Biology news

Amazing Ammonites

This story is at ... you'd think they would already know as it was about the same time an asteroid struck the Earth - but apparently that is not enough as ammonites were such a successful sea animal and had existed for millions of years. Hence, scientists have pondered the whys and wherefores and come up with an explanation - they were too successful and had adapted to specific niches in the environment. When the asteroid strike caused mayhem in the natural world those niche ecosystems disappeared - and do did the ammonites.

Giant inflatable wind turbines

Renewables are under development all the time. The cost of building wind farms, and installing concrete bases and access roads, and a general disturbance of the environment which is what most protestors have against them, has caused an American company to think of alternate methods of collecting energy from wind. Four prototypes exist according to the article in The Times (a couple of weeks ago). Giant inflatable wind turbines that float in the sky, held on long tethers like massive dog leads, is the latest idea.

kangaroo teeth

At ... the teeth of kangaroos (caron isotope ratios) and other marsupials of SE Queensland who the area, now arid, was formerly much wetter and more attractive to life (in the Pliocene).

Dinosaur eating crocodiles

At ... huge crocodiles killed their dinosaur prey by spinning their bodies in death rolls. They were some 40 feet in length - but modern salt water crocodiles (known to go for sharks) can be up to 23 feet long. The paper is published in Historical Biology journal (April 16th).

Feeding a hungry world in the future

Most ethanol produced uses high temperature fermentation to chemically convert corn, sugar cane, palm oil or any suitable plant material into liquid fuel. A new technique has been developed at Stanford University and requires no fermentation - and little raw material from the plant world - see ... which must be a good thing in the long run. At the moment it is a lab based experiment - will it be efficient in practise?

Cambrian Surprises

No - not a shindig in Wales but a reference to Cambrian fossils at .... where it has been found that creatures living 520 million years ago had a sophisticated heart and blood vessel system similar to lobsters and other creatures in the modern world. The remarkable fossils come from a site in Yunnan Province in China which preserved intact the blood vessel system.

Moss, and Ice

Shrinking glaciers around the world have revealed plants that once thrived before the ice advanced. This in turn led to a spate of learned papers informing us that modern warming had exposed plants that grew hundreds, and sometimes thousands, even many thousands of years previously, many of them mosses and lichen. In turn, the plants very existence has been used to fan the flames of CAGW - it must be warmer now than it has been for such a long time, beware, we are all going to boil in the rising temperatures.

Rhinoceros way back

At .... fossil rhinoceros found in Vietnam, and dating way back, seem to bear similarities to rhinos once extent in Europe. This suggests SE Asia played an important role in the evolution of mammals - in the Eocene. Does it also mean that SE Asia at that time had a climate somewhat different than nowadays? Also, how large was SE Asia - was the Indonesian continental shelf dry land?

Morphogen Theory

At ... biologists have discovered new mechanisms that control how proteins are expressed in different regions of embryos which seem to shed new light on how physical traits are arranged in body places. They investigated, specifically, morphogen theory, which claims proteins control traits arranged as gradients, with different amounts of protein activating genes to create specified physical features. This theory was first put forward by Alan Turing in the 1950s, the WWII code breaker. It was then refined in the 1960s by Lewis Wolpert.

Whale fossils in the desert sands

At ... 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.