16 posts · 15,535 views
We write about science and the environment for regular people. Our goal is to get regular people excited about science.
In a roly-poly world filled with roly-poly things (like tumbleweeds and peas), the ability to transform one’s non-roly-poly self into a blur of roly-poly-ness can be essential to survival. Huh? See Exhibit A: The pebble toad (Oreophrynella niger), a tiny toad that lives on the tops of mesas in Venezuela. When threatened by a tarantula, [...]... Read more »
Harvey, A., & Zukoff, S. (2011) Wind-Powered Wheel Locomotion, Initiated by Leaping Somersaults, in Larvae of the Southeastern Beach Tiger Beetle (Cicindela dorsalis media). PLoS ONE, 6(3). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017746
Hi, my name is Kelsey and I’m a slacker. (Note: Pete has progressed past the slacker phase into delinquency.) I will try to redeem myself—slowly. I have a whole slew (like five) of completely researched and partially written posts. After careful deliberation, I’ve decided that three of them are keepers. I’ve also decided that if [...]... Read more »
Berry, F., & Breithaupt, T. (2010) To signal or not to signal? Chemical communication by urine-borne signals mirrors sexual conflict in crayfish. BMC Biology, 8(1), 25. DOI: 10.1186/1741-7007-8-25
Rosenthal, G., Fitzsimmons, J., Woods, K., Gerlach, G., & Fisher, H. (2011) Tactical Release of a Sexually-Selected Pheromone in a Swordtail Fish. PLoS ONE, 6(2). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016994
Superman thought he was pretty freaking super and Mighty Mouse thought he was pretty freaking mighty. Therefore, splendid fairy-wrens must think they’re pretty freaking splendid.* And they probably do (especially when compared to their cousins, the less splendidly named lovely fairy-wren and superb fairy-wren). Alas, despite the splendiferous cockiness that their name suggests, male splendid [...]... Read more »
Greig, E., & Pruett-Jones, S. (2010) Danger may enhance communication: predator calls alert females to male displays. Behavioral Ecology, 21(6), 1360-1366. DOI: 10.1093/beheco/arq155
In true science writer geekdom, I have spent the last week trying to figure out where the name “blenny” comes from. Of course, it comes from the suborder name Blenniodei (in the order Perciformes) and the family name Blenniidae…yada yada yada. But where does the blenn- come from? Most scientific names come from Latin, but [...]... Read more »
Hsieh, S. (2010) A Locomotor Innovation Enables Water-Land Transition in a Marine Fish. PLoS ONE, 5(6). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011197
It’s human nature to think of the big bad animals that eat other animals as powerful and the animals that get eaten as wimpy. Of course, humans are often wrong (see “clusterf**kery”). Copepods get eaten by lots of animals—even by critters like jellyfish and right whales, which are known for their lack of speed—but they’re [...]... Read more »
Kiørboe T, Andersen A, Langlois VJ, & Jakobsen HH. (2010) Unsteady motion: escape jumps in planktonic copepods, their kinematics and energetics. Journal of the Royal Society, Interface / the Royal Society. PMID: 20462876
Ensuring paternity is not easy for male red-eyed treefrogs. At night, males perch themselves on the branches of saplings and make a sound called a “chack.” Each male hopes that a female will find his chack to be the sexiest chack of all—if she can even distinguish his chack from those of the other males. [...]... Read more »
Caldwell MS, Johnston GR, McDaniel JG, & Warkentin KM. (2010) Vibrational Signaling in the Agonistic Interactions of Red-Eyed Treefrogs. Current biology : CB. PMID: 20493702
Suppose you’re a caterpillar. You’ve just built yourself a nice home by sewing leaves together with silk and then some jackass invades your turf. How do you defend your home? You could walk right over to that intruder and push him, maybe smack him around a bit or even bite him. Ha! That’d teach [...]... Read more »
Scott, J., Kawahara, A., Skevington, J., Yen, S., Sami, A., Smith, M., & Yack, J. (2010) The evolutionary origins of ritualized acoustic signals in caterpillars. Nature Communications, 1(1), 1-9. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1002
A recent study reports that grizzly bears are encroaching on polar bear habitat in northern Manitoba. That could be a bad thing—or it could just be a thing.
Polar bears and grizzly bears (also known as brown bears) have met before. In fact, they’re cousins. The brown bear came first. At some point (hundreds of thousands [...]... Read more »
Lindqvist, C., Schuster, S., Sun, Y., Talbot, S., Qi, J., Ratan, A., Tomsho, L., Kasson, L., Zeyl, E., Aars, J.... (2010) Complete mitochondrial genome of a Pleistocene jawbone unveils the origin of polar bear. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(11), 5053-5057. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0914266107
Rockwell, Robert, Linda Gormezano, and Daryll Hedman. (2008) Grizzly Bears, Ursus arctos, in Wapusk National Park, Northeastern Manitoba. Canadian Field Naturalist, 323-326. info:/
I don’t “have a thing” for critters with remarkable genitalia. (I swear.) But, while researching barnacle sex, I came across a paper about a male beetle with an intromittant organ (penis) so long and flexible that he has to sling it over his shoulder to keep it safe. Clearly, I couldn’t keep such information to [...]... Read more »
CLAUDIA GACK*, & KLAUS PESCHKE. (2005) ‘Shouldering’ exaggerated genitalia: a unique behavioural adaptation for the retraction of the elongate intromittant organ by the male rove beetle (Aleochara tristis Gravenhorst). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 307-312. info:/
Sad but true: Barnacles (critters who spend the majority of their lives with their heads glued to a hard surface) may be getting more action than you are.
