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Archive for the ‘Biology’ Category

Science Bulletins: Biodiversity Unveiled—New Animal Discoveries

Last year was a big year when it came to the discovery of new animal species. From legless lizards to purring monkeys, scientists described over 18,000 unique animal species in 2013.

Watch the video (above) to learn more about the animal discoveries of 2013.

Tree frog(Tree frog – Image: Trond Larsen)

Over 1.6 million species of animal life are currently known, but global biodiversity is estimated to be much greater. Some scientists believe the total could be as high as ten million unique species, meaning this year will probably bring plenty of new breathtaking discoveries.

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Science Bulletins is a production of the National Center for Science Literacy, Education, and Technology (NCSLET), part of the Department of Education at the American Museum of Natural History.

Text: by Katherine A. Thichava at The Rainforest Site.

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This Week in Science (January 24, 2014)

Yes, boys and girls, geeks and nerdlings… scientists the world over have come up with some pretty neato stuff this week!

jan-26-2014

Excellent stuff, for sure!

Read more at the links below!

Black holes: http://bit.ly/M1dPva
Mantis shrimps: http://bit.ly/1n2GT3N
Cancer genome: http://bit.ly/1ggGtGv
Dolphin: http://bit.ly/1e7ZB6l
Cosmic web: http://bit.ly/M1eeh9
Supernova: http://bit.ly/M1e610
Shark extinction: http://bit.ly/1cj0TLp
Ceres: http://bit.ly/1fghjF4

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Should We Bring Extinct Animals Back to Life?

Wouldn’t it be cool (or would it?) if we could bring wooly mammoths back and have them live in Greenland, Siberia or the Canadian tundra?

mammoth

Even a single herd of wooly rhinos roaming around in some secluded part of the world?

woolly_rhinoceros

With cloning, we probably could. But should we?

When I saw these photos… when I asked myself this question… I was immediately reminded of the famous scene in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 movie, Jurassic Park

Dr. Ian Malcolm: Gee, the lack of humility before nature that’s being displayed here, uh… staggers me.

Donald Gennaro: Well thank you, Dr. Malcolm, but I think things are a little bit different than you and I had feared…

Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, I know. They’re a lot worse.

Donald Gennaro: Now, wait a second now, we haven’t even seen the park…

John Hammond: No, no, Donald, Donald, Donald… let him talk. There’s no reason… I want to hear every viewpoint, I really do.

Dr. Ian Malcolm: Don’t you see the danger, John, inherent in what you’re doing here? Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet’s ever seen, but you wield it like a kid that’s found his dad’s gun.

Donald Gennaro: It’s hardly appropriate to start hurling generalizations…

Dr. Ian Malcolm: If I may… Um, I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now

[bangs on the table]

Dr. Ian Malcolm: you’re selling it, you wanna sell it. Well…

John Hammond: I don’t think you’re giving us our due credit. Our scientists have done things which nobody’s ever done before…

Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.

John Hammond: Condors. Condors are on the verge of extinction…

Dr. Ian Malcolm: [shaking his head] No…

John Hammond: If I was to create a flock of condors on this island, you wouldn’t have anything to say.

Dr. Ian Malcolm: No, hold on. This isn’t some species that was obliterated by deforestation, or the building of a dam. Dinosaurs had their shot, and nature selected them for extinction.

John Hammond: I simply don’t understand this Luddite attitude, especially from a scientist. I mean, how can we stand in the light of discovery, and not act?

Dr. Ian Malcolm: What’s so great about discovery? It’s a violent, penetrative act that scars what it explores. What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world.

Dr. Ellie Sattler: Well, the question is, how can you know anything about an extinct ecosystem? And therefore, how could you ever assume that you can control it? I mean, you have plants in this building that are poisonous, you picked them because they look good, but these are aggressive living things that have no idea what century they’re in, and they’ll defend themselves, violently if necessary.

John Hammond: Dr. Grant, if there’s one person here who could appreciate what I’m trying to do…

Dr. Alan Grant: The world has just changed so radically, and we’re all running to catch up. I don’t want to jump to any conclusions, but look… Dinosaurs and man, two species separated by 65 million years of evolution have just been suddenly thrown back into the mix together. How can we possibly have the slightest idea what to expect?

John Hammond: [laughing] I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it! You’re meant to come down here and defend me against these characters, and the only one I’ve got on my side is the blood-sucking lawyer!

Donald Gennaro: Thank you.

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While the rest of us were off doing whatever the rest of us do…

Science geeks and nerdlings the world over have been discovering things that make the world an even more awesome place!

sept-in-science

Cancer: http://bit.ly/167lkrE
Whispering: http://bit.ly/1biP5Ke
New form of matter: http://bit.ly/18CYkz3
Climate change: http://bbc.in/19P6vax
Mars: http://bit.ly/1bkPA6A
Oxygen: http://bit.ly/1bUtZkO
Jaw & backbone: http://bit.ly/15Dv3HJ
Solar panels: http://bit.ly/167lCyT

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I thought this situation had gone away.

One-Third of U.S. Honeybee Colonies Died Last Winter, Threatening Food Supply

I guess it hasn’t.

Nearly one in three commercial honeybee colonies in the United States died or disappeared last winter, an unsustainable decline that threatens the nation’s food supply.

honeybees-hive

Multiple factors — pesticides, fungicides, parasites, viruses and malnutrition — are believed to cause the losses, which were officially announced today by a consortium of academic researchers, beekeepers and Department of Agriculture scientists.

