Biology news

functional food

At ... 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.


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.


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

third way

Robert Farrar has sent in a link to ... 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 and 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.

ultimate uniformitarianism

This link was sent in by Gary. Apparently, some scientists have discovered a huge fossil forest buried in deep sediments and preserved intact that goes back to the Devonian period (400 million years ago) when they dug a hole for the Global Seed Vault on Svalbad (Spitzbergen), a secure underground frozen seed bank in which plants are preserved in case of a future loss of diversity. This was supposed to be part of the Eden Project in Cornwall but that has developed into a giant tourist fly trap.

Triassic mammals

A few weeks ago we had a post on mammals in the Jurassic, contemporary with the dinosaurs. Now they are talking about mammals in the earlier Triassic era - go to and published in PNAS Nov 16th (2015)

However they are being described as proto mammals (or nearly mammals), or even an ancestral branch of the mammal tree. Well, it seemed the branch fell off the tree during the late Triassic event (mass extinctions) as mammals became proper mammals in the Jurassic.

mice in the ...

The Times (of London), last week, had a post by Oliver Moody on a mammal that lived contemporary with the dinosaurs, a mouse like creature (or perhaps a giant shrew). Its remains were found in a limestone quarry in Spain and it went from there to the University of Chicago where the research was done. Like mice it had a long tail, and long nose, and was covered in hair (fur).