Biology news

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

Australian megafauna demise

At www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2010/11/30/3080101.htm there is another story blaming humans for the demise of megafauna in Australia around 40,000 years ago. The paper was published in PNAS but was not entirely convinced by the human hunting argument and for once contained a lot of evidence indicating environmental changes occurred at this time that were pretty wide ranging. There was also evidence of huge landscape fires so this is perhaps a paper to be read to glean the small detail.

Komodo Dragons

At www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101118093418.htm researchers have been studying a fossil that appears to be a direct link between an ancient lizard populating Africa and the famous Komodo Dragon of Indonesia - and various other lizards. It seems to have been a fresh water lizard so how did it swim across the Indian Ocean, it is being asked, as geology claims Africa was isolated between 100 and 12 million years ago, completely surrounded by oceans. It had yet to crash into Eurasia.

Genetics

At www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/65063/title/Central_dogma_of_genetics_maybe_not_so_central/ ... It seems the RNA molecules aren't always faithful reproductions of the genetic instructions contained within DNA, a new study has shown. This contradicts a major tenet of genetics - a central dogma that is that DNA letters encode information and RNA is produced in DNA's likeness. The RNA then serves as a template to build proteins.

Great Apes - as smart as some of us?

Not a big deal, you might say, I know that already. At www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101006085450.htm ... a University of Portsmouth research scientist studying great apes and their developmental processes, has compared infant apes with infant humans - and hopes to overturn inbuilt prejudices against the apes.

Plants and evolution

Research done at the University of Calgary (see www.physorg.com/print203834230.html ) has come up with some new ideas on the diversity of flowering plants - and what factors might affect the number of species in a particular lineage. It is not only what causes diversity but what has happened because of extinctions and die-offs - leaving openings. Geography is one factor and traits within a family of species is another which might encourage greater diversity - but why?

Red Rain update

At www.technology.review.com/blog/arxiv/25699/ Sept 1st ... 'The extraordinary Tale of Red Rain, Comets and Extraterrestrials' is the title but the shortish piece on the blog does not give much away - you need to read the paper on the earlier post on the same subject. Panspermia is not a mainstream fancy in science but a growing body of evidence suggest it is a subject to be explored rather than casually ignored - given the treatment.