Biology news

Flu jumped from horses to birds just a hundred years ago ... and gave rise to the 1918 epidemic.

At ... a couple of years ago Bird Flu was the big doomsaying myth - and don't we like being frightened out of our wits. We were all going to contract heaving chests and mucous filled nasal passages, a terrible headache and a weakness in our limbs - and we were all going to die. Again. The epidemic was blamed on birds and it was seriously considered by the politicos to inaugurate an actual cull of wild birds.

Inheritance in Plants

This is an interesting discovery. At ... complex heritable traits can affect flowering times and plant architecture - and these, are passed on to subsequent generations according to a paper in Science Express (6th February, 2014). Is a revision of the genetics textbook in the offing?

Camels, swans, hogs and horses, and Herdwick sheep

A lovely mix of stories here. At ... research at Tel Aviv University shows that domesticated camels were not introduced to the Levant until the Iron Age (somewhere between 1200-900BC), which has been the orthodox position for some time (from textual evidence alone). This finding emphasizes a disagreement between archaeology and the Biblical narrative (as shown by the likes of Van Seters and Thompson 40 odd years ago).

Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion

At ... describes how Rupert Sheldrake has dalt with mainstream criticism concerning his theory of Morphic Resonance. This attempts to explain how single organic forms self organise into more complex organisms - as an addition to the Darwinian evolution by natural selection mantra. It is of course the old story of consensus science encircling the wagons and protecting the heart - in this instance, evolutionary theory. Morphic resonance is seen as a threat - not as a side kick. The holy grain is being defended.

Carbon in the Oceans

One new branch of Doomsaying CAGW is that the oceans are about to lose lots of carbon but here we have a paper that puts it into a different perspective. At ... marine cyanobacteria, very tiny ocean plants, produce oxygen and make organic carbon using sunlight, and co2. They are engines of biogeochemical and nutrient cycles and nourish other organisms through the provision of oxygen and body mass and are thought to be the base of the ocean food chain.


The development of small nuclear units (conventional and thorium) is subject to reams of environmentalist paperwork that is designed to slow down development and hinder advance because the Green lobby is heavily anti-nuclear (as well as anti-fossil fuels) which raises some interesting questions. Even if a thorium reactor or a plasma based energy unit proved to be workable how long would it take to reach production on a grand scale?

The Irish Elk

The Irish Elk was in fact a giant deer - part of the Pleistocene megafauna - found in Britain, Ireland, and across northern Europe into Asia as far as Siberia. The best preserved remains were found in bogs in Ireland - hence the name. They flourished in NW Europe around 32,000 to 40,000 years ago - during a warm period within the last Ice Age (just prior to the Late Glacial Maximum, or LGM). At this time the Chauvet cave paintings show a grassland savannah across France and central Europe, with lions part of the landscape.

Microscopic life in the oceans

At ... a fascinating piece on ocean life cycles and sampling a cup full of sea water. A glass of water from the oceans would possess several bursts of organic matter with an origin in dying organisms (as small as plankton), continuous showers of 'marine snow' from the upper layers of water columns, and nutrients leaking from creatures so tiny they are invisible to the naked eye.

Collective consciousness

Another story from the Daily Mail - see ... which suggests sixth sense (which we may very well possess) is a psychic power ... a sort of telepathy. Behaviour, it is alleged, can spread throughout a species telepathically, adapted by groups that have not met. Why do people think about someone before they call or have a feeling something is about to happen before it actually does happen.

'On Growth and Form'

D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson, 'On Growth and Form' (1917) was critical of Darwin and thought that biologists of the day over emphasized evolution as the fundamental determinant of form and structure of living organisms - and also over emphasized the roles of physical laws and mechanics. He advocated structuralism as an alternative to survival of the fittest in governing the form of species. Thompson did not reject natural selection but regarded it as a secondary to the origin of biological form (quoting from Wikipedia).