Life Lines

Archives for October, 2012

Honeybee anesthetic

Not only do bees sting, but they also bite victims that are too small for stingers (ex: wax moth larva that invade the beehive and eat pollen) and paralyze them for up to nine minutes by secreting 2-heptanone into the wound. This paralysis gives the bees time to remove the invaders from the beehive. Dr. Papachristoforou…

Dr. Tim Jessop from the University of Melbourne, Australia and colleagues  spent eight years following 400 Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) to learn more about their growth rate, lifespan as well as differences between populations on isolated Indonesian islands. Their most surprising finding was that female Komodo dragons only live an average of 32 years whereas males live for about 60 years.…

Octopuses vs. octopi

Thank you to a recent comment from a reader questioning whether the proper plural form of octopus is octopuses or octopi. Here is the “official” answer from the editor at Merriam Webster:

Image of female Argonaut. Photo from Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, taken by Gary Florin.   A rarely seen species of octopus was found this week by fisherman off the coast of San Pedro, California. The baseball-sized female Argonaut (aka: paper nautilus), pictured in the image above, normally lives in tropical and subtropical waters. She is now…

Celebrate Reptile Awareness Day on October 21st! The ReptileChannel.com has listed 10 ways to celebrate the day on their website that you can view here. According to daysoftheyear.com, this special day is dedicated to promoting awareness of reptiles and the ecological challenges they face. I was surprised to learn that scientists have developed a new…

Using silk to repair eardrums

Dr. Marcus Atlas, from the Ear Science Institute in Australia, and his team have pioneered a novel treatment for repairing damaged eardrums using silk obtained from silkworm cocoons, like the one pictured above.

Elephant “Hair Conditioning”

Researchers think that the hair on an elephant might actually function to keep the animals cool as opposed to keeping them warm as it does for other mammals. Living in hot climates (as high as 122 degrees F) since the last ice age means the animals have had to evolve ways to tolerate the heat.…

Humans vs. Dogs

I just watched a funny entry submitted for the 2012 American Physiological Society’s (APS) video contest on some of the differences betweens humans and dogs. The authors of the video were Nate Brault and Thomas Szamocki from Beloit College. It is also available in the APS Archive of Teaching Resources, a searchable archive of teaching…

Making perfume from whale barf

You may recall a prior blog in which I talked about the wonders of whale poo and a substance called ambergris that can be either defecated or regurgitated by whales and is used to make expensive perfumes. Well, my favorite comic strip, Piled Higher and Deeper (i.e. PhD Comics), posted a 2-minute thesis presented by…

More Sharks to Track

While Dr. Barbara Block’s team from Stanford University is tagging and tracking sharks in the Northern Pacific (see prior blog), Chris Fischer and his team from History Channel’s Shark Wranglers are tracking great white sharks off the coast of Cape Cod…home of “Jaws.” You can track these sharks by visiting Ocearch.org. The goal of this research…