming) parasitic crustaceans (likewise). NOT a practitioner of parasitic castration but still disturbing: The bobbit worm. Happy swimming!
The Geography of Abortion Access - Forty years ago Tuesday, the Supreme Court ushered in legal abortion for American women when it decided in Roe v. Wade. Today, states—particularly in the South and Midwest—are eroding that right by legislating hundreds of provisions intended to impede access with burdensome obstacles. To understand more fully the complex state of access to abortion services in America, The Daily Beast identified and confirmed the location of the country’s remaining 724 clinics and calculated the distance from every part of the country to its closest clinic. (more)
Jennie Linn McCormack "isn’t the only woman in recent years to be prosecuted for ending her own pregnancy. But her case could change the trajectory of abortion law in the United States": The Rise of DIY Abortions. [more inside]
Science is Rewriting the Rules of Reproduction Aarathi Prasad's new book investigates taking sex out of the reproduction equation. [more inside]
"Why Is the Teen Birth Rate in the United States So High and Why Does It Matter?" Kearney MS & Levine PB (2012) Journal of Economic Perspectives, 26(2): 141–63. [more inside]
Elizabeth Kolbert explores the case against kids. Drawing from the work of philosophy professors David Benatar, Christine Overall and economist Bryan Caplan, Kolbert examines the justifications for reproducing.
Let's Talk About Reproductive Norm Enforcement, Baby. An anonymous philoso-blogger recounts, in an honest, intelligent, compelling, and occasionally poignant way, the process of undergoing medically necessary surgery that would cause infertility. If you care about the reproductive expectations with which women are saddled by contemporary society, you should read this. You should also read this if you care about bioethics, medical decorum, feminism, women in academia, the ethical behavior of philosophers, or, you know, justice. If you care about those last four things, you should have been reading Feminist Philosophers already.
Since 1988, the Center for Reproductive Rights has compiled a visual map of the laws regulating abortion throughout the world. Earlier this month, they released their 2011 Map in pdf and updated their online World Abortion Laws Map in a new interactive format which allows country comparisons and provides text of abortion laws for certain countries. (Via Good: Can I get an Abortion Here? The Abortion Rights Map of the World)
Sperm Donors: Limited or Limitless? And who should decide? Is it an ethical question, a biological question, a social/political question, an economics question, or something all about money?
45 years ago yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled in Griswold v. Connecticut that birth control (for married women) was legal and that the US Constitution guaranteed privacy to women seeking reproductive services. That privacy ruling was instrumental in subsequent cases [pdf]regarding the legality of birth control and pregnancy termination. And while many states are pushing through new termination restrictions; some states are now pushing through "Personhood" laws that grant constitutional rights to zygotes and fetuses. These laws ban abortion without exception, ban certain forms of birth control, ban in-vitro fertilization, and forbid the treatment of pregnancy complications such as ectopic pregnancies. The legislations are being marketed by a "Conceived by Rape" bus tour. [more inside]
Abortion has always been a hotspot in the culture wars. But of late, the anti-abortion movement has had some huge wins, often sliding in under the radar of pro-choice supporters. Idaho bans abortions after the 20th week, claiming that mother's shouldn't have the right to make a fetus uncomfortable. Nebraska also banned abortion after the 20th week, so did Oklahoma. Oregon, Minnesota, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Florida, Missouri, and Ohio are also considering joining the 31 states that currently have such a ban. Virginia passed a law that will shut the doors of almost every abortion clinic in the state. And various areas are now enacting laws that suggest a fetus is significantly more important than the carrier of said fetus. One judge ruled that a girl couldn't have an abortion because she had bad grammar. It is quite possible that women who are in their 40s right now may be the only generation of American women that possessed full reproductive rights for their entire child bearing years.
Aaron Gouveia and his wife were already having the worst day of their lives. Then came the abortion protesters.
New evidence of religion's reproductive, cooperative, and personal benefits militates against the belief that religion is a "virus of the mind." [more inside]
More women in the developed world are choosing not to have children. 'So why do friends, family, colleagues and even strangers think it's OK to question their decision?' 'A woman's fertility status is still very much considered public property. There are still assumptions about women's role in society, about families and about family size."''US Census Bureau says 36% of American women have no children.''Once this was considered insane or unnatural. Even today, it is viewed with suspicion - women with no desire to procreate say they sometimes face awkward questions and disapproval.' [more inside]
Provoking pro-choice advocates, Oklahoma passed two highly restrictive abortion laws on Tuesday. One (rtf file) requires doctors to show women an ultrasound of their fetus and point out its physical characteristics — even if the patient was impregnated through rape or incest. The second (rtf file) stipulates that doctors cannot be sued if they decide to lie to an expectant mother regarding her baby's birth defects. A third requires clinics to post signs telling patients they cannot be forced to have an abortion. The first law prompted an immediate lawsuit from Tulsa's only abortion clinic. [more inside]
Gendercide, or sex-selective abortion aided by female ifanticide, is soberingly common in coutries where a strong cultural and economic preference for male children exists: 100 million women are "missing" in the Asia-Pacific region, 85% of them in India and China alone. [more inside]
What bleeds [Flash], grows babies [possibly NSFW], and "functions so efficiently that a full understanding of its processes may lead to novel treatments for a plethora of medical disorders?" The Uterus! Jacqueline Maybin, a PhD student at the Centre For Reproductive Biology at Queen's Medical Research Institute, University of Edinburgh, discusses her research into "the secrets of the womb" and its incredible ability to heal and repair in her essay, "The Best A Man Can't Get."
