When the government first changed policy to require ethanol in gasoline, we were told it would reduce our carbon footprint. Then food prices rose significantly and corn in particular saw the largest price rise. This was because corn is a staple in production of almost any other food from eggs to beef, but the policy made environmental sense. Well it made sense, until you found out that the new government policy also took into account people eating less.... Read more »
Searchinger, T., Edwards, R., Mulligan, D., Heimlich, R., & Plevin, R. (2015) Do biofuel policies seek to cut emissions by cutting food?. Science, 347(6229), 1420-1422. DOI: 10.1126/science.1261221
New satellite measurements have given unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution to Antarctice melting. The data indicates the Western shelf is melting faster than thought and the Eastern shelf is no longer gaining thickness. Important information to predict future sea level rises!... Read more »
Paolo, F., Fricker, H., & Padman, L. (2015) Volume loss from Antarctic ice shelves is accelerating. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa0940
Furans are coffee’s dirty little secret. Although we can thank them for the pleasant aroma and delicious flavour of freshly brewed coffee, furans have been labelled as a possible human carcinogen (cause of cancer) in disguise by food safety agencies. How many are in there
depends on how you like your cup of Joe.... Read more »
Altaki, M., Santos, F., & Galceran, M. (2011) Occurrence of furan in coffee from Spanish market: Contribution of brewing and roasting. Food Chemistry, 126(4), 1527-1532. DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2010.11.134
Pavesi Arisseto, A., Vicente, E., Soares Ueno, M., Verdiani Tfouni, S., & De Figueiredo Toledo, M. (2011) Furan Levels in Coffee As Influenced by Species, Roast Degree, and Brewing Procedures. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 59(7), 3118-3124. DOI: 10.1021/jf104868g
Guenther, H., Hoenicke, K., Biesterveld, S., Gerhard-Rieben, E., & Lantz, I. (2010) Furan in coffee: pilot studies on formation during roasting and losses during production steps and consumer handling. Food Additives , 27(3), 283-290. DOI: 10.1080/19440040903317505
Evolution has given the sperm whale the most amazing head in the animal kingdom. They’ve got the biggest brain – all 18 lb.s of it. It has 1900 liters of sperm oil that almost caused in the extinction of the animal. It has one nostril that’s offset on its head, making the whale asymmetric. But most impressively, he can change the density of his head to help him dive or surface, and to do it he uses the same organ he uses for echolocation!... Read more »
Ridgway, S., & Hanson, A. (2014) Sperm Whales and Killer Whales with the Largest Brains of All Toothed Whales Show Extreme Differences in Cerebellum. Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 83(4), 266-274. DOI: 10.1159/000360519
Oliveira, C., Wahlberg, M., Johnson, M., Miller, P., & Madsen, P. (2013) The function of male sperm whale slow clicks in a high latitude habitat: Communication, echolocation, or prey debilitation?. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 133(5), 3135. DOI: 10.1121/1.4795798
BODDY, A., McGOWEN, M., SHERWOOD, C., GROSSMAN, L., GOODMAN, M., & WILDMAN, D. (2012) Comparative analysis of encephalization in mammals reveals relaxed constraints on anthropoid primate and cetacean brain scaling. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 25(5), 981-994. DOI: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2012.02491.x
Montgomery, S., Geisler, J., McGowen, M., Fox, C., Marino, L., & Gatesy, J. (2013) THE EVOLUTIONARY HISTORY OF CETACEAN BRAIN AND BODY SIZE. Evolution, 67(11), 3339-3353. DOI: 10.1111/evo.12197
After decades of debate there remains no generally accepted definition of a “natural” food product. Despite a gamut of products with the label prominently displayed, it has caused a headache in lawsuits for the government who have yet to define “natural”. According to new research, while regulatory agencies have refused to settle the issue, they may be under new pressure from those consumer lawsuits.... Read more »
Petty, R. (2014) “Natural” Claims in Food Advertising: Policy Implications of Filling the Regulatory Void with Consumer Class Action Lawsuits. Journal of Public Policy , 2147483647. DOI: 10.1509/jppm.14.147
Like those breakfast cereals that look healthy on the box but have even more sugar inside than Cocoa Puffs, some rainforest trees engage in false advertising. It's not their fault—it's ours. Climate change has made their leaves less nutritious than they used to be. And the animals who live off of those trees don't exactly have another store to shop at.
