How does a puffin hold so many fish in its mouth at once? The bloggers over at TYWKIWDBI did some research, and found the second photo above. It portrays:
An Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) shows off its tongue, which is specially adapted to allow it to carry many fish in its bill at one time. Atlantic puffins typically carry about 10 fish in their bills at one time, using their tongues to hold their catch against spines on their palate.
Two Newly Discovered Salamander Species Described by Colombian Researchers
by Stuart Patterson
A team of young researchers from Colombia have recently published an article in the journal Zootaxa describing two new species of salamander discovered during a project supported by the Conservation Leadership Programme and Save Our Species.
The two new salamanders belong to the genus Bolitoglossa, otherwise known as tropical climbing or web-footed salamanders. One of the salamanders (B. leandrae) has been named after an 11-year old girl who became friends with the team whilst they conducted their fieldwork. “Leandra grew fascinated by the world of amphibians,” explains team leader Aldemar Acevedo. “She was eager to learn about our work and became an excellent spokesperson for nature conservation among the community.”
Bolitoglossa leandrae is a relatively small salamander (its body measures roughly 2.5 cm in length, about the size of a 50 pence, 20 cent or US quarter coin) with a narrow head and long, slender tail. Males are dark brown with thin yellow stripes along the length of the body and females are reddish brown.
Bolitoglossa tamaense is slightly longer than B. leandrae (the body of the longest specimen measured approximately 5 cm, or the same as the height of a credit card) and has a broad head and relatively long body and legs. A number of different colourations and patterns were recorded, but the body is generally brown or dark red, and the tail and limbs can be dark brown, red, orange or yellow…
(read more: Flora and Fauna Intl.) (photos: Aldemar Acevedo)
Animal Eye Close-Ups
Jeepers creepers, where’d you get them peepers?
Aren’t eyes just great? It’s amazing to see how evolution has solved a single problem in such a myriad of ways. Actually, to be more accurate, it’s amazing to see that evolution has molded such diverse and intricate machinery from perhaps the same starting point.
That’s right. Although it’s long been thought that animal eyes evolved separately as many as 40 times, eyes most likely owe their varied existence all to one single gene. That gene is named Pax6, and it’s a master control switch for many of the things that end up becoming eyes in jellyfish, flies, snakes and even humans. It doesn’t make eyes on its own, but acts like the conductor during the symphony of development. The protein it makes looks like this:
Now that we are sequencing more and more genomes, and deciphering the precise DNA sequence of Pax6 in all of those diverse creatures, we are able to map out how that gene has changed over time. Like a game of molecular telephone, DNA sequences (usually) get more and more scrambled as they spread into new species. Follow the molecular breadcrumbs back far enough, and you can find out where you came from.
And for all those oodles of eyes, all gorgeous, intricate and exquisite, Pax6 might hold the key to seeing where vision began.
Computer simulated pyramidal neurons | wellcome images
This computer simulated image was created using software called the ‘TREES toolbox’, which allows scientists to generate neuronal structures indistinguishable from those found in the real biological brain. This image shows synthetic neurons that represent the optimized size, shape and connectivity of pyramidal neurons analogous to those found in the cortex of the brain. Pyramidal neurons are so-called because they have a pyramid- shaped cell body (soma), they are also characterized by long branching dendrites. They are found in the forebrain (cortex and hippocampus) of mammals and are thought to be involved in cognitive function.
Each neuron is assigned a different colour so that individual structures and processes can be easily distinguished. These highly accurate synthetic neurons have the added advantage of being manipulated and viewed in a number of different ways, helping scientists learn more about cell shape and how neurons are constructed.
2011 Wellcome Image Award winner.
Zoanthids, like all of the animals we typically call “coral” in the marine aquarium hobby, are cnidarians (pronounced “nigh-dare-ee-yans”). More specifically, zoanthids are part of the class Anthozoa, which includes the soft and leather corals, sea anemones, mushroom corals and stony corals (and exclude other cnidarians such as fire corals, lace corals, jellyfishes, and sea wasps). Anthozoa, as a word, originates from Greek (“anthos” and “zoion”) and translates roughly as “flower animal,” which is an apt name for most zoanthids.
Like sea anemones, mushroom corals and stony corals, zoanthids are called hexacorals because they have polyps with tentacles in multiples of six (octocorals, on the other hand, have eight tentacles). Zoanthids, unlike the “true” or stony corals (what hobbyists generally term SPS and LPS) lack skeletons, but they are also not soft corals (which are all octocorals). The polyps of zoanthids are either solitary or embedded in so-called mats. Solitary polyps are often connected to other polyps by runners (called stolons, pronounced “stoe-lahn”), while mat polyps embed themselves in a tissue matrix or mat (called a coenenchyme and pronounced “see-nehn-kyme”).
