Biology news

Whale fossils in the desert sands

At http://phys.org/print312566680.html ... evidence of mass strandings of marine animals crop up every now and then in the fossil record. A recent example, posted here last year, came to light when a highways was being built across the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. They are said to reflect four episodes stranding - and it is being reported that toxic algae was to blame.

Marine algae, marine sponges

At http://phys.org/print312472375.html ... a PNAS paper has shown aquatic algae can detect colours such as orange, green, and blue, spectrums of light. In contrast, land plants have receptors that allow them to see light on the red and far red spectrum - in order to them to renew and grow as the environment changes with the seasons. For example, it is recognised by gardeners and farmers that once midsummer has passed by and the day shortens that plants put on a spurt to achieve maturity, and eventually, seeding.

Sponges

There were lots of sponges in the shallow warm seas of the Dinosaur Age, it has been deduced, as they were commonly caught up in the liquid ooze of silica that  went on to form flint nodules, in an as yet undetermined way. In the modern world there are lots of sponges off the western coast of Australia - a garden of sponges in fact. Go to http://phys.org/print312203045.html

The little shrimp over big time

At http://phys.org/print312178948.html ... research has revealed that a tiny crustacean, a groundwater shrimp that lives in crevices and can survive in groundwater beneath the surface, has been living and breeding in Britain and Ireland for 19 million years - surviving extremes of temperature from hot climates to glaciations.

Flu jumped from horses to birds just a hundred years ago ... and gave rise to the 1918 epidemic.

At http://phys.org/print311767523.html ... a couple of years ago Bird Flu was the big doomsaying myth - and don't we like being frightened out of our wits. We were all going to contract heaving chests and mucous filled nasal passages, a terrible headache and a weakness in our limbs - and we were all going to die. Again. The epidemic was blamed on birds and it was seriously considered by the politicos to inaugurate an actual cull of wild birds.

Inheritance in Plants

This is an interesting discovery. At www.geneticarchaeology.com/research/Revolutionary_new_view_on_heritabili... ... complex heritable traits can affect flowering times and plant architecture - and these, are passed on to subsequent generations according to a paper in Science Express (6th February, 2014). Is a revision of the genetics textbook in the offing?

Camels, swans, hogs and horses, and Herdwick sheep

A lovely mix of stories here. At www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140203131518.htm ... research at Tel Aviv University shows that domesticated camels were not introduced to the Levant until the Iron Age (somewhere between 1200-900BC), which has been the orthodox position for some time (from textual evidence alone). This finding emphasizes a disagreement between archaeology and the Biblical narrative (as shown by the likes of Van Seters and Thompson 40 odd years ago).

Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion

At www.forteantimes.com/features/fla/6421/the_science_delusion.html ... describes how Rupert Sheldrake has dalt with mainstream criticism concerning his theory of Morphic Resonance. This attempts to explain how single organic forms self organise into more complex organisms - as an addition to the Darwinian evolution by natural selection mantra. It is of course the old story of consensus science encircling the wagons and protecting the heart - in this instance, evolutionary theory. Morphic resonance is seen as a threat - not as a side kick. The holy grain is being defended.

Carbon in the Oceans

One new branch of Doomsaying CAGW is that the oceans are about to lose lots of carbon but here we have a paper that puts it into a different perspective. At http://phys.org/print308497381.html ... marine cyanobacteria, very tiny ocean plants, produce oxygen and make organic carbon using sunlight, and co2. They are engines of biogeochemical and nutrient cycles and nourish other organisms through the provision of oxygen and body mass and are thought to be the base of the ocean food chain.

Bio-fuels

The development of small nuclear units (conventional and thorium) is subject to reams of environmentalist paperwork that is designed to slow down development and hinder advance because the Green lobby is heavily anti-nuclear (as well as anti-fossil fuels) which raises some interesting questions. Even if a thorium reactor or a plasma based energy unit proved to be workable how long would it take to reach production on a grand scale?