Biology news

How objects from space might have brought life to Earth

At ... researchers from the University of Leeds think they may have solved how objects from space gave rise to life on Earth. Some of the important ingredients may have been in meteorites and cometary dust but it is how they were then transformed into building blocks that has concentrated minds. In a paper in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta (March 15th), the key, it is suggested, is chemiosmosis, where one chemical is broken down to reform so as to release energy, and possibly, metabolism.

Red Rains of Kerala

This subject seems to have had a bit of a revival again. The red rain of Kerala was speculatively linked to a fireball (and meteorite) over Kerala in southern India a few years ago - but was dismissed by mainstream. In the latest incident it may not be so tenuous - but then again, the Panspermia people are having a job to get their theory across even when they claim to have it under the microscope.

Falkland wolves

Apparently, when European ships first arrived in the Falkland Islands around 300 years ago there was just one mammal species living there - the so called Falkland wolf. They resembled foxes rather than wolves and lived off marine animals such as penguins and seals. There was a similar species living on mainland Argentina but both of them died out after coming into contact sith humans - keeping livestock such as sheep isn't the best thing around wolves.

Bacteria in the atmosphere

At ... bacteria from the middle and upper troposphere are being studied in a laboratory, micro-organisms that live 6 miles above the surface of the Earth. Long distance transport of bacteria may play a role in disease transmission it is being suggested while the bacteria, and carbon compounds, could play a role in weather. Published by PNAS Feb 28th 2013, the study suggests the bacteria get there from the surface as a result of wind and air movements. No mention is made of diseases and microbes from space.

Evolution in the Ice Age

This story was at ... and concerns so called refuges from the cold blasts of the Ice Age - where humans and animals, and plants, became isolated from their cousins and evolved separate traits. It is claimed that climate change was responsible for all kinds of things, including the demise of the Neanderthals

Fishes, Birds, and Magnetic Fields

At ... anyone that has been fishing for salmon, or just walking the river bank in somewhere like Vancouver Island, will have wondered why so many salmon congregate at a certain time of the year in order to collectively migrate upriver to lay eggs for the next generation of fish. They will fill the waters around the estuary of rivers and men in boats will seek them out, and at this point they will still be feeding.

Fossils that challenge the evolutionary tree of life

Whether it does challenge the evolutionary tree of life or not remains to be seen - that might be just hype. At ... what was thought to be marine animals such as jellyfish turns out to be fungal or algal or perhaps even bacterium ... and living on land rather than in the sea. The fossil study is not universally welcome, however ....

Rumbles in the Jungles and the Monster in the Loch

Elephants, it seems, emit low rumbles in much the same way as a human might sing, blowing air through the larynx, or voice box. It allows them to communicate with each other over distances of up to 6 miles - see

A Strange beast in the Outback

At ... An Aboriginal stockman found crocodile teeth and shards of bone in the desert, 160km north of Alice Springs, some years ago. For several years it has become an annual event for scientists to converge on the site and dig out further bones. They seem to date to a catastrophic event of some kind, conventionally dated around 8 million years ago. All the animals in the huge deposit seem to have perished at the same time - including the strange beast with a giant claw.

Green duffers, animal capers

At ... how much did humans impact on the landscape - or for how much are they responsible for the destruction of eco systems, especially in the tropics. A paper in PNAS shows that even in pre-human environments natural events have caused near extintions of wildlife - taking as the perfect field of study the island of Madagascar, uninhabited until a few thousand years ago. Pre human Madagascar was affected by a series of Holocene droughts, or natural disasters that involved the removal of large sections of tropical forest cover, up till 2000BC.