If plastics, or pesticides, or antidespressants have got you down, you can still make art with it, drink it or cook with it. It's been a strange week for semen. [more inside]
Puzzled about what to get the history buff, throwback or Luddite on your holiday shopping list? Explore the sutler's wares in the world of historic reproduction clothing! Strut your eighteenth-century style with Jas. Townsend & Son, or dress for the Lewis & Clark expedition with Smoke & Fire. USHist.com provides the finest in Mexican War and Cavalry/Indian War apparel, as well as fashion to end all wars in theWWI collection. Don't forget the ladies (and weak-minded gents) left at home - Blockade Runner offers fine Civil War civvies. [more inside]
The Grand Tour. Until August 31st, the National Gallery in England is putting reproductions of famous paintings on the streets of London, with MP3 audio guides and maps available for download. The reaction has been good.
"Grigioni, now back in Switzerland, said she could normally get tortoises to ejaculate within minutes, but spent months manually stimulating George and never extracted semen from him."
FollowupFilter: The "Ashley Treatment" is a violation of Washington state law, ruled an investigative report today. The hospital that performed the sterilization acknowledged that a miscommunication was to blame.
Bisphenol A: this extremely common chemical leaches out of food packaging and plastics, and was long considered safe. But a number of recent studies link it to developmental problems and cancer in lab animals in doses far lower than the current regulatory limit. Canada and the United States both review the scientific data available in the coming months, but critics already worry the process will be corrupted by industry. Industry, of course, insists that BPA is safe.
"There are few world firsts nowadays, but it may be one." - A quote used to describe triplets born to a woman with two wombs. Double uterus is an uncommon condition that is often undetected until a woman becomes pregnant. The outcome for such pregnancies is usually good, though posing a higher risk for breech positioning. The odds of triplets (twins in one womb, one fetus in the other) are 25 million to one.
Sexual ornaments grow out of all proportion It seems that men will be men throughout the animal kindom, not just our little lonely corner of of it. Most body parts grow proportionally with the rest of the body as individuals of a species become larger, although scientists have long known that visual cues of reproductive prowess are a special case. But is this the case with everyone?
Today in weird animals : An international group of scientists has described an animal that provides nutrition for its young by letting them peel off and eat its skin.
Welcome to Indiana: married straight parents only. The Indiana state legislature is considering a bill that would make it illegal for anyone other than a married couple to become pregnant by artificial means such as artificial insemination or egg/embryo donation. In addition, couples wishing to have their inseminations approved will have to apply and provide information including criminal history checks and "description of the family lifestyle of the intended parents, including participation in faith-based or church activities."
"Family Values, My Ass!" That article in the Lexington Herald-Leader inspired me to look up the Nation article it referred to. Now I'm beginning to see why many women won't go to "evangelical Christian" MDs: this guy Hager (previously brought up on MetaFilter in 2003, in fact twice, and then again in 2004) is strongly anti-abortion -- so pro-conception that he tried to keep the "morning-after pill" known as "Plan B" away from women -- but he's apparently pro- sodomy and pro-rape. It almost sounds like fiction.
Turning Pickets Into Pledges Planned Parenthood has launched a new program that "creates a no-win situation for anti-choice protesters — the more picketers who demonstrate outside a Planned Parenthood clinic, the more donations that clinic receives." This campaign allows supporters to pledge between 25 cents and one dollar per protester -- not a lot of money, but it adds up to thousands over time.
Breeders are winning. "Conservative, religiously minded Americans are putting far more of their genes into the future than their liberal, secular counterparts." (WaPo link, bugmenot says try email@example.com and fedup if you don't care to register. Definition of genetic fitness here.)
A new brand of incest. "You're 40, happily married - and then you meet your long-lost brother and fall passionately in love. This isn't fiction; in the age of the sperm donor, it's a growing reality: 50% of reunions between siblings, or parents and offspring, separated at birth result in obsessive emotions. Last month, a former police officer was convicted of incest with his half-sister - but should we criminalise a bond hardwired into our psychology?"
Picture Hunt time! How many women are in this picture? (more inside)
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