Experiments in labs and greenhouses have given scientists mixed answers about what happens to plant tissues in a changing climate. So pr........ Read more »
Rothman, J., Chapman, C., Struhsaker, T., Raubenheimer, D., Twinomugisha, D., & Waterman, P. (2015) Long-term declines in nutritional quality of tropical leaves. Ecology, 96(3), 873-878. DOI: 10.1890/14-0391.1
By Shelly Sonsalla Komodo Dragon. Image by Arturo de Frias Marques on Wikimedia. Komodo dragons are the world’s largest living lizard and can be found only on select islands in the Indonesian archipelago. These massive lizards can grow to be 10 feet in length and up to 150 pounds! Their natural prey includes wild boars, deer, and water buffalo—animals which may outweigh them by several hundred pounds. So how does a lizard, even such a large one, manage to take down prey so much larger tha........ Read more »
Christiansen P, & Wroe S. (2007) Bite forces and evolutionary adaptations to feeding ecology in carnivores. Ecology, 88(2), 347-58. PMID: 17479753
Fry, B., Wroe, S., Teeuwisse, W., van Osch, M., Moreno, K., Ingle, J., McHenry, C., Ferrara, T., Clausen, P., Scheib, H.... (2009) A central role for venom in predation by Varanus komodoensis (Komodo Dragon) and the extinct giant Varanus (Megalania) priscus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(22), 8969-8974. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0810883106
Merchant, M., Henry, D., Falconi, R., Muscher, B., & Bryja, J. (2013) Antibacterial activities of serum from the Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis). Microbiology Research, 4(1), 4. DOI: 10.4081/mr.2013.e4
Montgomery JM, Gillespie D, Sastrawan P, Fredeking TM, & Stewart GL. (2002) Aerobic salivary bacteria in wild and captive Komodo dragons. Journal of wildlife diseases, 38(3), 545-51. PMID: 12238371
Modern winemakers may have erred when they switched to producing high alcohol wines. According to a new paper, from Spanish neuroscientists Ram Frost and colleagues, a low alcohol content wine actually produces more brain activity in 'taste processing' areas than more alcoholic varieties do.
But what does the brain really have to say about Beaujolais? Can scanning help us pick a Sauvignon? Will neuroimaging reveal the secret to a good... er... Nero d'Avola?
In their paper, publishe... Read more »
Frost R, Quiñones I, Veldhuizen M, Alava JI, Small D, & Carreiras M. (2015) What Can the Brain Teach Us about Winemaking? An fMRI Study of Alcohol Level Preferences. PloS one, 10(3). PMID: 25785844
DNA, it’s what makes us, well us! Not that long ago, before we sequenced human DNA we assumed we had one of the largest genomes around. Frankly it wasn’t a bad assumption, but of course we found out this was far from the case and to make ourselves feel better we said size doesn’t matter. But one of the surprising discoveries to emerge from comparative genomics is that drastically different organisms–humans, sea urchins, worms, flies –are endowed with a more or less common set of genes......... Read more »
Alon, S., Garrett, S., Levanon, E., Olson, S., Graveley, B., Rosenthal, J., & Eisenberg, E. (2015) The majority of transcripts in the squid nervous system are extensively recoded by A-to-I RNA editing. eLife. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.05198
SUMMARY: In this fascinating video, Professor Ros Rickaby from Oxford chats with Professor Simon Conway-Morris at Cambridge about how Earth’s changing chemistry has affected evolution, and how this can sometimes lead to evolutionary convergence... Read more »
Williams R. J. P. (1981) The Bakerian Lecture, 1981: Natural Selection of the Chemical Elements. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 213(1193), 361-397. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.1981.0071
Cook L. M., I. J. Saccheri, & J. Mallet. (2012) Selective bird predation on the peppered moth: the last experiment of Michael Majerus. Biology Letters, 8(4), 609-612. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2011.1136
Dhingra A., & H. Daniell. (2004) Enhanced translation of a chloroplast-expressed RbcS gene restores small subunit levels and photosynthesis in nuclear RbcS antisense plants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 101(16), 6315-6320. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0400981101
One of the most amazing animals is one of the least often seen. It has one tooth that grows into a tusk that’s off center. The tusk is basically inside out, with the inside of the tooth exposed to the world. This animal also has the world’s only spiraled tooth, for strength and because that’s what keeps it growing straight. Finally, this animal spends an amazing amount of time on its back. Why do we care about these animal…..because they are so awesome!... Read more »
Nweeia, M., Eichmiller, F., Hauschka, P., Donahue, G., Orr, J., Ferguson, S., Watt, C., Mead, J., Potter, C., Dietz, R.... (2014) Sensory ability in the narwhal tooth organ system. The Anatomical Record, 297(4), 599-617. DOI: 10.1002/ar.22886
Dietz, R., Shapiro, A., Bakhtiari, M., Orr, J., Tyack, P., Richard, P., Eskesen, I., & Marshall, G. (2007) Upside-down swimming behaviour of free-ranging narwhals. BMC Ecology, 7(1), 14. DOI: 10.1186/1472-6785-7-14
Even the most dismal gardener wouldn't mind taking charge of a plot of Lodoicea maldivica. This palm tree knows how to water itself. It even adds fertilizer. As a result, it rules the forest, turning a bad soil situation into seeds the size of a four-year-old human.
