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More Pow in the Cambrian Explosion

Scientists have found more fossil evidence for sudden emergence of animal body plans in the Cambrian strata.  Two papers in Geology discuss evidence on opposite sides of the world.  One team found bryozoans in Mexico 8 million years older than the record-holders in China,1 and another scientist found diverse echinoderms in Spain dating from the […]

Bacteria: Let’s Harness Those “Perfect Machines”

Ten Italian scientists have a novel idea.  They want to hitch up their wagons to bacteria and use them to power nanomachines.  It’s too much work to build such “perfect machines” from scratch, they said.  Why not just take advantage of what nature has already provided?     Their paper in PNAS1 is downright dreamy […]

Archaeopteryx Fossil Retains Original Soft-Tissue Material

We are usually told that fossils involve the complete replacement of original living material by rock, except in rare cases (such as amber), because organic material is quickly destroyed.  One of the most famous rock fossils is Archaeopteryx, the bird that has often been claimed to be a missing link from dinosaurs.  An international team […]

Archer Fish Sees Clearly Up and Down

The archer fish, which lives in mangrove swamps and rivers, is able to spit insects off leaves above the water with remarkable accuracy (09/30/2002, 09/07/2004, 10/10/2006).  Scientists have been fascinated by this ability because in order for the fish to calculate the trajectory of its missiles, it needs to take into account both chromatic aberration […]

Dino-Feather Story Gets Fluffier

Xing Xu is at it again, claiming that dinosaur feathers are found everywhere – in China, at least, where the bulk of “feathered dinosaur” claims keep turning up in farmyards.  The latest claim is that “Feather structures in maturing dinosaurs changed as they grew.”  This story is accompanied by artwork showing the critters looking as […]

Clock Gene Same in Humans and Birds

Science Daily, this “not only sheds light on how our internal annual body clocks function but also shows a key link between birds and mammals that has been conserved over 300 million years.”     Mammals, including humans, have a hormone released by the pituitary gland that controls melatonin levels – known to affect the […]

New Theory on Evolution of Bat Flight

How did bats evolve the ability to fly?  Evolution helped them out by providing them with higher energy.  After all, “Flight is among the most energy-consuming activities” in the animal kingdom, said a team of Chinese and Canadian scientists reporting in PNAS,1 so it’s obvious that evolution must have provided the genes to get the […]

Blood Clotting Fibers May Lead to Better Networks

We all know that blood clotting has kept us alive many times.  We would never have survived childhood scrapes and cuts had it not been for a cascade of responses in blood that builds a network of fibers quickly upon which a scab of tissue stops the flow of blood and begins repairs.  That first […]

Blind Fish Lead the Blind

Imagine miniature subs that can negotiate tight spaces or murky waters in the dark.  Meet Snookie: a device created by researchers at the University of Technology Munich, who took their inspiration from blind cave fish.     The report on Live Science says that the blind Mexican cave fish Astyanax mexicanus is born with eyes […]

Leapin’ Lizards: Giant Lizard Discovered

A large species of lizard unknown to science has been discovered alive and well in the Philippines.  The BBC News has a picture of the monster, a class of monitor lizard, that measures 2 meters from snout to tail.  That makes it about 2/3 the size of its famous cousin from Java, the Komodo Dragon.  […]

Smelling Evolution in Bird Genes

The zebra finch genome has been sequenced; it revealed some surprises.  In the chicken, only 70 of the 500 genes encoding smell receptors produce active proteins.  In the zebra finch, 200 do.  What does this mean?  According to a press release from Weizmann Wonder Wander at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, it means Darwin […]

Snakes Alive!  An Evolutionary Tale

Blind snakes that look like worms: they rule the world.  They’re everywhere.  Where did they come from?  “Blindsnakes are not very pretty, are rarely noticed, and are often mistaken for earthworms,” admits Blair Hedges, professor of biology at Penn State University.  “Nonetheless, they tell a very interesting evolutionary story.”  So reported Science Daily.  National Geographic […]

Elephants Equipped with 4WD

An elephant is built like a four-wheel drive vehicle, say scientists from the Royal Veterinary College in London.  Unlike other mammals, which divide acceleration and braking between the front and rear legs, “power is applied independently to each limb,” reported PhysOrg from a paper in PNAS.1 “Elephant limbs operate analogously to four-wheel-drive vehicles,” the authors […]

Biomimetics: Science for Now

Do you want science that makes a difference in our lives?  Look at real plants and animals with real solutions to practical problems.  That’s where researchers are making amazing discoveries with practical spinoffs. Shellfish materials:  Strong, lightweight structures are coming, thanks to the imitation of oysters and shellfish.  PhysOrg reported that researchers at the University […]

Beetle Pulls 1,141 Times Its Weight

Ever watch those contest shows for the World’s Strongest Man?  Compared to dung beetles, they’re wimps.  Scientists at Queen Mary, University of London found that the strongest beetle tested could pull an astonishing 1,141 times its own weight – “the equivalent of a 70kg person lifting 80 tonnes (the same as six full double-decker buses),” […]
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