Blogospherics – Recommended reads

The internet if full of great stuff to read today. Grrl Scientist (did I put enough “r”‘s in there?) has discovered a new bird species. Well, she didn’t actually discover it, but she is reporting on it.

Sharp-eyed scientists have discovered a new species of bird on a remote Indonesian archipelago in the Southern Pacific Ocean. A formal description of this new species, the Togian white-eye, Zosterops somadikartai, was just published in the March issue of the ornithological journal, The Wilson Journal of Ornithology. Not only was this bird recognized as a new species, but its population and home range were so small that this species was recommended to be added to international endangered species lists.

So, bird, the good news is we’ve discovered you! Oh, but the bad news is, you’re endangered!

Seeds Aside has an engaging post about the monospecific nature of the artichoke, the cardoon, and the wild ancestor of the two. The two edibles have very different stories of domestication.

Interestingly, these domestication events took places at different time, the artichoke was created first and is more ancient…. On the other hand, cardoon seems to have originated more recently,

Which reminds me ….

Send me your posts on plant biology and evolution for Berry Go Round.

OK, back to the blogosphere…

PZ Myers at Pharyngula is constantly being accused of writing a “science blog” that has no science in it. But this is not true. First of all, much of what he writes that is political or social is about science or related topics (you don’t have to look hard to see the connections). Second, he does actually post a lot of science, but his science stuff exists in a greater sea of diverse stuff. Enough apologizing, you need to go read his post on Dicyemid mesozoa.

The dicyemids are all parasites: specifically, parasites that live in the renal sacs of benthic (primarily) cephalopods. They take up residence inside the kidneys of cephalopods, attaching themselves to the renal tubules or the crypts (folds) of the sac with a specially shaped set of anterior cells called the calotte, and then they live there, bathed in octopus urine, from which they extract all the nutrients they need.

It’s a beautifully specific lifestyle in a very narrow environment; they occupy a niche that is populated only by other dicyemid mesozoans.

Clearly, they have it made…

Speaking of evolution, Laelaps excavates and blogs upon an ancient paper (must be close to two years old) on the Cambrian “Explosion.”

Unfortunately there are many more questions than answers about the Cambrian radiation at this point, and many creatures remain enigmatic. The author notes that presently there doesn’t seem to be evidence that a greater number of phyla emerged but became extinct …, but the inability of present researchers to confidently identify a number of Cambrian organisms (and earlier Ediacaran organisms) still has some bearings on the more philosophical debate about contingency and “directed” evolution.

Laelaps is doing something I want to do more of: Writing about important peer reviewed research that is not just coming out, but is still, of course, very important.

I covered the Robotic Bats a few days ago, but Shelley (with two e’s, so be impressed!) has a much more detailed and graphic expose in Robotic Spying Bats: Coming Soon!

Bats are sneaky, silent, and stealthy…so why shouldn’t they be spies? Engineers at the University of Michigan are currently developing a six-inch, robotic spying device modeled after a bat…

And now, two items of a more political nature.

“Revere” (as in Paul) of Effect Measure comments on Prostitution vis-a-vis recently X-ed Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer.

…Spitzer made a critical mistake in his relation to a prostitute: he had sex with her. Sex is bad, at least in America. You’d think a politician would no better than almost anyone. You don’t have sex with prostitutes. You take campaign money from them…

And Virginia Hughes examines the relevance, or lack thereof, of a sociobiological “explanation” for powerful men being effectively polygynous.

So, maybe … with a little bit of biology education the Puritanical public wouldn’t expect politicians to exhibit “sexual restraint.” I’m appalled at the weight of the scandal in media outlets throughout the world. …OK, so the governor of New York hired prostitutes. Often. …

All that said, let’s back the determinism truck up for a second. Spitzer was guilty of more than infidelity. He didn’t just have a mistress, or 12. He paid women ($4,300 to Kristen, and at least $80,000 in total) for sex, thus breaking the same federal laws that he enforced so gleefully in his days as a prosecutor.

That is all. For now.