Lodoicea maldivica is commonly called the coco de mer palm. "Commonly" might be the wrong word, though, since the tree grows on exactly two islands in the world, in the Seychelles. It roots itself in soil made from weathered g........ Read more »
Edwards PJ, Fleischer-Dogley F, & Kaiser-Bunbury CN. (2015) The nutrient economy of Lodoicea maldivica, a monodominant palm producing the world's largest seed. The New phytologist. PMID: 25616088
Since Hjort’s ground-breaking work, it is admitted that the survival from the egg to the first reproduction is an essential factor affecting the dynamics of fish populations (
see post). Human activities around spawning ground may have an effect on the mortality of the younger age. One of such potentially risky activity is oil exploitation which is on the increase in the northern areas.
... Read more »
Hjermann, D.Ø., Melsom, A., Dingsør, G., Durant, J.M., Eikeset, A.E., Røed, L., Ottersen, G., Storvik, G., & Stenseth, N.C. (2007) Fish and oil in the LofotenBarents Sea system: synoptic review of the effect of oil spills on fish populations. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 283-299. DOI: 10.3354/meps339283
Hidalgo, M., Gusdal, Y., Dingsor, G., Hjermann, D., Ottersen, G., Stige, L., Melsom, A., & Stenseth, N. (2011) A combination of hydrodynamical and statistical modelling reveals non-stationary climate effects on fish larvae distributions. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 279(1727), 275-283. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2011.0750
Ciannelli, L., Dingsør, G., Bogstad, B., Ottersen, G., Chan, K., Gjøsæter, H., Stiansen, J., & Stenseth, N. (2007) SPATIAL ANATOMY OF SPECIES SURVIVAL: EFFECTS OF PREDATION AND CLIMATE-DRIVEN ENVIRONMENTAL VARIABILITY. Ecology, 88(3), 635-646. DOI: 10.1890/05-2035
SUMMARY: To meet humanity’s growing energy demands, scientists are taking lessons from plants, which perfected the process of capturing the sun’s rays and transforming that into starch. Might scientists be able to adapt the photosynthetic process pioneered by plants and adapt it to meet human demands? ... Read more »
Porter G. (1950) Flash Photolysis and Spectroscopy. A New Method for the Study of Free Radical Reactions. Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 200(1061), 284-300. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspa.1950.0018
Porter G. (1966) Studies of Triplet Chlorophyll by Microbeam Flash Photolysis. Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 295(1440), 1-12. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspa.1966.0222
Porter G. (1978) The Bakerian Lecture, 1977: In Vitro Models for Photosynthesis. Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 362(1710), 281-303. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspa.1978.0134
Tyndall J. (1861) The Bakerian Lecture: On the Absorption and Radiation of Heat by Gases and Vapours, and on the Physical Connexion of Radiation, Absorption, and Conduction. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1-36. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstl.1861.0001
Cogdell R. J., P. I. Molina, & L. Cronin. (2013) The use and misuse of photosynthesis in the quest for novel methods to harness solar energy to make fuel. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 371(1996), 20110603-20110603. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsta.2011.0603
SUMMARY: Citizen science is getting a lot of attention these days, which might make you think it is a new social phenomenon. But in fact, nothing is further from the truth.... Read more »
Blackawton P. S., Airzee S. , Allen A., Baker S., Berrow A., Blair C., Churchill M., Coles J., Cumming R. F.-J., & Fraquelli L. (2011) Blackawton bees. Biology Letters, 168-172. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2010.1056
The Cyclops had one eye in the middle of his forehead, but can you think of real animal with only one eye? Two eyes (or more) seem to be very important in evolution. This is so true that when flatfish lie down on the ocean floor they move one eye to the other side of their head! Research is showing that it’s more than just their eye that changes and the alterations are important for their survival. And by the way – there is one kind of animal that only has one eye, it’s the &he........ Read more »
