Biology news

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.

Marine algae, marine sponges

At ... a PNAS paper has shown aquatic algae can detect colours such as orange, green, and blue, spectrums of light. In contrast, land plants have receptors that allow them to see light on the red and far red spectrum - in order to them to renew and grow as the environment changes with the seasons. For example, it is recognised by gardeners and farmers that once midsummer has passed by and the day shortens that plants put on a spurt to achieve maturity, and eventually, seeding.


There were lots of sponges in the shallow warm seas of the Dinosaur Age, it has been deduced, as they were commonly caught up in the liquid ooze of silica that  went on to form flint nodules, in an as yet undetermined way. In the modern world there are lots of sponges off the western coast of Australia - a garden of sponges in fact. Go to

The little shrimp over big time

At ... research has revealed that a tiny crustacean, a groundwater shrimp that lives in crevices and can survive in groundwater beneath the surface, has been living and breeding in Britain and Ireland for 19 million years - surviving extremes of temperature from hot climates to glaciations.

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.