Source: [x] Image Credit: Felicia McCaulley, Sanoe Nakao, Travis Staut, Kien Tran
A Japanese-led team of scientists has captured on film the world’s first live images of a giant squid, journeying to the depths of the ocean in search of the mysterious creature thought to have inspired the myth of the “kraken”, a tentacled monster.
The images of the silvery, three-meter (10 feet) long cephalopod, looming out of the darkness nearly 1 km below the surface, were taken last July near the Ogasawara islands, 1,000 km (620 miles) south of Tokyo.
Cartoon of the day by Ariel Molvig. For more from this week’s issue: http://nyr.kr/Onj2bD
Talk about brainwashing—a newfound plumbing system, identified in mice, likely helps the brain empty its waste, a new study says. Because mouse biology is similar to ours, the same findings should apply to people too, experts say.
Thanks to a blood-brain barrier—a natural wall that protects the brain tissue—the organ never touches blood, thus protecting it from microbes, viruses, and other pathogens.
To get nutrients to brain tissue and remove its waste, the brain makes a liquid called cerebrospinal fluid. But exactly how the fluid removes gunk generated by brain cells wasn’t certain until now.
Experiments in the 1950s and ’60s hinted that diffusion—the passive method by which, say, food coloring spreads out in a glass of water—moved cerebrospinal fluid around the brain.
Yet this process is too slow to explain the brain’s lightning-fast activity and immaculate cleanliness.
It turns out that, while studying brain tissue, the researchers in the 1950s and ’60s unwittingly turned off the plumbing that washes the tissue.
“The idea of a cleaning system based on pressure has been around for a long time, but if you open the skull anywhere, like a hydraulic pump, it stops. They thought [the cleaning system] didn’t exist,” said study leader Maiken Nedergaard, a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
The pump system is “on the order of a thousand times faster than diffusion,” she said. “I’m surprised that no one had discovered this until now.”
Source: National Geographic
Vintage illustrations of a hemoglobin tetramer and the circulatory system by Irving Geis.
500 Million Year Old Bacteria Resurrected
Using a technique called “paleo-experimental evolution”, Georgia Tech researchers have brought a 500 million year old gene back to life. Betül Kaçar, astrobiologist and leader of the study, was able to achieve this remarkable feat of resurrection by splicing the ancient genetic sequence with modern Escherichia coli (E. Coli) bacteria, an abundant protein found in all known cellular life. The old and the new were hybridised it to create a “chimera”—a new, combined strain of bacteria—which then reproduced and re-evolved. Initially slow to grow, it has now survived over 1,000 brief generations and allows researchers to literally see evolution in action—to observe the different evolutionary trajectories, and whether these are always repeated or whether different choices can be made to achieve a different outcome. The team at Georgia Tech reported that some strains of the hybrid actually became more robust than the original, suggesting that it made smart mutations. Interestingly, the ancient bacteria’s adaptation didn’t bring it closer to the modern E. Coli—instead, it seemed to find a new evolutionary trajectory, giving interesting insight into how life on earth could have evolved differently. We won’t be resurrecting any dinosaurs soon, but this research could help us address long-standing questions in evolutionary and molecular biology.
Reanimated, Cyborg Jellyfish Made From Rats
Aside from being an awesome album title, the above is also the most accurate descriptor of what follows. Scientists at Havard have succeeded in making an abomination when they took rat heart muscle cells, coated a mould with them, allowed them to grow and then shocked them into life. Creating something they then called a Medusoid (which is appropriately terrifying in my opinion). The thing itself was based around the design of a jellyfish which the scientists hoped to mimic.
The aim of this however is a medical one and it’s intended that by playing around with the shapes of heart muscles we’ll get a better understanding into how the heart functions and how drugs effect it.
This is what your tongue looks like at 40x.
The human tongue is made up of four intrinsic and four extrinsic skeletal muscles. Contrary to common belief, there is no “taste map” for the human tongue - each region can detect the common gustatory sensations (sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami).
Credit: Susan M. Daley, Rochester Institute of Technology
Extinct Birds by Brian R. Williams shows birds in the style of dress in fashion the year they went extinct.
Taking cues from the firefly, a Dutch electronics company has created a product called “Bio-light”—an eco-friendly lighting system that uses glowing, bioluminescent bacteria. They’re not powered by electricity or sunlight, but by methane generated by the company’s Microbial Home bio-digester that processes anything from vegetable scraps to human waste. The living bacteria are fed through silicon tubes, and as long as they’re nutritionally-fulfilled, they can indefinitely generate a soft, heat-free green glow using the enzyme luciferase and its substrate, luciferin. They’re kept in hand-blown glass bulbs clustered together into lamps, but you can’t light up your house with them yet—the glow isn’t nearly bright enough to replace conventional artificial lights. They do, however, get people to think about untapped household energy sources and how to make use of them. The company, Phillips, also envisions the use of these Bio-lights outside the home—for nighttime road markings, signs in theatres and clubs, and even biosensors for monitoring diabetes.
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