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  • February 13, 2015
  • 10:47 AM
  • 1,077 views

The Tree of Earthworms

by Marc in Teaching Biology

Earthworm taxonomists describing what they do to a layperson is hilarious to watch. Laypeople often have a difficult time understanding the concept of a species – you will regularly hear statements that there are only 50 insect species, for example. Insect species often differ in colour and patterning, so it’s easy to then correct a layman’s misconceptions about […]
The post The Tree of Earthworms appeared first on Teaching Biology.
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Domínguez, J., Aira, M., Breinholt, J., Stojanovic, M., James, S., & Pérez-Losada, M. (2015) Underground evolution: New roots for the old tree of lumbricid earthworms. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 7-19. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2014.10.024  

  • February 11, 2015
  • 06:38 PM
  • 1,462 views

10 Species Named After Star Wars Characters

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife



Pictures courtesy of Lucasfilm and J. Armbruster

    Leaving the movie theater in 1977, with Greedo's death at the hands of Han Solo a fresh memory, a young Jon Armbruster could not have anticipated the role that Jabba the Hutt's go-to bounty hunter would play in his scientific contributions decades later.

    And yet...when he (along with Auburn University researchers Milton Tan, Christopher... Read more »

  • February 11, 2015
  • 08:00 AM
  • 1,006 views

Thinking Skinny Thoughts Won’t Help

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

As with so many other things, we learn biology best by studying what happens when things go wrong. You won’t believe the diseases that are being linked to this most innocuous of cell structures. Without any exaggeration, primary cilia make you smart, skinny, and happy. Let’s find out how.... Read more »

Tong, C., Han, Y., Shah, J., Obernier, K., Guinto, C., & Alvarez-Buylla, A. (2014) Primary cilia are required in a unique subpopulation of neural progenitors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(34), 12438-12443. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1321425111  

Han, Y., Kang, G., Byun, K., Ko, H., Kim, J., Shin, M., Kim, H., Gil, S., Yu, J., Lee, B.... (2014) Leptin-promoted cilia assembly is critical for normal energy balance. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 124(5), 2193-2197. DOI: 10.1172/JCI69395  

Davenport JR, Watts AJ, Roper VC, Croyle MJ, van Groen T, Wyss JM, Nagy TR, Kesterson RA, & Yoder BK. (2007) Disruption of intraflagellar transport in adult mice leads to obesity and slow-onset cystic kidney disease. Current biology : CB, 17(18), 1586-94. PMID: 17825558  

Keryer, G., Pineda, J., Liot, G., Kim, J., Dietrich, P., Benstaali, C., Smith, K., Cordelières, F., Spassky, N., Ferrante, R.... (2011) Ciliogenesis is regulated by a huntingtin-HAP1-PCM1 pathway and is altered in Huntington disease. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 121(11), 4372-4382. DOI: 10.1172/JCI57552  

Miyoshi, K., Kasahara, K., Miyazaki, I., & Asanuma, M. (2009) Lithium treatment elongates primary cilia in the mouse brain and in cultured cells. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 388(4), 757-762. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2009.08.099  

  • February 4, 2015
  • 08:00 AM
  • 1,222 views

An Immovable Moving Part- That’s Just Cilia!

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Nothing is simple, and we wouldn’t want it that way. The cilia on cells; they’re for propelling a cell forward or back, or for moving fluid past the cell. Unless they don’t move at all. Could a broken cilium be important to us? You bet, they control every part of our lives. And some aren’t even cilia; sterocilia are made completely differently, but the diseases of cilia affect sterocilia as well – they can make you blind, deaf and unbalanced.... Read more »

  • February 3, 2015
  • 08:05 AM
  • 1,304 views

Tryin' To Make A Tricorder

by Mark E. Lasbury in The 'Scope

Star Trek technology is coming true; modern medicine has borrowed the idea of the tricorder. There’s currently a $10 million X Prize to produce a working model. The goal is take doctors out of the picture and allow consumers to assess their own health status. To win the money, ten teams have developed hand held devices that can diagnose 16 diseases and monitor half a dozen vital signs in real time. ... Read more »

