Biology news

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.

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.