MacDonald P. (2013) A rare occurrence of reversal in the common megrim Lepidorhombus whiffiagonis (Pleuronectiformes: Scophthalmidae) in the northern North Sea. Journal of fish biology, 83(3), 691-4. PMID: 23991885
Suzuki, T., Washio, Y., Aritaki, M., Fujinami, Y., Shimizu, D., Uji, S., & Hashimoto, H. (2009) Metamorphic pitx2 expression in the left habenula correlated with lateralization of eye-sidedness in flounder. Development, Growth , 51(9), 797-808. DOI: 10.1111/j.1440-169X.2009.01139.x
Goto T. (2009) Reversals in two dextral flounder species, Microstomus achne and Cleisthenes pinetorum (Pleuronectida; Teleostei), from Japan. Journal of fish biology, 74(3), 669-73. PMID: 20735586
BERGSTROM, C. (2007) Morphological evidence of correlational selection and ecological segregation between dextral and sinistral forms in a polymorphic flatfish, Platichthys stellatus. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 20(3), 1104-1114. DOI: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2006.01290.x
By Nate Kueffer You’re driving down the road, looking out the window, and you see a large raptor hovering above a field. Have you ever wondered what exactly the raptor could see that you couldn’t? Well, it is thought that raptors may be able to sense ultraviolet light and use it to track voles through urine and feces trails. A hovering kestrel, possibly tracking a vole. Photo by Mark Likner at Flickr. Ultraviolet light is a non-detectable form of radiation by the human eye and is similar to ........ Read more »
Viitala, J., Korplmäki, E., Palokangas, P., & Koivula, M. (1995) Attraction of kestrels to vole scent marks visible in ultraviolet light. Nature, 373(6513), 425-427. DOI: 10.1038/373425a0
by Lucas Marques Da Cunha in genome ecology evolution etc
The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) has a large distribution worldwide. It occurs in North, Central, and South America, Caribbean, and it has recently dispersed to other locations, such as Oceania and Africa. Two traits of this butterfly are incredibly intriguing: … Continue reading →... Read more »
Zhan, S., Zhang, W., Niitepõld, K., Hsu, J., Haeger, J., Zalucki, M., Altizer, S., de Roode, J., Reppert, S., & Kronforst, M. (2014) The genetics of monarch butterfly migration and warning colouration. Nature, 514(7522), 317-321. DOI: 10.1038/nature13812
Ecologists have long tried to understand what animals get up to when they’re not being observed. GPS technologies have enabled unprecedented remote-tracking, but some behaviours – such as diet – are a little more tricky to track. In this post James Grecian (@JamesGrecian), a marine ecologist at the Institute, discusses a technique he uses to track the diet of marine seabirds across some of the world’s […]
... Read more »
Stauss, C., Bearhop, S., Bodey, T., Garthe, S., Gunn, C., Grecian, W., Inger, R., Knight, M., Newton, J., Patrick, S.... (2012) Sex-specific foraging behaviour in northern gannets Morus bassanus: incidence and implications. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 151-162. DOI: 10.3354/meps09734
Grecian, W., McGill, R., Phillips, R., Ryan, P., & Furness, R. (2015) Quantifying variation in δ 13C and δ 15N isotopes within and between feathers and individuals: Is one sample enough?. Marine Biology. DOI: 10.1007/s00227-015-2618-8
Life as we know it, when we peer deep into the vastness of space we look for someone — or something — that resembles ourselves. Carbon based, needs water lifeforms, but what if we’re being narrow-minded? A new type of methane-based, oxygen-free life form that can metabolize and reproduce similar to life on Earth has been modeled by a team of researchers suggests we are being too closed minded about life.... Read more »
James Stevenson,, Jonathan Lunine,, & Paulette Clancy. (2015) Membrane alternatives in worlds without oxygen: Creation of an azotosome. Science Advances. info:/http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1400067
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