Of course, that depends on how you quantify “action.” Barnacles have a fairly short mating season—compared to our non-stop mating season—but they cram a whole lotta nooky into [...]... Read more »
HOCH, J. (2008) Variation in penis morphology and mating ability in the acorn barnacle, Semibalanus balanoides. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 359(2), 126-130. DOI: 10.1016/j.jembe.2008.03.002
Hoch, J. (2009) ADAPTIVE PLASTICITY OF THE PENIS IN A SIMULTANEOUS HERMAPHRODITE. Evolution, 63(8), 1946-1953. DOI: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2009.00668.x
Murata, A., Imafuku, M., & Abe, N. (2001) Copulation by the barnacle Tetraclita japonica under natural conditions. Journal of Zoology, 253(2), 275-280. DOI: 10.1017/S0952836901000243
Neufeld, C., & Palmer, A. (2008) Precisely proportioned: intertidal barnacles alter penis form to suit coastal wave action. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 275(1638), 1081-1087. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2007.1760
On Thursday, scientists rescued a dog from the icy waters of the Baltic Sea…In December, a Portland, Maine “secret Santa” gave 100 strangers $100 apiece…And, so far, Americans have donated $29 million to American Red Cross Haiti relief efforts.
Humans are so darn nice. But how exactly did that happen? That’s what scientists at the Primate [...]... Read more »
Remember the tale of Nemo (the juvenile clownfish that was fish-napped by a dentist) and Marlin (Nemo’s dad)? Marlin braves the open ocean to find Nemo, meeting a whale-speaking blue tang and a few non-piscivorous sharks along the way. Of course, Marlin and Nemo are reunited (it’s a Disney movie), but could a little clownfish [...]... Read more »
Dixson, D., Munday, P., & Jones, G. (2010) Ocean acidification disrupts the innate ability of fish to detect predator olfactory cues. Ecology Letters, 13(1), 68-75. DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2009.01400.x
Biro, P., Beckmann, C., & Stamps, J. (2009) Small within-day increases in temperature affects boldness and alters personality in coral reef fish. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 277(1678), 71-77. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2009.1346
What’s grosser than gross? How ‘bout a 100-mile long wad of E. Coli-infested mucus?
(Oh, sorry, did that make you gag? We said it was grosser than gross…)
Mucus wads—also known as mucilages—have been reported in the Mediterranean Sea since at least 1729, but recent research found that the loogies are getting bigger, lasting longer and harboring [...]... Read more »
Danovaro, R., Fonda Umani, S., & Pusceddu, A. (2009) Climate Change and the Potential Spreading of Marine Mucilage and Microbial Pathogens in the Mediterranean Sea. PLoS ONE, 4(9). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007006
It may be a dog-eat-dog world* out there, but nowhere is the competition fiercer than in the female reproductive tract.
Biologically speaking, the goal of every male is to produce as many offspring as possible. To do this, males need to have some kick-ass sperm, but according to a recent study, too much kick-ass sperm can [...]... Read more »
Hasson, O., & Stone, L. (2009) Male infertility, female fertility and extrapair copulations. Biological Reviews, 84(2), 225-244. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-185X.2008.00068.x
BRETMAN, A., NEWCOMBE, D., & TREGENZA, T. (2009) Promiscuous females avoid inbreeding by controlling sperm storage. Molecular Ecology_id, 18(16), 3340-3345. http://blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2009.04301.x
The moment you’ve all been waiting for is finally here! Scientists have discovered a way to make something we need (fuel) from a readily accessible, unlimited resource (pee) and a fairly abundant, otherwise useless resource (chicken feather meal).
Why do we need new sources of fuel? Ummm, because…
Oil is old school.
Coal is dirty.
Algae is promising, but [...]... Read more »
Boggs, B., King, R., & Botte, G. (2009) Urea electrolysis: direct hydrogen production from urine. Chemical Communications. DOI: 10.1039/b905974a
Kondamudi, N., Strull, J., Misra, M., & Mohapatra, S. (2009) A Green Process for Producing Biodiesel from Feather Meal. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 57(14), 6163-6166. DOI: 10.1021/jf900140e
Just like Brangelina, gay penguins always make the headlines. Years ago, Roy and Silo—two male chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo—tried to incubate a rock. It never hatched. Zookeepers then gave the pair an abandoned egg, which they successfully incubated and raised to be a healthy chick.
In 2008, a wily pair of penguins at [...]... Read more »
Nathan W. Bailey, & Marlene Zuk. (2009) Same-sex sexual behavior and evolution. Trends in Ecology and Evolution.
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