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Developing Ear May Have Tuning Fork

What tunes up an embryo’s ears before it hears its first sound?  A new study suggests that support cells in the cochlea, long thought to be inert, have a role in tuning up the hair cells during development.  Experiments by Dr. Dwight Bergles and a team at Johns Hopkins suggest that cells in a tissue […]

Fall Colors Have a Function

Deciduous trees have an investment decision to make when fall chill sets in: do they send their sunlight-produced nutrients to the roots early, and so risk damage to the leaves from autumn sunlight, or should they spend more energy creating a sunscreen that allows them to produce nutrients longer, and thereby increase food storage in […]

Cilia Are Antennas for Human Senses and Development

The little hair-like projections on cells, called cilia, have more functions than previously believed.  A press release from Johns Hopkins University said that researchers found cilia are important for the sense of touch – particularly, for heat sensation.  In fact, cilia are implicated in at least three of the five traditional senses.     The […]

Mega-Dinosaur Found in Argentina

Check out this dinosaur: 105 feet long, 43 feet tall, having a neck 56 feet long.  The spinal column alone probably weighed 9 tons.  That’s Futalognkosaurus dukei, one of the largest dinosaurs ever found, recently reported from Argentina (see BBC News and PhysOrg).  A single vertebral bone was nearly 3 feet long.  National Geographic called […]

Inner Ear More Complex than Thought

Another level of complexity has been added to the mystery of hearing.  Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that another membrane in the cochlea of the inner ear, once thought to be passive, is actively involved in transmitting sound waves to the hair cell receptors.  Their work was published in PNAS.1     […]

Make Your Face Sparkle With Diatoms

Human engineers may join forces with cellular architects to produce the next generation of paints, cosmetics and holograms, reported Science Daily.  Scientists are finding ways to harness the rapid growth of diatoms.  Manufacturing consumer products with these properties currently requires energy-intensive, high-temperature, high-pressure industrial processes that create tiny artificial reflectors.  But farming diatom shells, which […]

Crow Cam Lets Scientists See Intelligence at Work

Ever want to fly like a bird?  Now you can do the next best thing: get a tail-feather view of what it is like to fly from branch to branch.  University of Oxford scientists attached a small video camera to the underside of a New Caledonian Crow to watch it in the wild, reported PhysOrg.  […]

Bacteria and Plants Know Network Tech

An article on Science Daily says, “plants have their own chat systems that they can use to warn each other.”  Many herbal plants such as strawberry, clover, reed and ground elder naturally form networks.  Individual plants remain connected with each other for a certain period of time by means of runners.  These connections enable the […]

Molecular Machines Under the Nanoscope

Seeing machines just billionths of a meter long seems impossible, but cell biologists are now routinely looking into the cellular black box.  Using indirect but powerful methods, they can actually begin to visualize the gears and wheels and cogs of the protein machines that make life possible.  Some of our favorite cell gadgets were examined […]

Don’t Just Sit There; Evolve

Have you ever wondered why your body doesn’t evolve?  After all, it is kind of like a population of trillions of organisms.  Why shouldn’t it follow the rules of natural selection?  Philip Ball asked this question in News@Nature recently.  “Evolution is usually thought of as something that happens to whole organisms,” he teased.  “But there’s […]

New World Record for Winged Migration

The BBC News reports that a female bar-tailed godwit flew 11,500km (almost 7200 mi) nonstop from Alaska to New Zealand.  The journey took about a week.  Observers at Massey University used electronic tags to catalog the birds’ flight.     This distance is nearly double what ornithologists used to consider an “extremely long” flight.  This […]

Eyes Do Precision Digital Sampling

What is the shutter speed of the eye?  Have you ever considered this question?  After all, the eye functions like a camera in some respects.  Shutterbugs know that shutter speed and aperture are factors in proper exposure.  Most of us know that the iris of the eye controls the aperture, but what controls the shutter […]

Crows Use Tools on Tools

Crows can use one tool on another to get food.  A report in Science Daily says they appear to use analogical reasoning, not just trial and error, to figure out how to manipulate objects.  They used a short stick to get a longer stick out of a toolbox in order to reach a snack too […]

DNA Repair Is Highly Coordinated

The remarkable ability of cells to repair DNA damage has been the subject of several recent articles.  As a long, physical molecule subject to perturbing forces, DNA is subject to breakage on occasion.  If repair mechanisms were not in place, the genetic information would quickly become hopelessly scrambled and life would break down.  Studies are […]

Motorized Ears Give Mammals Acoustic Acuity

f=”crev03.htm#amazing11″>03/27/2001), we reported on the discovery of prestin, a motor protein that acts as an amplifier in the inner ear.  One of the fastest-acting molecular motors known (02/21/2002), prestin works by stiffening the rod-shaped cell body with its cilia.  Somehow, the action of this motor protein amplifies hearing in mammalian ears by several orders of […]
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