“We’re getting closer and closer to the point where we don’t have enough bees in this country to meet pollination demands,” said entomologist Dennis van Engelstorp of the University of Maryland, who led the survey documenting the declines.

honeybee(Please don’t leave us!)

“Many entomologists and pest management professionals have been saying for years that there is no pest management justification for using these insecticides on virtually every crop grown in North America,” said Agricultural entomologist Christian Krupke of Purdue University. “Yet, the opposite trend is occurring.”

The honeybee catastrophe could also signal problems in other pollinator species, such as bumblebees and butterflies, that are not often studied.

“Thinking of honeybees as our canary in the coal mine, a monitor for environmental conditions, is very appropriate,” said entomologist Diana Cox-Foster at Pennsylvania State University. “With honeybee colonies, you have the ability to open them up and see what’s going on. There are many other species needed for pollination, but with most of those, we don’t have the ability to see what’s happening.”

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A year or two ago, I asked an entomologist friend of mine what he thought the reason was behind honeybee hive/colony collapse syndrome. He looked around, leaned in conspiratorially and whispered, “I think it’s the rapture… and the bees went first!” I love nerd humour! 🙂

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I have to hand it once again to the intrepid geeks and nerdlings over at ScienceDaily.com!

Actor Johnny Depp Immortalized in Name of Fossilized Creature With ‘Scissor Hand’ Claws

The article begins, “A scientist has discovered an ancient extinct creature with ‘scissor hand-like’ claws in fossil records and has named it in honour of his favourite movie star.”

The 505-million-year-old fossil called Kooteninchela deppi (pronounced Koo-ten-ee-che-la depp-eye), which is a distant ancestor of lobsters and scorpions, was named after the actor Johnny Depp for his starring role as Edward Scissorhands — a movie about an artificial man named Edward, an unfinished creation, who has scissors for hands.

Kooteninchela-deppi-4(What a cutie. Just like its namesake!)

Kooteninchela deppi is helping researchers to piece together more information about life on Earth during the Cambrian period when nearly all modern animal types emerged.

David Legg, who carried out the research as part of his PhD in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, says:

“When I first saw the pair of isolated claws in the fossil records of this species I could not help but think of Edward Scissorhands. Even the genus name, Kootenichela, includes the reference to this film as ‘chela’ is Latin for claws or scissors. In truth, I am also a bit of a Depp fan and so what better way to honour the man than to immortalise him as an ancient creature that once roamed the sea?”

Kooteninchela-deppi-2

It lived in shallow seas off the coast of what is now British Columbia, Canada, although in those days, the area was closer to the equator.

It was approximately four centimetres long with a trunk for a body and millipede-like legs and large eyes which it used to search for food along the sea floor, according to research published in the Journal of Palaeontology.

The researcher believes that Kooteninchela deppi would have been a hunter or scavenger. Its large Edward Scissorhands-like claws with their elongated spines may have been used to capture prey, or they could have helped it to probe the sea floor looking for sea creatures hiding in sediment.

lobster(Kooteninchela deppi – a distant relative of lobsters & scorpions)

It also had large eyes composed of many lenses like the compound eyes of a fly. They were positioned on top of movable stalks called peduncles to help it more easily search for food and look out for predators.

The researchers discovered that Kooteninchela deppi belongs to a group known as the ‘great-appendage’ arthropods, which includes spiders, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes, insects and crabs.

Mr Legg said: ‘Just imagine it – the prawns covered in mayonnaise in your sandwich, the spider climbing up your wall and even the fly that has been banging into your window and annoyingly flying into your face are all descendants of Kooteninchela deppi.’

‘Current estimates indicate that there are more than one million known insects and potentially 10 million more yet to be categorised, which potentially means that Kooteninchela deppi has a huge family tree.’

Legg now wants to study the fossils from the Ordovician period, when species diversity increased.

The research was published in the Journal of Palaeontology 2 May 2013.

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Journal Reference:

  1. David Legg. Multi-Segmented Arthropods from the Middle Cambrian of British Columbia (Canada)Journal of Paleontology, 2013; 87 (3): 493 DOI: 10.1666/12-112.1

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Thanks to the geeks and nerdlings over at United Academics Magazine for this one!

It seems that sex isn’t that fun for all of us. Some men, for example, suffer terrible headaches during and after orgasm that may last for several hours or even a few days. In addition, there are women who are persistently in a state of sexual arousal and as a consequence may have hundreds of orgasms a day, making a normal life impossible.

Maybe less severe but definitely embarrassing is the condition in which sex triggers uncontrollable fits of sneezing. And this may happen not only when experiencing an orgasm, but also whenever someone just thinks about sex.

Researchers who investigated the link are not yet sure why sex and sneezing are linked in some people, but they suspect it is due to a faulty connection in the autonomic nervous system that controls both the sneeze reflex and sexual responses. This mechanism may also account for other reported unusual causes of sneezing, such as exposure to bright light (aka photogenic sneezing).

Although there are few reported cases of the sneeze reflex in response to sexual thoughts and orgasm, the researchers believe the bizarre phenomenon may be more common than expected. Possibly people are embarrassed and don’t want to talk about it, they argue.

“Further investigation in this field may help us to understand the sneeze reflex in more depth, and also allow us to give explanation and reassurance to the possibly significant number of people affected by this curious phenomenon,” the researchers wrote in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

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