Biology news

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.

Shadow Biosphere, plasma, water and the magnetic monster

Some interesting speculative biology going on - and NASA forced to retreat. The idea of a shadow biosphere, or a biosphere that has been crowded out by the current one, appealed to some people, including a group at NASA, as it mikght have helped them in their search for life on other planets. It seems a couple of papers and studies have put the idea to bed - see

Rhythm of Life

At ... there is a web site to publicise a new book on evolution, by Susan Crockford, Rhythms of Life. How did wolves become dogs - a new theory involving thyroid hormones driving evolutionary change (including domestication) and taken further, controlling 'your' health. The argument is that variable thyroid function is the biological mechanism that makes evolutionary change possible.

Poley Bears

There are some interesting facts about polar bears and brown bears on the sceptic blog ... and really, it is all about the Ice Ages, ice advances and retreats, and the changing habitat of the polar bear - their remains have even been found in Ireland. It also stresses the differences between polar bears and brown bears - although hybrids are known.

Lactose intolerance in Africa

Chemical analysis has shown that humans in the Sahara were milking cows some 7000 years ago - see ... according to research done at the University of Bristol. This affects the origins of lactose tolerance - as animal milk causes people to have a queasy stomach, or a more serious reaction, until genetic change has taken place.

Richard Dawkins

At apparently, some proponents of 'evolutionary psychology' are opposed to the idea of the Selfish Gene and the God Delusion. Group selection is back in fashion. A similar theme appears at ... make of this what you will

Evidence for YD impact in Cornwall?

At is from a paper delivered at the iNQUA congress at Bern in June 2011 and concerns a geological layer from Bodmin Moor in Cornwall (Hawks Tor, peat sediments). The authors are William Marshall, Katie Head, Robert Clough and Andrew Fisher. It may be that other sites will now be explored for a similar anomaly as geologists notoriously find new things on each visit to quarries and cuttings - missed by others on earlier visits.

The Sun and life on Earth

At Pierre Gosselin's blog ... scientists from Japan's Okayama Univerity claim the Sun influences coral reefs while at ... claims that low activity on the Sun in recent years has shifted the Gulf Stream.

Fish, using tools to ... fish

At ... rather, a fish using a tool to smash open a shell - various species of wrasse do this and there is photographic evidence of a tusk fish doing the same thing. This is distinctly disturbing as we have always been informed that just we humans are that clever. It was bad enough when primates were found to use tools to poke things out of tight places or crack nuts open but then it was found that crafty crows and various other birds, such as the thrush cracking open snails, also used tools in their everyday sort of chore ...

The flora of tucked away places have a secret to tell

At we learn that botanical researchers from Europe and China are looking at remote regions of China to try and discover plants, shrubs and trees that may have survived the Ice Ages - in refugia. One such place they have targeted is in the SW of China, at the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau and close to the border with Burma - the Hengduan Mountains. Apparently, in China a large number of ancient flora still exist - with lineage going back millions of years ago.