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Roses Are Red, Darwinists Are Blue

Roses have a special pigment molecule, a particular form of anthocyanin, responsible for all the rich red-to-blue shades in the petals that delight gardeners and attract pollinating insects.  This molecule is different from the pigments in every other flowering plant; it is glycosylated at two positions instead of one.2  A single enzyme does the job […]

Darwin Is Alive and Well at Down House

Chris Darwin, that is – the great, great grandson of Charles, and his fellow descendants Erasmus, Sarah, Allegra, Randal Keynes, and Leo Darwin Vogel.  The family members are retracing his footsteps in the fields around his old house by inventorying the plants, reports the BBC News.  The survey will help show if the flowering plants […]

Soft T-Rex Tissue Claimed Bird-Like; Age Ignored

More details about the soft tissue found in a T. rex thigh bone (see 03/24/2005 story) were published in Science this week.1  Mary Schweitzer’s team claims to have found evidence of medullary bone [MB], a type of mineralized and vascularized bony tissue found only in certain birds during ovulation as a buffer against calcium loss.  […]

All You Wanted to Know About Spider Webs, Except Their Evolution

Each issue of Current Biology contains a Primer on some interesting subject.  The May 24 issue had one about spider webs.1  Fritz Vollrath shared some amazing details about this unique product of the lowly spider, but gave a strange explanation for how the capability to spin strong-as-steel nets evolved.  First, the factoids: Structure:  …the… common […]

New Rodent Discovered in Southeast Asia

“To find something so distinct in this day and age is just extraordinary,” says Dr. Robert Timmons of a stubby-legged, hairy rodent discovered in Thailand.  “For all we know, this could be the last remaining mammal family left to be discovered.”  It’s not exactly like a squirrel, rat, chinchilla or guinea pig: it belongs in […]

Honeybee Dance Wins Ovation

In the 1960s, Karl von Frisch announced the surprising discovery that scout honeybees announce detailed information to their hivemates about food sources with a “waggle dance”.  This information, conveyed via the dance’s vigor and angle, tells recruit bees what angle to fly relative to the sun, how far to go, and how good the food […]

David Attenborough Finds Living Fossil Tree Romantic, Not Devastating

England’s famous Kew Royal Botanical Gardens is getting a Wollemi Pine, and David Attenborough, naturalist and evolution popularist, is proud of it.  This “living fossil” was thought extinct for 200 million years, but was found alive and well a few years ago in Australia (see 12/15/2000 entry).     Grinning like a kid at Christmas, […]

The Monarch Butterflies in the Flight Simulator, II

How much software can fit in a butterfly brain?  Scientists are again amazed at the navigating ability of Monarch butterflies.  In the 07/09/2002 entry, we reported about how Canadian researchers used a clever flight simulator to test Monarch butterfly navigation with reference to sun angle.  Now, using an enhanced version of the earlier “butterfly flight […]

How Did Salamanders Migrate from North America to Korea?

Salamanders are not particularly thought of as world travelers.  A new species of lungless salamander of the family Plethodontidae has been found in Korea.  Almost all previous members were found only in North America.  To EurekAlert, reporting on a paper published in Nature,1 this is comparable to “discovering pandas in California or kangaroos in Argentina.”  […]

Weeds Hold Promise for Miracle Drugs

We’d like weeds if we knew them better, says John Roach for National Geographic News, especially if we realized they may contain wonder drugs.  “It’s often said that plants hidden in the tangle of the Amazonian rain forest may harbor an undiscovered cancer cure,” he writes; “John Richard Stepp thinks the same can be said […]

“Extinct” Woodpecker Found in Arkansas

One of the world’s largest woodpeckers, the ivory-billed woodpecker, thought for over 50 years to be extinct, has been spotted alive in the remote woods of Arkansas.  See National Geographic News, New Scientist, and MSNBC for details. Update 07/21/2005: The good news may be premature.  News@Nature says that some experts believe the observers were mistaken, […]

Giant Carnivorous Amphibians Found in African Fossil Deposit

Meat-eating amphibians shaped like crocodiles?  Be glad you didn’t live in West Africa 250 million years ago, say scientists at McGill University.  Two species were described, one with large and small fang-like teeth, and another with curved horns on the back of its head. The fossils didn’t come with dates on them, and since amphibian […]

Butterflies Really Know How to Fly

The path of a butterfly may appear haphazard to us, but there is a method to the fluttering.  A UK team of scientists put transponders on butterflies and monitored their flight paths.  They found that the looping paths appear to help with orientation and food detection.  The rest of the time, they flew straight at […]

Dinosaur Fossilized in the Act of Laying Eggs

Two eggs, with shell material still attached, were found inside the oviducts of a theropod dinosaur, a Chinese team reported in Science.1  This first-time discovery of intact eggs in the body of the female “suggests that theropod dinosaurs had two functional oviducts (like crocodiles) but that each oviduct produced only one egg at a time […]

Go to the Roach, Thou Robotics Designer

Most of us can’t step on them fast enough, but of cockroaches, engineers at Johns Hopkins say “the pesky critters are excellent role models” – for robotics.  Classroom exercises include building obstacle courses for cockroaches and observing how they use their antennae to navigate, even in the dark.  Said one student, experienced in trying to […]
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