Biology news

Rice and Water

At ... rice is grown in rice paddies - a wetland environment. Why? Plants do not like excessive waterlogging - and some plants actively dislike it. On the other hand there are plant variants that adapt to watery conditions. For example water forget me not is a variation on the forget me not. Rice, I suppose, is a grass - a variation in related grasses. In S and SE Asia periodic flooding comes with the annual monsoon season - and can last several months at a time.

Triassic Dinosaurs

At ... giant dinosaurs lived on Earth much earlier than thought. The recently discovered dinosaur graveyards in Argentina are throwing up facts not envisaged as we now have a very large herbivore dinosaur dating from the Triassic period. Gigantism originated earlier than the Jurassic it would seem. Some clarification on gigantism is necessary as it cannot occur as a gradual process - unless the Triassic has been underestimated.

Microbes in Fracking liquids

At ... an intriguing story. Deep inside the earth, as revealed by fracking, lives a community of microbes (found in fracking wells). These microbes live at great depths it would seem - and apparently have the ability to produce methane (amongst other things). The study was done by researchers at Ohio State University (deep in the heart of fracking country) and is published in PNAS.

Yellowstone Wolf

Wolves were re-introduced to the Yellowstone National Park in the mid 1990s and have generally received a good press (especially in TV wildlife programmes and in the media in general). The elk of the park are their chief prey animal and it was thought the re-introduction would alter their behaviour - creating a 'landscape of fear' as the saying goes (the wolf controlling elk numbers etc) - see ...

Declining Insects

At ... the reason this has popped up on WattsUp is the fact that the researchers claim light pollution is a bigger factor than climate change for the ongoing decline in insect numbers. The interesting theory is advanced by scientists at a German institute of Freshwater Ecology and Fisheries (where one have thought the climate change meme would have taken precedent). They discovered a sharp decline in flying insects as a result of light pollution.

Origin of Pluto

Also sent in by Jovan. Busy man. At ... what is the origin of Pluto? Is it a planet - or something else. It is being suggested Pluto is a great comet - of sorts. They say it is an agglomeration of a billion comets (in other words an inestimable number of comets). Another idea is that Pluto formed from coldices with a chemical composition similar to the Sun (but the giant comet theory is gaining traction it is alleged).

Dinosaurs that swim

Robert sent in this link ... which is actually a few years old. At ... dinosaurs are usually thought to be great lumbering land animals, or perhaps with a fondness for a swamp. However, how such a beast managed to keep its huge tail aloft is a basic problem as no actual marks of tails touching the ground have ever been found fossilised - but marks of crocodile tails have been fossilised. The latter move along the ground of course but just keeping a big dinosaur's tail aloft was no mean feat.


At ... the subject is viruses, the most abundant form of life on Earth. These are outliers in the search for life on other planets. Now, astrobiologists are being urged to do the research more thoroughly. The humble virus is integral to life on Earth - a disease causing agenb (but is it as simplistic as that?) Viruses are entities where genomes replicate themselves inside living cells. They can transfer from one cell to another. Viruses comprise the whole reproduction cycle - and use living cells to reproduce.

DNA change

William also sent in this link - ... NASA used astronaut Scott Kelly and his twin brother in  a space experiment - in order to study space effects. The results were surprising. It seems a brief spell on the international space station was enought to change the genes of one of the twins - not by a great orde of magnitude, but enough to say for sure that this occurred.

Virus from Space

Gary sent in this link ... courtesy of British Columbia. Not exactly the same as Hoyle and Wickramasinghe and 'Diseases from Space' as the new findings are talking about viruses swept into the air in sea spray and soil dust, which then travel upwards into the atmosphere. They are deposited back on to the surface of the Earth somewhat later - in a never ending cycle. Obviously, humans have evolved and survived while all of this was going on - by the mechanism of the immune system.