Category Archives: biology

A new moth species named after Donald Trump

I suppose this is the appropriate day for a biology post relating to our new (ack!) President. In particular, reader Brigette Zacharczenko, a graduate student in Ecology and Evolution at the University of Connecticut who studies moths (and is also a powerlifter), called my attention to a new species of moth named after The Donald—as well as several […]

Merry Xmas from Oswald Avery – but what if he had died early?

by Matthew Cobb Here’s a picture of Oswald Avery (1877-1955), at an Xmas party in his Rockefeller Institute lab, in 1940. Avery – you may not have heard of him – was the man who discovered that genes are made of DNA, in a paper published in January 1944. Avery was proposed for the Nobel […]

Planet Earth II

Reader Tyler called my attention to the trailer (published yesterday) for BBC’s Planet Earth II, and it looks fantastic. Watch the 3-minutes trailer, as there are plenty of cool animals, with EXTRA FELID. It will be narrated by the legendary David Attenborough, and the Facebook page is here, though I’m not sure when the program […]

A new paper confidently claims that there are four giraffe species rather than one, but I’m not so sure

The giraffe, Giraffa cameleopardalis, was first described by Linnaeus, and gets its species name from its fancied resemblance to a hybrid beast (as Wikipedia notes, the name comes from the Greek καμηλοπάρδαλις” meaning “giraffe”, from “κάμηλος” (kamēlos), “camel” + “πάρδαλις” (pardalis), “leopard”, due to its having a long neck like a camel and spots like a leopard). It’s always […]

Classic story revised: lichens are fungus + algae + yeast (another fungus)

One of the classic stories of biology, taught to virtually every student, is the fact that what we call “lichens” are actually a combination of two very distantly related species: a species of alga and a species of fungus. (Sometimes the “alga” is really a species of cyanobacteria, formerly called “blue green algae” but not really […]

How paternal mitochondria are destroyed in an embryo

Molecular cytogenetics is hardly my field, so this paper was a bit hard for me, but the results were so interesting that I’ll do my best to present it. The paper is by Quingua Zhou et al. and was just published in the early, non-print edition of Science. (reference and free download below). It’s about […]

What greater love could a nerdy biologist have?

Reader William H. sent me a pdf of a Current Biology paper with this note: I’m a dinosaur enthusiast, a passion that I acquired in childhood and has never left me.  The attached paper is interesting, but I bring it to your attention  because of the one of a kind occurrence at the end of […]

Where did life come from: God or naturalism? The data from the U.S. vs. the U.K.

This disparity between our two related and Anglophonic lands is even worse than I expected. U.S. and U.K. citizens were polled just last wee about how they think life on Earth began. The question and choices were virtually identical for the two countries. First the good news: YouGov poll on the origin of life taken […]

The world’s oldest living organisms

Today’s Fun Biology Facts come from PuffHo, which gives a list (it’s been replicated elsewhere) of the world’s oldest individual organisms (or, in some cases, clones). These come from a book by artist Rachel Sussman to be published by the University of Chicago Press on April 14: The Oldest Living Things in the World. (the spruce […]

There’s a bacterium on a diatom on an amphipod on a . . . you know the rest

From the Smithsonian website: Once you’ve picked your jaw from the floor, here’s what you’re looking at: the final stop of this zoom, which spans multiple orders of magnitude, is a little bacterium. That bacterium is resting on a diatom, a class of algae that are known for their silica shells. The diatom is, in […]