Category Archives: biology

Biologically-themed Google doodle

Today’s Google doodle, a particularly good one, celebrates the birthday,  life and work of Maria Sibylla Merian (2 April 1647 – 13 January 1717). (If you click on the doodle itself—not the one below—you’ll get a Google search for Merian.) Merian, a German who later lived in the Netherlands, was a scientific illustrator who began her career drawing […]

Why we can’t clone a Neanderthal—or any ancient organism

I’m not a huge fan of sci-fi, but one sci-fi movie I have seen is “Jurassic Park.” You’ll remember that the dinosaurs in that park were cloned from dinosaur blood (which contains DNA because reptiles, unlike mammals, have red blood cells with nuclei), and that blood was from the stomachs of mosquitoes that had bitten […]

Wonderful insect photos

Linden Gledhill’s Flickr page contains 32 sets of photographs, half of them devoted to biology or physical phenomena in nature. You could spend hours looking at them, for they include insects, plants, insect eggs, insect parts, fungi, as well as paint splashes, astronomy shots, and travel photographs.  Linden has given me permission to put up […]

BBC creates new YouTube channel on nature shows

This should help alleviate the problem of BBC nature shows not being available in the U.S., or sometimes in the UK.  According to PuffHo: The BBC has launched a YouTube only ‘channel’ which will feature new nature shows unavailable anywhere else. ‘Earth Unplugged’ will host seven new nature programmes a week. BBC Worldwide will not make […]

Why is one sex mimetic rather than the other?

The other day I posted a picture of a weird planthopper that mimicked an ant, but only the male planthoppers. Females weren’t mimics at all.  I also pointed out a similar case, but in the reverse direction: in the African butterfly Papilio dardanus (as in many butterflies), it is the female that’s mimetic and the […]

World’s rarest whale seen for the first time

I’ve gotten this from several readers, so thanks to all. According to The Province and several other sources, a defunct spade-toothed beaked whale and her calf (Mesoplodon traversii) washed up on the shores of New Zealand in 2010 and have just been identified as the world’s rarest whale in a new paper in Current Biology (full […]

A new book on nature and “The drive-by Dawkins diss”

UPDATE:  Haskell has responded to this blog piece on his own website, “Ramble.” I’ve posted a question, asking him directly if he dissed RD. _______ Reader Diane G called my attention to a piece in the New York Times about David Haskell, an evolutionist and ecologist at The University of the South: “Finding Zen in […]

Readers’ cats: McCoy and Seve (and the violin)

If you know anything about molecular biology, you’ll have heard of Mark Ptashne, who also happens to be an accomplished violinist (see this 1998 “Scientist at Work” piece about him at the New York Times).  In fact, Ptashne’s own website emphasizes violin far more than biology.  Yet his biological accomplishments are formidable. While on the […]

Medicine and Physiology Nobel nabbed by a Brit and a Japanese (and a digression on birds)

I’m just back from a national park in eastern Portugal, where it’s remote, unpopulated, and eerily beautiful. I saw the national bird of Portugal, the azure-winged magpie (Cyanopica cyanus) as well as a group of griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus). The vulture breeds only on vertical rocky cliffs, and we spotted a group of four—or rather my companion […]

Great nature photos: 50 entries in National Geographic’s 2012 photo contest

Alert reader Michael called my attention to a selection of fifty fantastic photos submitted to this year’s National Geographic photo contest; they’re displayed at The Atlantic. It was hard to choose just seven of these to show you, so go over to the Atlantic and see all of them. Almost every one is a gem.  […]