Archives for the month of: October, 2012
Mmmm...Neck Frills

From: Nate Carroll

My facebook feed alerted me to this timely piece in Nature:

How to Eat a Triceratops

Because who hasn’t wondered?

from Umass Geosciences tribute site

Professor Lynn Margulis

My personal fascination with microbes was sparked by my late Professor Lynn Margulis (3/5/1938 – 11/22/2011). I have idolized her since learning of her work on endosymbiotic cell theory in my high school AP Biology class.

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Fulfilling the Human Microbiome Project (henceforth known as HMP)’s tantalizing potential requires a comprehensive sample of human microbiomes. And when I write comprehensive, I mean comprehensive. Comprehensive as in ideally every population of humans on the planet would participate. The study published this summer only sampled 242 ‘healthy’ Texans and Missourians and is therefore what its title claims it is: a framework for microbiome study. To get to the really juicy bits of this vein of scientific inquiry we need hugely diverse samples. And here is the rub: how do researchers ethically collect HMP data from hesitant (or un-) willing populations – for example, indigenous North American communities?

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Courtesy of Flickr Hivemind

A woman has been missing for ten weeks. Her kidnappers murder her, torch the body until it is unrecognizable, then dump it in the woods, confident that the charred, black chunks of tissue that remain are too scorched for police to identify. No body, no crime.

Such was the situation faced by police recently in Mexico. They had found the charred husk of body and nearby, the high school ring of a woman who had been missing for ten weeks. Unfortunately, the fire had thoroughly consumed any usable tissue from which to extract a DNA sample.

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Why is the sky blue?

It is a well-known (but still fun) fact that the amount of microorganisms in your body outnumbers your own cells 10 to 1. Hundreds of trillions of microbes live within one human body – many crucial to the body’s health and physiological function. Until just recently microbes seemed to get the shafted by biologists, many of who were only interested in the host organism, you or me for example, but largely ignored the influences of our passenger-partners (excepting the virulent or dangerous ones, of course).

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No, this is not an idea for an imaginative five-year-old’s Halloween costume. Paleontologist Paul Sereno (discoverer of the Super-Croc, a 40-foot-long crocodile) published findings today in open-access journal Zookeys detailing the morphology of a strange domestic cat-sized dinosaur that skittered about the Earth approximately 200 million years ago.

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The white flower-like objects are Mimiviruses

An image of an amoeba infected with mimiviruses

Every family of a certain size seems to have “that” side of which they don’t speak, you know, “those” people. The familial rift could have been caused by a disagreement over a spousal choice, a series of unforgivable holiday faux pas, or even cheering for the wrong football team. Now it seems biologists may have inadvertently given the expansive family of life itself a taboo relative – viruses. Viruses may just be life’s equivalent of Aunt Betty, whom your mom didn’t tell you about until you were 18.

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