Biology news

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.

What did mammoths eat

To get an idea we only need to look at what elephants consume - and they are much smaller than mammoths. At ... we find they eat as much as 660lbs of vegetation in a day - and they drank as much as 50 gallons of water in a single 24 hour stint. The interesting thing is that because they need to drink so much water, in the wild, they are never far from rivers and water holes. They are even capable of excavating holes in the ground in search of underground water sources - by using their tusks as digging tools.

Age of Reptiles

At ... there is quite a nice discussion of the cataloguing of animal remains to specific periods of time with an emphasis on dinosaurs. The Mesozoic began 250 million years ago and lasted up till the K/T boundary event around 63 million years ago. It is defined as the Age of Reptiles which came out of the idea that reptiles were the dominant species throughout the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods of time. The idea goes all the way back to the 19th century where these things were first being discovered by scientists of the modern era.