Biology news

Mammoth Island

At ... the discovery of a mammoth tooth in a cave on St Paul's island, off the coast of Alaska (in the Bering Sea) was dated just 6500 years ago (that is 4500BC). Mammoths died out around the time of the Younger Dryas Boundary event but seem to have continued, albeit in a dwarf form, on Wrangel Island in the Siberian Arctic - and the tooth from St Paul's Island seems to indicate they survived on other bits and pieces of stranded land as Beringia was swamped by the rising seas.


The psittacosauros was a small dinosaur dating back to the early Cretaceous (around 120 million years ago). See ... and for a response see (as forwarded by Robert). The full article is at the link and is an interesting read concerning colours and camouflage amongst other things. The specimen of psittacosauroscame from a Chinese fossil bed and appears to have been buried instantaneously as some of its soft parts have survived.

A kinder hump back

A nice piece of observation by a marine ecologist doing work for NOAA - evidence that humpback whales drive off orca pods attacking other marine species. Orcas will attack the young of humpback whales so there is no love lost. However, they appear to thwart killer whale attacks on sea lions, harbour seals, sunfish and gray whales, if they get the chance. The article was published in the August issue of Marine Mammal Science (2016). See

fossil DNA

At ... the link is provided by Robert Farrar and concerns an open access paper in the journal Geology that documents the existence of DNA in ocean bottom sediments up to 1.4 million years of age. Not sure if this is a straw man argument but the claim is that scientists expressed surprise - as DNA is not supposed to last that long. However, it was preserved in bottom sediments, under water, and this might be a mitigating factor.

Birds in Amber

At ... life evolved three times faster after the extinction of the dinosaurs than it evolved in the preceding 80 million years. Is this more evidence of faulty geochronology - the assumption layers of sediment were laid down over an inordinately long period of time whereas an asteroid impact hardly created a whisper in the geological record? The research is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (June 2016).

Bees and Flowers

Bees and electricity feature in this month's Thunderbolts videos - go to ... but we also have the same subject but more nuanced at ... in which the aforesaid Dr Wile, a Creationist rather than an EU advocate, begins by saying that flowers attract bees by a variety of means including flower shape, scent, colour and ultra-violet reflection patterns. The point is that electricity is one of several factors that make up the relationship between flowers and pollinating insects.

Magnetic Pigs

At ... some fish have evolved the ability to live on land, such as blennies. One can see fish adapting in an environment of seasonal water holes or streams that dry up in high summer. Sme of them of course bury themselves in the mud at pond and lake bottoms - waiting for the rains to come round again. On islands the situation differs and it seems blennies can live in water and on dry land - which is quite remarkable.

Water Planet

More evidence of the dominance of water on our planet - see .... and the missing words to that are 'without water'. A study in June's issue of PNAS provides evidence that proteins are folded by smaller water molecules. Protein molecules fall into particular shapes to enable biological reactions - but they can't fold themselves. Water molecules are able to do that for them - and the process has been observed (it would seem).


Testosterone and its effects on evolution - go to ... another kind of change to the pure Darwinian model of evolution is being suggested - and one that involves testosterone levels. Animals with high testosterone have an edge on those of their own species with a more relaxed attitude to mating, display, and the competition for food resources.

Deer and magnetism

At ... Dr Wile discusses animals reacting to earth's magnetic field such as migrating Monarch butterflies and salmon. Homing pigeons are a well known example and some people even claim if you throw your snails over next door's fence they will find their way back home (if you take them in a bucket to a nearby piece of waste ground the same thing is said to happen).