Biology news

The Narwhal Tusk

This is an interesting post at narwhal-tusk/ .... what is the function of a narwhal's tusk. He doesn't reach a conclusion as such but explores various mainstream ideas and then adds his own thoughts. The narwhal tusk is in fact an elongated tooth and because of that it has nerves. In this case, sensory nerves, and what they are for, is yet to be confirmed. One of the studies has shown it has multiple purposes, one of which is that the tusk can indicate whether the sea water is beginning to freeze.

Bald Cypress

William sent in a link to ... which has a nice video of bald cypress trees in a remote swamp. One of these has been dated to 2624 years of age. That means it came into life just as the Greeks were beginning their rise to a major civilisation, a long time ago. Nearby cypress could be even older.


A Big Crocodile

The story comes from ... the remains of a prehistoric crocodile, known as a Thoracosauros, has been found inside a block of chalk. This was a marine, or sea swimming crocodile, able to forage at the edge of the oceans. One may wonder how the remains of a crocodile ended up encased in chalk if chalk was down down over 60 to 90 million years and more, by the accumulation of the shells of ocean algae on the sea bed.

Ice Age steppe vegetation

Bakc in 2003 Nature journal published a short piece in volume 423 (5th June) 'Ice Age steppe vegetation in Alaska and Yukon' ... . The authors say the region must have been covered with vegetation as it supported huge populations of mammoth, horse, bison etc, during the Late Glacial Maximum. Why was it colder in Europe and NE N America where an ice sheet existed but Siberia and Beringia, were unglaciated. The plot thickens.

Texas a tropical savannah

At ... ancient Texas was a Serengeti savannah with animals such as elephant, rhinoceros and alligators etc. During the 1930s unemployed Texans were recruited to dig around at a couple of sites that were fossil rich - by the University of Texas in Austin. Tens of thousands of specimens were retrieved and have been briefly studied on a number of occasions, over the last 80 years or so. They have tended to concentrate on the big animals, but now, a new research team has studied them as a whole, small animals as well as the big ones.

Fast Moving Genetics

Paul Reich has only just had his paperback version of up to the minute genetics published and he is already out of date it would seem - within a couple of months. At ... the Denisovans, contemporaries of the late Neanderthals, were discovered in a cave deposit in southern Siberia, but they appear to be a much more extensive branch of humanity than imagined up to now.

Bugs in the Air

At ... bacteria may travel thousands of miles through the air, globally. Press release from Rutgers University on a study published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B - which shows that rather than bacteria hitching a ride on people and animals they are able to travel through the air (includes viruses). In this instance they are talking about bacteria with anti-biotic resistant genes.

T. Rex

At ... Tyrannosaurus Rex had a flexible skull structure. Different bone modules led to a highly flexible muzzle that aided in tearing apart prey animals. The study is published in Scientific Reports (February 2019). The name means something like tyrant lizard - named because of his impressive teeth and head. See DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-37978-8

Eat the Fat not the Greens

At ... hot on the heels of the UN bleating about cattle and sheep raising as ecologically irresponsible and we should all be going vegan comes along this study which seems to confirm the former hyperventilations were all flannel and no substance. Meat on the bone is lacking in the UN procrastinations but it is the fat within the bone that is the subject of the study. It seems a taste for fat provided early humans with the nutrition to develop bigger brains - see Current Anthropology (February 2019).

Trilobite Riches

At ... trilobite fossils are common to all parts of the world, northern and southern hemispheres. They dominated the early seas.