Biology news

Shimmering Butterflies

I was watching BBCs 'Springwatch' a couple of days ago and Chris Packham mentioned that the colours of butterflies are produced not by pigments but by a special geometric formation of cells, that shimmer and give the illusion of colour.

The Iowa Cicada

At ... there is a story about the rare appearance of the cicada, an insect, in Iowa - that is supposed to appear at 17 year intervals. Why?

Termites in the Savannah Belt

At a paper published by PLoS Biology says that termites are typically viewed as pests and as threats to agricultural and livestock production - and termite mounds are often destroyed. However, it has been found it can take centuries to build up a single termite mound and field research in Kenya has found they form a network of uniformly distrubuted mounds across the savannah environment.

Oxygen and Evolution

At - the journal Astrobiology has a paper that suggests the evolution of complex life forms may have had a kickstart a couple of billion years ago when geological events caused large quantities of phosphorous to wash into the oceans. In turn, this caused vast algal blooms that pumped extra oxygen into the environment which allowed larger more complex organisms to thrive.

Mammoth Blood

The New York Times (at ) May 3rd (see also Science Daily and ) all have a story about research on mammoths, claiming they have adapted to living in a cold environment. Scientists have managed to reconstruct mammoth hemoglabin. Mammoths originated in a tropical climate but diverged from elephants some 7 million years ago. They adapted to a cold environment by developing smaller ears, a thick coat of fur, and glands in their skin to keep the fur well oiled.

Lizards on islands

At April 29th ... a genetic study of lizards isolated geographically on islands, sometimes for thousands of years, possibly even millions of years, do not appear to have evolved into separate species as demanded by conventional evolutional theory. They remained stubbornly like their predecessors. They were also capable of reproducing with similar species from elsewhere. However, the PLoS Genetics paper says that research was ongoing.

Intelligent Design and Human Behaviour

At ... although evolutionists and creationists strongly differ over the role of intelligent design in the origin of species they do appear to agree about the role it plays in the origin of human inventiveness. In the May issue of American Scientist there is an article on this issue.

Dogs ... contrary to research published last year, using genetics, domesticated dogs originated in East Asia and were used as a supplementary meat source in lean times of the year. Dogs are still eaten in China - and across Siberia and East Asia (and the practise was transferred into North America by migrants). Another genetic study at about the same time suggested village dogs in Africa may have been the origin of some, if not many, dog breeds.

Human Brains id186830615 March 3rd ... free will is apparently an illusion. We are simply conscious machines controlled by a combination of our chemistry and external environmental forces. The human brain operates at the conscious level - and the unconscious. It's our conscious mind that makes us aware of our actions and provides us with the sense we control them - yet without the conscious our brains are still capable of inducing our bodies to act.

Hobbits and small brains.

Science Daily January 30th ... is the brain of the Hobbit too small is the question being asked. Research from a team at Cambridge and Durham universities have challenged the idea that hominid and primate brains tended to get bigger over the course of evolutionary time. They showed that in some primate species brains did evolve to become smaller - in marmots and some lemurs. The Hobbit was no more than 3 feet in height and appears to have lived on Flores Island in Indonesia until 13,000 years ago.