Life Science

We tend to think of carbon monoxide (CO) only in terms of being a poisonous gas. The reason for its toxicity is due to its ability to bind really tightly to our hemoglobin molecules, which prevents oxygen from being able to bind. In mammals, CO also decrease breathing rate. As you can imagine, it is a pretty terrible…

New research presented at the British Ecological Society, Liverpool shows that reindeer are shrinking. These findings come from a survey conducted between 1994-2010 in Svalbard, a Norwegian island, which found the animals have lost about 12% of their body mass over this timeframe. The research team thinks the shrinking reindeer phenomenon might be caused by global warming…

What is sex? Musings at 10,000 Birds: This is a simple question with a complicated answer. Part of the answer is this: The biological identity of an individual that guides its choice of mate. So, in a simple version of the world of a bird, there are two sexes, male and female, and males chose…

Why monkeys don’t speak English…

… or any other human language for that matter. Even though both monkeys and humans have the anatomical tools for speech, only humans communicate in this manner. Researchers had assumed, incorrectly, that the anatomy of the vocal tract (lips, tongue, larynx) of monkeys was not capable of producing speech. A new study published in Science Advances shows instead that it…

A changing climate has the potential to greatly impact ectotherms, which depend on the environment to regulate their own body temperatures. In a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology- Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, researchers were curious how exposure to varying temperatures would affect developing ectotherms. They answered this question using Drosophila melanogaster,…

Friday Cephalopod: Not an omelet

What a squid egg mass looks like if you step back a bit:

The Best Bird Books

A few suggestions for holiday gifts, or library upgrades, in the topic of birds. Thinking About Birds Thinking Some very interesting books came out this year that investigate bird brains. Bird Brain: An Exploration of Avian Intelligence by Nathan Emery is the best current book on animal intelligence, and one of the best bird books…

I came across a neat article in Scientific American that described how reindeer and elk regrow their antlers every year. Could you imagine putting that much energy into growing new bone each year complete with a velvety cover containing nerves, skin, and blood vessels? Although full-grown antlers lose their blood supply and animals scrape the velvet…

There was a conference sponsored by the Royal Society last month, titled New trends in evolutionary biology: biological, philosophical and social science perspectives. There have been a number of news stories about this event, some good, some bad. Here’s one: can you tell what’s wrong with it? For example, speaking at the Royal Society was…