Biology news

Electric Microbes ?

At www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/ April 25th (Physics blog) 'How Bacteria could generate radio waves' (or go to www.technologyreview.com and click on blogs along the top menu, then click on the Physics blog which is usually the first one to pop up). arxiv.org/abs/1104.3113 'Eelctromagnetic signals from bacterial DNA' ... natural sources for radio waves include lightning, stars and pulsars and artificial sources include radar, mobile phones and computers etc.

Giant Rabbits

At www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/72081/title/Supersized_superbunny/ ... this is another example of Mediterranean islands becoming home to dwarfism and gigantism. See earlier posts on this subject - such as dwarf mammoths, dwarf elephants surviving on islands in the Mediterranean as sea levels changed. In this case it is gigantism - a larger than normal rabbit. A few million years ago such a rabbit lived on the island of Minorca (see March issue of Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology). It was six times the size of modern wild rabbits.

Buttercups and Dinosaurs

A fossil member of the Ranunculae flowering plant family, which includes buttercups, marsh marigolds and water crowfoot, among others, has been found in volcanic ash beds of an ancient lake in China. The plant, when it was alive, was probably growing in a marsh habitat - or at the least, in moist conditions. It is said to date back 125 million years ago (see www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110331142217.htm ).

Amino acids, RNA ... and toads in Australia

Two papers with a bearing on biology and evolution. One can be found at www.physorg.com/print220106627.html where a Mexican biochemist has decyphered part of the 'code of life' - within a large RNA protein enzyme responsible for expressing genetic code for the amino acid glutamin. The second paper is at www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-speedy-toads-advance-theory-evolution.htm and published in PNAS by threee biologists in Australia. For 150 years biologists have thought evolutionary change is caused by just two factors - survival and reproduction.

The hardiness of the Stoat

At www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070419145346.htm we have an old story, but one that is interesting never the less. Irish stoats, it has been found from DNA evidence, survived the Late Glacial Maximum - but exactly where they survived is unknown (not necessary in Ireland but somewhere now submerged perhaps?) A paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society by scientists from Queens University, claim that stoats survived in Ireland when the Irish Sea was a glacier and an ice sheet covered half of the island, as that was the situation during the LGM.

Deep Ocean Life Forms

Ever wondered what lives on the bottom of the ocean - or in the bottom waters? A catalogue of deep sea life forms can be seen at www.marlin.ac.uk/deep-sea-species-image-catalogue/ but there are of course lots more, estimated at around 230,000 marine animals that are currently known - but there is a total of well over 500,000 species yet to discover (see www.physorg.com/print219062315.html )

Bringing the Mammoths back to life

At www.physorg.com/print214406296.html ... scientists aim to use mammoth skin and muscle tissue excaated from the Siberian permafrost to bring a mammoth back to life - via the womb of a modern elephant. If they succeed they intend to study its genes - and its ecology. What might they discover? Were mammoths a temperate climate animal or an Arctic species adapted to the cold conditions of the Ice Age?

The Hornet and Electricity

This is a story to be found at www.physorg.com/print213449447.html, concerning the discovery that the 'oriental hornet' is able to convert energy from the Sun into electric power that in some way keeps it cool during the hottest period of midday. It can thus forage at the peak of the Sun's heat - and the conversion is done in the brown and yellow body parts.

Woolly Mammoths in the Arctic Circle

At www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101221114807.htm ... a paper in the journal Palaeography, Palaeoclimatology and Palaeoecology claims that woolly mammoths living north of the Arctic Circle in the Pleistocene epoch, in this instance between 150,000 and 40,000 years ago, began weaning infants up to 3 years later than modern day African elephants. Biologists looked around for a reason why this might have happened and this is what they decided.

A crocodile - but different

At www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101210094416.htm ... a paper in the Journal of Vertebrae Paleontology 30 (December 8th) has come up with some interesting biological differences, as it seems crocodiles come in a variety of adaptations to habitat - long snouts and pug nosed snouts, long tails and shortish tails, lithe bodies and pudgy