  • January 30, 2015
  • 07:00 AM
  • 823 views

Friday Fellow: ‘Orange Jaguar Snail’

by Piter Boll in Earthling Nature

by Piter Kehoma Boll Last week I introduced a land planarian that feeds on land snails, Obama ladislavii, or, as I called it, the Ladislau’s flatworm. Therefore, today, I thought it would be great to present a similar situation occurring … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • January 28, 2015
  • 08:00 AM
  • 1,364 views

Crawling To The Top

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Nematodes cause horrible diseases, but they way they reproduce is the most fascinating thing about them. Their sperm aren’t shaped like typical animal male gametes. They crawl instead of swimming, and they have a type of cytoskeleton not seen in any other cell type on Earth. Yet, the nematode is the most numerous type of animal on Earth.... Read more »

Smith HE. (2014) Nematode sperm motility. WormBook : the online review of C. elegans biology, 1-15. PMID: 24715710  

H. Ferris. (2009) The beer mat nematode, Panagrellus The beer mat nematode, Panagrellus redivivus: A study of the connectedness of scientific discovery . J. Nematode Morphol. Syst., 12(1), 19-25. info:/

McKnight, K., Hoang, H., Prasain, J., Brown, N., Vibbert, J., Hollister, K., Moore, R., Ragains, J., Reese, J., & Miller, M. (2014) Neurosensory Perception of Environmental Cues Modulates Sperm Motility Critical for Fertilization. Science, 344(6185), 754-757. DOI: 10.1126/science.1250598  

  • January 27, 2015
  • 02:58 PM
  • 1,122 views

Scientific Sherlocks: The Case of the Imperial Pheasant

by Jente Ottenburghs in Evolutionary Stories

In 1923, Jean Delacour discovered a new species of Pheasant in Vietnam. But things were not as they seemed...... Read more »

  • January 23, 2015
  • 01:21 PM
  • 1,038 views

Friday Fellow: ‘Ladislau’s Flatworm’

by Piter Boll in Earthling Nature

by Piter Kehoma Boll Friday fellow is back! After almost a year, I decided to go on with it. Actually, I interrupted it because of several other activities there were requiring my attention. Now let’s move on! Today I will … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • January 14, 2015
  • 03:43 PM
  • 790 views

Nature's Drag Queens

by Jente Ottenburghs in Evolutionary Stories

Some men like to dress up like females. But do you find drag queens in other species? It turns out Nature has some surprises up her sleeves.... Read more »

Norman, M., Finn, J., & Tregenza, T. (1999) Female impersonation as an alternative reproductive strategy in giant cuttlefish. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 266(1426), 1347-1349. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.1999.0786  

Slagsvold, T. . (1991) Evolution of Plumage Color in Male Pied Flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca): Evidence for Female Mimicry. Evolution, 45(4), 910-917. info:/

  • January 14, 2015
  • 10:41 AM
  • 1,052 views

Journal Club: Birds pick nest materials with camouflage in mind

by GrrlScientist in Maniraptora

SUMMARY: A recent study by a research team in Scotland reveals that birds intentionally choose colour-matching materials to camouflage their nests thereby reducing predation risk. Read more... Read more »

Bailey Ida E., Kate Morgan, Simone L. Meddle, & Susan D. Healy. (2015) Birds build camouflaged nests. The Auk, 132(1), 11-15. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1642/auk-14-77.1  

  • January 14, 2015
  • 08:00 AM
  • 1,174 views

Everybody In The Gene Pool - Plants That Swim

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Plants can be moved by wind and water. Their pollen and seeds can be moved by insects, wind, gravity, but plants themselves don't have motile cells. Well – that’s not always true. Some trees have swimming cells; they take the plunge in order to find a mate.... Read more »

  • January 7, 2015
  • 08:00 AM
  • 1,238 views

The Fungus And The Frog

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Amphibians are some of the most vulnerable animals on Earth. Their numbers have been crashing for years. The reasons for this are several, but one fungal infection is a big contributor. This fungus teaches us about evolution, common descent, and phylogenetics – but hopefully it’ll be eaten up by a newly discovered water flea!... Read more »

Martel, A., Spitzen-van der Sluijs, A., Blooi, M., Bert, W., Ducatelle, R., Fisher, M., Woeltjes, A., Bosman, W., Chiers, K., Bossuyt, F.... (2013) Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans sp. nov. causes lethal chytridiomycosis in amphibians. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(38), 15325-15329. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1307356110  

