Biology news

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.

Mass Extinctions and Evolution

Again, at www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/09/mass-extinction-dynamics/ this story is a repeat - but worth repeating. A reappraisal of the fossil record, it is thought, reveals that global mass extinction events are not actually short term diversions along life's uniformitarian course but such events send life careering down wholly new avenues.

Panspermia - some cold water

At http://lifeunbounded.blogspot.com/2010/08/panspermis-paradox.html is a post on panspermia, 'The Panspermia Paradox' (August 19th) ... the notion of panspermia, the transfer of viable organisms between planets and even star systems is discussed from what appears to be a neutral position. Planetary surface material such as dust grains and rocks is continually being shipped around moons and rocky planets in the solar system or ejected by comets and asteroids.

Kangaroos

At www.physorg.com/print200126874.html there is a claim that the evolution of kangaroos was intricately tied to Australian climate change - but suitably confined to millions of years ago rather than anything to do with modern greenhouse gas emissions. The Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society (August 2010) claims the appearance of kangaroos, wallabies, and similar animals occurred millions of years ago when they foraged on soft leaved forest growing plants.