Biology news

Charon's red pole

At ... surfaces vary in colour when something about them changes, due to composition and make-up (geology) and other differences (liquid and solid etc). The northern polar region of Charon, one of Pluto's companions, are much redder than the rest of it - but what is causing this?


  At ... it has been found that European domesticated pigs have far more genetic links to the wild European boar population than previously thought. Previously, scientists have treated the domesticated pig as if it was an isolated genome - once domesticated it did not mix with wild pigs. Now, it has been discovered there has been continuous gene flow in order to modify, over and over again.

Do you like walnuts

Do you like walnuts? They were a valuable trade commodity in the past, spreading out along the Silk Road, from  Persia to China in the east, and to Europe in the west - see

shark fins in a shallow lagoon

At ... University of Southampton researchers have found the behaviour of fruit flies can be altered by an electric field. The wings of the insects are disturbed by static electricity which appear to cause neuro-chemical changes in their brains (if that is the right term).

David Reich

David Reich, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, pops up again in an article in Current World Archaeology 72 (Aug, 2015) (see He is involved in archaeo-genetics and the application of that is called 'next generation sequencing' of DNA. He is able to extract virtually complete genome sequences of nuclear DNA from bone that has small amounts of DNA preserved. The nuclear genome is the most interesting and informative part of the human genetic story as it dwarfs mitochondrial DNA in terms of size.

nutrients and life

At ... news of an interesting theory that evolution of life was driven by Plate Tectonics. One could substitute the latter for catastrophims and reach a similar conclusion.

Velociraptor update

At ... there is a post with the title, 'Feathered Velociraptor - untangling the Spin' and refers to the Nature journal 'Scientific Reports' on a feathered dinosaur with similarities to the Velociraptor of 'Jurassic Park' movie fame. The fossil was found in dinosaur beds in China (see post a couple of days ago) but in the link above the author claims it was found by a farmer (who wouldn't give his name).

soft tissue fossils

At ... apparently, soft tissue is often preserved in fossils - such as worm sperm from Antarctica (80 million years ago). Such worms reproduce by releasing their eggs and sperm and weave it into protective cocoons - and it is this that kept it intact in what are shallow marine gravels.

A tiny ostrocod, or seed shrimp, was found in Silurian rocks on the Welsh borders - preserved in 3 dimensions with all its soft tissue fossilised. Apparently, it was smothered and petrified in volcanic ash 400 million years ago.


At ... a dinosaur with wings, and feathers, and it is reminiscent in outline to the 'Jurassic Park' Velociraptor - being described as a cousin. It was uncovered in China, which has rich dinosaur era deposits.

folk remedies

At ... we learn that a medieval cure by a so called 'leech doctor' was found to treat superbugs that modern doctors struggle to cope with. A recipe for an 'eye salve' surprised researchers when it worked against the superbug MRSA which is apparently resistant to modern antibiotics. The recipe came from Bald's Leechbook and calls for garlic and onions, wine, and bile from a cow. The mix had to be brewed in brass and left for ten days.