Biology news

radioactive pigs

At ... following the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear power station during the earthquake and tsunami wave the surrounding area was evacuated - leaving empty houses, sheds and outbuildings behind. These were duly colonised by animals - most notably by wild pigs. This may say a bit like 'Animal Farm' but the pigs really did get to upgrade to houses.

Life in Space

At ... an interesting discovery. Ribose and related sugar molecules, the backbone of RNA, or ribonucleic acids, which are important in the coding of genetic information from before the emergence of DNA, is found in comets and asteroids. It may actually be abundant in the universe at large. As such, life beyond the confines of the Earth must be feasible.

Big Head

At ... the skull of an Ice Age mammoth has been dug up by a bulldozer operator in Oklahoma. This is not your cold adapted mammoth covered in a woolly exterior but a species adapted to a temperate climate - or even perhaps a warm one. It is also much larger than woolly mammoths, males reaching up to three times the size. Surprisingly, it was found in a sand pit - see image below

soft tissue

Robert Farrar sent in this link, ... which concerns a paper in the online journal PLoS One which documents the survival of soft tissue preserved in ancient reptiles from the Triassic. Soft tissue from Jurassic dinosaurs is also known - but we are going back over 200 million years ago.

lizards in amber

Lots of insects have been found in amber - but apparently so were lizards and geekos ... and the chameleon - go to

moose, dragonflies, owls

At ... a moose living in western Siberia, in the Tomsk region, has been gene mapped in an attempt to form a link with moose living in Siberia until 30 to 40,000 years ago. They appear to have disappeared - or most of them - but so did lots of other animals at this point in time (and no doubt humans too).

At ... the subject here is the Snowy Owl and a bird that was tagged and travelled to the far north and back to Maryland - stopping enroute on top of a skyscraper in Manhattan.

writhing innards

Writhing innards, as in wiggly things like nematoid worms and squidgy life forms such as bacteria. At ... we learn a mile to two miles below the surface of our planet life is teeming with diverse creatures. Geomicrobiologists have been exploring the ground under our feet - looking at rocks and strata that go back even earlier than the Jurassic. Bacteria are still living in them. Deep life has been found all over the world under a variety of conditions.

Life on Earth

One of the consensus ideas that has been popular for a long period of time is the belief that early Earth, over 3 billion years ago, was much warmer than it is today. In fact, some people have gone so far as to suggest that life could only have started to flourish in high temperatures, much warmer than in the modern world. Walls, it is said, are built to be knocked down - and it seems new research may be about to knock down this particular wall of the consensus.

swimming dinosaurs

The idea of swimming dinosaurs has become popular recently, an idea deriving from footprints left behind which tend to show just the front or rear footfalls but not both front and rear at the same time. Various sets of footprints, after the initial claim, have been added to the accumulating idea that dinosaurs could swim or wade, but just what kind of environment is envisaged during the Jurassic. In the UK, if you go by geological theory, half the country was underwater with numerous sand bars and estuarine locations, in a climate very close to that of modern Florida.

another giant

At ... glypodonts, like all armadilloes, originate from a common ancestor around 35 million years ago. The glypodont is a very large version of the armadillo and lived during the Late Plaeistocene - at the same time as giant elephants, giant grould sloths, giant elk and deer, and giant forms of lots of other animals. At the end of the Ice Age all these large mammals became extinct - why? Why did they grow to such a large size? It is almost reminiscent of the Jurassic era - when small dinosaurs of the Triassic became larger versions of the same animal.