Archive for July, 2007
squid sexapus by Ray Harryhausen.
Much, much chatter about the appearance of ‘giant’ (i.e. up to man-sized) Humboldt Squid (Dosidicus gigas) appearing across the California Coast. A new PNAS paper: Invasive range expansion by the Humboldt squid, Doscidicus gigas, in the eastern North Pacific. Read the rest of this entry »
I‘m going to jump on the blogwagon and post a mystery photo. Not one of mine unfortunately, but hopefully one that requires at least a bit of thinking…
There are clues scattered across microecos (but you’ll have to dig fairly deep), and the savvy searcher can probably find the original source.
The winning guesser gets the satisfaction of a job well done, and perhaps something a bit more exciting if I can come up with anything.
Because, I suppose, of my photography people have developed a picture of me as an expert entomophile. I often get queries and anecdotes on the order of, ‘I found this beetle in my sink, yesterday, it was black with red spots…’
In fact, short of a lecture or two in an invertebrate biology class way back at the turn of the century, I have very little formal education in the ways of terrestrial arthropods.
Of course, you can learn far more about arthropods simply by watching them, than you can from a thousand lectures. Unfortunately, I must admit that I didn’t really pay much attention until relatively recently. Read the rest of this entry »
So goes the theory of pterosaurian mega-skimmers according to a new PLOS paper by Humphries et al. The researchers, including Flickr pterosaur maven Mark Witton, employed the bane of all arm-waving theories, math, to model the energy costs of a large flying pterosaur dipping it’s jaws into the surf to scoop up fish. At least one group of extant birds, the aptly named Skimmers, engages in this behavior. Perceived skeletal similarities (mostly a long, tapered ‘bill’) had led some to infer this style of feeding in pterosaurs.
The authors conclude that the drag incurred by such a behavior would have rendered it a near-impossibility, at least among the large pterosaurs that have been most commonly depicted skimming. The researchers also compared the skulls of pterosaurs with living Skimmers and found the former lacking many of the morphological specializations that would be expected in organisms adapted to skimming.
POSTSCRIPT: They appeared a few weeks ago, scattered loners, the vanguard, cruising over lawns mid-day. In the mornings and evenings, they perched upon t-posts and tomato cages. And rocks too, for those concerned with authenticity. Read the rest of this entry »
Perhaps some important linking source has expired? Or, possibly I have just jettied myself into a corner. The blogosphere may not be the place to attempt to test a reader’s patience across months. I could attempt to fake my own death, like Darren, but I’m afraid no one would know the difference 1.
We didn’t even turn up Indet. in the first survey of the Boneyard, which is nevertheless an exciting and interesting start to a new paleo Carnival. Thanks to Brian at Laelaps for getting the bones rolling. Issue #1 contains virtually everything you need to read about the current Dinosauromorphomania,
short of the original paper including the original paper for those lucky enough to have web access to Science.
Admittedly, my submission on Argentavis was a bit more cursory than GrrlScientist’s. Well, somehow lumbering and cursory at the same time really. It also contained two mispellings of the taxon-in-question, as Google is quite happy to point out:
Oh well, there’s always next week! As a consolation prize Brian did include a link on the Boneyard info page, which hopefully means he expects to see something worthy of inclusion sometime soon. And it’s already generating traffic.
Wood-, straw- and a mud-sealed nests made by wild bees and wasps.
You could shell out 25 quid for a solitary bee nesting block. Or, if you are as crafty as my housemate, you can just take a chunk of 4×4, drill some holes in it and nail it to a post. Or, you could be an idiot.
If you go with options 1 or 2, you’ll be supporting a diverse guild of critical plant pollinators who are fascinating to watch and often quite beautiful. If you go with option 3, well, you are an idiot, go away.
No, they aren’t the components for a uranium centrifuge. But rather, myriad mustard oil bombs, set to detonate. A new paper from Imperial College outlines how cabbage aphids (Brevicoryne brassicae) mimic the chemical defenses of their plant hosts.
The characteristic spicy tang of mustard family plants (broccoli, cabbage etc.) is, as with many of the flavorful plant compounds we humans seem to enjoy, a toxic chemical weapon. In the case of mustard oil, the toxin is actually created when several precursor chemicals are released as the cells of the plant are being destroyed by the would-be mustard eaters.
Cabbage aphids feeding on brassicas ingest plant compounds and metabolism them into the same precursor chemicals that the plants use to ward off herbivores. And who are the aphids warding off? Why, our old friends, the ladybirds (among others)…
but, shown here actually eating a black bean aphid (Aphis fabae) less noxious fare perhaps ?
The researchers found that ladybird larva did not survive to adulthood when fed on a diet of wingless cabbage aphids who carried a high volume of sinigrin, one of the chemical precursors to mustard oil. The winged form of the aphids was apparently less toxic, perhaps suggesting a shift in defense strategy from chemical defense to flying escape.
Peace! oh yeah, and death to aphids!