Life Lines

Archives for September, 2013

Eran Levin, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Arizona studies Hawk Moths. He used a technique called backlighting to catch them and in the process catches numerous other insects as well. Moths navigate by keeping bright objects like the moon and stars at a constant angle. It turns out that artificial light disrupts the…

Thirsting for turtle tears

The Amazon region is notoriously deficient in sodium because of its large distance from the ocean and because the Andes mountains block the delivery of windblown minerals from the West. Some minerals travel from the east, but much of the air is cleaned by rain before the minerals can make it to the western region…

How to determine if you are a mammal…

This was just too cute (and funny!) not to share. I came across a blog in Scientific American that discussed a “standardized test” created by Hannah Bonner, illustrator and children’s writer, to help determine whether someone (or some creature) is a mammal: The test is part of her book called “When Dinos Dawned, Mammals Got…

Cure to fear of cats discovered

…for rodents and men at least. A team of researchers at UC Berkeley have discovered that mice infected with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii lose their innate fear of cats, even months after the infection is cleared. In fact, infected mice were mildly attracted to the odor of cats. This side effect likely evolved because the parasite…

Sensationalism and the scary spots

Outlandish stories about a 25-pound Savannah cat, known as “Chum”, on the loose in Detroit (above) may have been responsible for his untimely death last month. The 3-year old cat was owned by a local family but was spotted roaming the neighborhood. Neighbors mentioned calling Animal Control and the Detroit Humane Society, whom they say…

Shy birds build “better” bonds

A new study published in Ecology Letters suggests that shy male great tits build stronger bonds with birds in their own flock.  This population of birds has been studied in Wytham Woods, near Oxford, UK since 1947. In case you are wondering, the team determined “shyness” and “boldness” by capturing birds and placing them in a…

A new study published in the American Journal of Physiology presents data suggesting that birds do not carry a specific anti-inflammatory protein critical for keeping inflammation under control in mammals, reptiles and amphibians. The specific protein is tristetraprolin (TTP). It functions mainly by inhibiting key mediators of inflammation in the body, such as tumor necrosis…

Scientists have discovered what they believe is the first example of interacting gears in young planthopper insects, Issus coleoptratus. The gears are on the upper portion of the insect’s rear legs and help ensure the legs work in unison when the insect jumps. These gears are lost as the animal ages and are thus rather…

233,000 gallons of molasses has leaked from a pipeline near the shore of Honolulu suffocating thousands of fish. The pipeline is used to load molasses onto ships. Officials have warned people to stay out of the water as sharks may be attracted to the area. The Hawaii Department of Health is working on removing the…

I came across this video showing thousands of migratory birds circling the Tribute in Lights yesterday. The birds were migrating along the Atlantic Flyway and were disoriented by the lights. Other birds may have been attracted to the large number of insects and smaller birds caught up in the lights as prey (Cornell Lab of…