Biology news

Mosquitoes in History

Mosquitoes are blamed for spreading the Zika virus but the variety appears to have crossed the Atlantic in slaving ships in the 15th and 16th centuries - see ... the variety of mosquito known as Aedes aegypti has a preference for human blood. It has also learned to live in human environments, laying eggs in artificial containers, pots and cans, barrels, wells and cisterns etc..

Dinosaur Ants

At ... ants go back a long way - but they were not always social insects (although small groups of ants are known in fossilised settings). Modern forms of ants are successful as they all work for the common good - or that of the queen ant. In the early stages ants were often solitary predators and here we have another example (or seemingly so). Dr Wang Bo of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has been looking at an ant preserved in amber from Burma going back 99 million years ago ...

Plankton and Vents

At ... the subject is hydrothermal vents and methane seeps on the sea floor in various regions of the world. These have variously been treated as something of a geological and biological oddity - under the waves and out of sight. It is now emerging they are something special, an important force in the ecology of the marine system. They are also said to affect global climate but we can take that with a pinch of salt as climate has a habit of creeping into all manner of studies, with little real relevance.

wild and wilder horses

At ... science has been having a look at wild horses and how they survived the last Ice Age into the Holocene and the modern world. In the open landscape of the Late Pleistocene the wild horse was common. In the post glacial wooded environment horses were confined to a few refugia, it is thought. Mostly they were confined to the steppe zone and central Asia which is where they were eventually domesticated. Did wild horses survive into the 19th and 20th centuries. It is thought most of these were feral - domesticated horses gone wild.


At ... archaeologists have unearthed the bone of pre-Younger Dryas bison on a dig in Florida (among other interesting things) some ten feet below the ground surface. The bone was found in material from the Pleistocene epoch and it seems it is a rare find as bison roamed a grassland environment and most bones disintegrated over time.

monkey business

At ... (see also ... is one of those stories where a new find is like a torpedo, holing a consensus theory in the midriffs. Fossil teeth of monkeys have been unearthed by the Panama Canal expansion project. It was thought monkeys crossed over from South America when the two parts of the continent came together around 3.5 million years ago.

radiation a lesser effect than ...

Radiation appears to have a lesser effect on animals than human activity and interference - see Robert Farrar has also sent in the link to ... and the same story can be seen at other online sites (now or in the recent past). We might begin by saying here we go again -Chernobyl and the exclusive zone. However, this time some further information is p[assed on to Joe Public. Some of the animals in the exclusion zone, such as Dzungarian horses, were deliberately introduced as an experiment.

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