Category Archives: genetics

The weird genome of water bears (tardigrades): more than a sixth of it swiped from distantly related species

Your eyes are growing heavy; you are growing sleepy; and now you WILL read this post! Tardigrades, or “water bears,” are some of the world’s weirdest—and toughest—animals. They’re so bizarre that they constitute their own phylum, Tardigrada, but are related to arthropods and nematodes (roundworms), with whom—along with a few other beasts—they’re grouped in the […]

A three-eared cat?

by Greg Mayer The BBC reports on an abandoned cat with “three ears” found in Norfolk. Shelter staff at Feline Care Cat Rescue in East Harling have named him “Brian”*. [JAC: several readers also sent this to me.] I can’t recall ever seeing such a cat, and neither could the shelter’s vet, though Jerry had […]

DNA: optimised source code?

by Matthew Cobb There’s a great XKCD up today (click to embiggen, I’ve had to shrink it to not bump into the ads): I initially tw**ted this with the comment “Truth. Biology is impossible”, because the cartoon emphasises that the information DNA contains is way more complicated than most non-biologists imagine. It’s a classic mistake […]

Chopra and Tanzi’s new book described in NY Post; I get in a lick

Intellectual stimulation will be thin today in favor of entertainment, as I got nothin’. A quick note, though, I was interviewed by Elizabeth Vincentelli of the New York Post on the topic about Deepak Chopra and Rudolph Tanzi’s new book Super Genes: Unlock the Astonishing Power of your DNA for Optimum Health and Well-Being (no, I’m not […]

A highly polydactylous cat (name it!)

Reader Taskin has a friend with a new kitten, one that has extra toes. There are 24, to be exact—six more than the normal number of 18 (five on each front paw, four on the rear). The cat, located in Canada, was obtained from the Humane Society, as it had been abandoned in an apartment […]

A gynandromorph moth comes to the light – and tells a story about science

by Matthew Cobb This tw**t popped up in my feed the other night, from “wildlife illustrator and invertebrate enthusiast” Richard Lewington [Richard has a website showing his art here]. Richard was running a moth trap in the night when he found this beauty: Very weird moth last night, bilateral gynandromorph Turnip. Male left, female right […]

Deep into that darkness peering: an all-black chicken (with all-black meat)

by Grania Boing Boing ran an article a couple of weeks ago on the Ayam Cemani chicken, mostly because it is all black but also because it makes for a really expensive dish if you want to eat one. Chicks retail at $199 each and Wikipedia observes that an individual bird can go for $2500. Here’s a hen: And […]

Holocaust trauma: is it epigenetically inherited?

TRIGGER WARNING: Long and detailed discussion of a genetics paper. There are now several examples of modifications of an individual’s appearance and behavior by the environment, and of those modifications affecting the individual’s genes, usually by attaching methyl bases to specific nucleotides in the DNA sequence. This is a form of environmentally induced epigenetic modification. Usually, though, modification […]

Adam Rutherford’s article on epigenetics invokes profusion of angry tw**ts from Deepak Chopra and his minions

Since I started this website, I’ve written many posts on epigenetics, a term that now refers to modification of the nucleotide base composition of DNA by the environment or by other genes. Such modification—usually involving attachment of methyl groups to two of the four bases that make up DNA—may have significant effects on the organism, ranging from changed behavior to […]

The secrets of life – two videos

by Matthew Cobb In June, the Royal Institution in London hosted two talks about the origins of life, one by myself, the other by Nick Lane of UCL. The talks were partly a way of publicising our books (my Life’s Greatest Secret: The Race to Crack the Genetic Code, and Nick’s The Vital Question: Why […]


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