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Archive for the ‘Biology’ Category


The above image is the Korean Peninsula at night, via satellite. If the Korean coastline isn’t very familiar to you, there’s a daytime image after the jump.
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Late last year, I read an article in Nature that brought together two of my favorite subjects: sex determination and fossils. I study sex determination in a group of fish for my thesis research. But, before I was a graduate student, I was one of those nerdy “momma’s boy” types who loved reading about fossils. Paleontology was such an interesting subject to me that, thanks to the advice of a very wise biology professor, I earned a minor in geology in college. But enough about me.
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A male threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) guards his young (those tadpole-like shapes behind him) among the weeds. When it comes to parental responsibility, male threespine sticklebacks do nearly all the work. They build and nest and defend a territory, court females, guard the fertilized eggs from predators, and try to keep their young in the nest once they hatch. Unfortunately, young threespine sticklebacks just can’t wait to leave home. After a few days, they scatter, leaving dad to rebuild the nest and find a new female to court.

This intense streak of paternal behavior isn’t unique to sticklebacks. Among many of their relatives (tubesnouts, pipefish, and seahorses, to name a few), males take on the majority (or entirety) of parental care. Seahorse males make even stickleback males look neglectful — seahorse males carry the fertilized eggs, giving “birth” to their young once the eggs hatch!

Image courtesy of N. Bedford.

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NPR had a fascinating story this morning on a new comprehensive study launched by the National Academy of Sciences. While the title of this post might make you think that the project is trying to predict how future climate change may influence human evolution, this project is peering instead into humankind’s past.

Did Climate Change Drive Human Evolution?
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Petri Dishes are shallow, round dishes used for growing cells. They’re named for Julius Petri, the German bacteriologist who invented them in the 19th century. Historically, petri dishes were made of glass. But, these days, all the petri dishes I work with are plastic.

Klari Reis took 365 petri dishes and made them into enchanting works of art. She painted each one, taking inspiration from cells seen under a microscope. They’re gorgeous works, and she made a blog showing all 365 of them! Here’s my favorite, so far…

Take a look at “The Daily Dish” and then visit her website!

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Here’s a headline that caught my eye. Take a gander!

“Glowing Fruit Fly Sperm Yields Real Time Results.”

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The New York Times has an excellent overview of the latest findings on the domestication of Man’s Best Friend. The ongoing issues:

  1. When did mankind domesticate the dog?
  2. Where did mankind domesticate the dog?
  3. How quickly did the newly-domesticated animals begin to “look” like Man’s Best Friend?

Question number 3 may be a bit puzzling for anyone who doesn’t think a lot about dog domestication.  Some background: long ago humans domesticated the dog.  From what, you ask?  The grey wolf, Canis lupus. All domestic dogs are usually classified as a sub-species in the grey wolf, Canis lupus familiaris1, a fact that always floors me whenever I watch the toy dog section of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
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