  • January 5, 2015
  • 02:32 PM
  • 1,194 views

Journal Club: Halfsider: a bizarre half-male half-female bird

by GrrlScientist in Maniraptora

SUMMARY: A “halfsider” -- half male and half female bird -- has been mentioned in the news over the holidays. More properly known as bilateral gynandromorphs or tetragametic chimæras, these unusual birds are actually two genetically distinct individuals -- twins -- fused into one being. But what is it like to be such an individual? A recently published paper shares observations of the behaviour and social life of one such individual living in the wild.... Read more »

  • December 30, 2014
  • 10:21 AM
  • 1,858 views

9 Weird and Interesting Facts about Caecilians

by beredim in Strange Animals

There are about 200 species of caecilians (pronounced ‘seh-SILL-yuns’) but it's highly unlikely you have or will ever encounter one.  Why? Because they live underground, burrowing through loose soil and ground litter with their long, snake-like bodies.


Read on to learn 9 weird and interesting facts about these unusual creatures.



Bombay caecilian (Ichthyophis bombayensis)
Credit - Wikicommons... Read more »

Kupfer, A., Müller, H., Antoniazzi, M., Jared, C., Greven, H., Nussbaum, R., & Wilkinson, M. (2006) Parental investment by skin feeding in a caecilian amphibian. Nature, 440(7086), 926-929. DOI: 10.1038/nature04403  

  • December 30, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 1,453 views

Turning New Year’s On Its Head

by Mark E. Lasbury in The 'Scope

The popular phrase is, “It’s not the years in your life, but the life in your years.” Many organisms get to have both. We can learn a lot from studying old organisms, but perhaps the biggest question to answer is what constitutes a single life. Many living things seem to cheat; they have more than one life.... Read more »

  • December 29, 2014
  • 12:10 PM
  • 1,911 views

8 Weird Animal Penises

by beredim in Strange Animals

Penis, the primary sexual organ that male and hermaphrodite animals use to inseminate sexually receptive mates (usually females and hermaphrodites respectively) during sex. Almost all species use some variation of the organ to transfer sperm into females' eggs in order to create more offsprings.

However, thanks to evolution, some species have come up with some really remarkable and weird ... Read more »

  • December 28, 2014
  • 12:01 PM
  • 1,376 views

Give us a Hand, Gar: More Insights into the Evolution of Tetrapod Limbs

by Jente Ottenburghs in Evolutionary Stories

The transition from water to land is well documented in the fossil record, but genetic support is still scarce. Until now.... Read more »

Gehrke, A., Schneider, I., de la Calle-Mustienes, E., Tena, J., Gomez-Marin, C., Chandran, M., Nakamura, T., Braasch, I., Postlethwait, J., Gómez-Skarmeta, J.... (2014) Deep conservation of wrist and digit enhancers in fish. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201420208. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1420208112  

  • December 26, 2014
  • 04:49 AM
  • 1,234 views

Adorable Alien-like Bat Embryos

by beredim in Strange Animals



Credit: Dorit Hockman from the University of Cambridge




This cute alien-like thing is actually a bat embryo of the species Molossus rufus, the black mastiff bat. Adorable, ain't it?



The photo was taken by Dorit Hockman from the University of Cambridge during a study on the species' embryonic development. It was one of the finalists in the Nikon Small World 2012 photomicrography ... Read more »

Nolte, M., Hockman, D., Cretekos, C., Behringer, R., & Rasweiler, J. (2009) Embryonic Staging System for the Black Mastiff Bat,(Molossidae), Correlated With Structure-Function Relationships in the Adult. The Anatomical Record: Advances in Integrative Anatomy and Evolutionary Biology, 292(2), 155-168. DOI: 10.1002/ar.20835  

  • December 25, 2014
  • 04:57 AM
  • 1,148 views

Flying Dragons Pretend to Be Leaves to Avoid Predation

by beredim in Strange Animals




Draco cornutus
Credit: Dr. Devi Stuart Fox


A new study by researchers at the University of Melbourne suggests that Draco Cornutus, a species of gliding lizard from Borneo, mimicks  the red and green colors of the falling leaves to avoid falling prey to birds whilst gliding.



According to the study, D. cornutus have evolved extendable gliding membranes, like wings, which closely match the ... Read more »

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