Biology news

mammoths where they shouldn't be

Mammoths, or big elephants shall we say, are always a crowd pleaser which draws attention and the story at www.sciencenews.org/article/humans-visited-arctic-earlier-thought?tgt=nr .. where we learn a frozen mammoth carcase displays evidence of butchering by some of our ancestors. The problem is that the discovery was made deep inside the Arctic Circle, at 72 degrees N, in what we might call the northern region of central Siberia. Other kill sites are known just below the Arctic Circle but most of them occur well outside the region.

big boy

At http://phys.org/print371876448.html ... the Pleistocene is famous for big versions of beasts we see around us in the modern world. Mammoths are large elephants with woolly vest and cave bears are larger versions of brown bears and so forth. There were giant sloths, larger types of bison and musk ox, and various theories have been advanced in to why this might be so. The latest big boy is a giraffe like animal - the biggest ruminant mammal ever.

dinosaur eggs

At http://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/110-million-year-ol... ... dinosaur eggs found in Japan, just 5cm long and 2cm wide, really quite small for a big dinosaur beast to crack open. It is not known what species laid the eggs but they are thought to be from a small species - or a bird. They were fossilised inside their nest.

functional food

At http://phys.org/print369910125.html ... I found this story interesting but I don't suppose everyone will. Functional food - or food using emulsifiers. This has now progressed into medical food - for diabetics, the seriously overweight, and various kinds of illness where ordinary food may cause problems. It also includes the use of nutritional supplements. I haven't tried any of them out but we appear to be moving towards artificial food. This may be a necessity if population numbers continue to rise and land to farm becomes scarce as building houses becomes the priority.

Dogs

This story was everywhere - but then dogs are very popular as human companions, as working dogs (retrieving dead animals, rooting out rabbits in holes, rounding up sheep, and sniffing out drugs etc) and as warning sentries (barking like mad when a stranger approaches, very handy if you live in an isolated hill farm). We take them for granted but how did they evolve into so many different breeds and cross breeds. Where did the original domestic dog come from - a jackal, a wolf, or some lost relative.

aphids

Gardeners and farmers are well aware of aphids as a sap eating pest of various crops and flowering plants. They suck up a sugary sap from plants and an infestation can be devastating. These little bugs are even farmed by ants and preyed on by a variety of insects such as ladybird larvae. It seems that aphids are an extremely complex organism as their diet lacks an adequate amount of amino acids. To compensate for this aphids, in association with bacteria, reform the little amino acid in sap into a more balanced form of amino acids that meets their needs to thrive and prosper.

pipes and taps

A Swedish study has found domestic water pipes are crawling with bacteria. However, this is not your bad kind of bacteria but your good kind of bacteria as they are thought to help purify the water. They appear to thrive in pipes and taps and in water treatment plants - go to http://phys.org/print369482206.html

third way

Robert Farrar has sent in a link to www.thethirdwayofevolution.com ... which he came across as a link from another web site he was looking at. The name of the web site comes from an article written by microbiologist James Shapiro (University of Chicago) in which he proposed an approach to evolutionary science that was neither neo-Darwinist or Creationist, suggesting the mechanism is better at explaining evolution from natural selection. On that basis this site should appeal to members of SIS.

fickle genes

Some interesting stuff on genetics at www.q-mag.org/we-contain-multitudes-1.html and www.q-mag.org/we-contain-multitudes-2.html which seem to suggest genetics is a bit more complicated than Joe Public has been led to believe. The first link concerns a paper published in PNAS. This is that horizontal gene transfer as opposed to vertical (from mother and father and immediate ancestors) is part of the genetic make-up. Apparently all sorts of things can affect our DNA - bacteria, plants, fungi etc.