December 18, 2009
With Christmas coming up, I thought it might be timely to post something about the perils of overeating. Then I found that Tetrapod Zoology had beaten me to it, with a series of posts on “overenthusiastic swallowing”, where various animals try to bite off more than they can chew. Literally.
Head over and see what happens when – a roadrunner tries to swallow a horned lizard, a goanna tries to swallow an echidna, a small snake tries to swallow a rather large centipede, and, well, you get the idea…
December 15, 2009
As part of the celebrations for their 350th anniversary, the Royal Society of London have just released a special, open-access issue of their Philosophical Transactions B journal, containing a series of perspectives from leading scientists on contemporary topics of high interest and importance.
In this freely available issue the authors, selected on the basis of their knowledge and experience in a specific area of the life sciences, offer their individual perspective on their own area of research. The 19 contributions present a snapshot of the current status of key areas of science, together with an analysis of the promising – and less promising – avenues currently being pursued, in some cases leading to some bold conclusions.
Here’s the contents:
Sir Partha Dasgupta: Nature’s Role in Sustainable Economic Development
Professor Simon Levin: Crossing scales, crossing disciplines: collective motion and collective action in the Global Commons
Professor Martin Nowak: Games, graphs and sets: dynamics and geometry of evolution
Professor Harold Mooney: The Ecosystem-Service Chain and the Biological Diversity Crisis
Lord Robert May: Ecological science and tomorrow’s world
Professor Michel Loreau: Linking biodiversity and ecosystems: toward a unifying ecological theory
Professor John Beddington: Food security – contributions from science to a new and greener revolution
Professor William Hill: Understanding and utilising quantitative genetic variation
Professor Graham Bell: Fluctuating selection: the perpetual renewal of adaptation in variable environments
Professor Spencer Barrett: Understanding Plant Reproductive Diversity
Professor Tom Cavalier-Smith: Deep phylogeny, ancestral groups, and the four ages of life
Professor Simon Conway-Morris: Evolution: Like any other science it is predictable
Professor Linda Partridge: The New Biology of Ageing
Professor Fiona Watt and Dr Ryan Driskell: The therapeutic potential of stem cells
Professor Uta Frith and Professor Chris Frith: The social brain: allowing humans to boldly go where no other species has been
Professor Geoffrey Hinton: Learning to Represent Visual Input
Professor Taras Oleksyk, Professor Michel Smith and Professor Stephen O’Brien: Genome wide scans for footprints of natural selection
Sir Sydney Brenner: Sequences and Consequences
And here’s the link.
Read and enjoy!
December 13, 2009
Ever wondered just what a “gene” is, exactly? Well turns out that even geneticists are wondering the same thing these days, as they learn more about the genome and find that the concept of what comprises a gene is becoming more and more vague.
This months BioScience journal has an interesting (open-access) article on how the definition of a gene is changing.
With the discovery that nearly all of the genome is transcribed, the definition of a “gene” needs another revision.
The article describes how the old definitions based around protein function (genes are units of DNA that code for proteins) have had to be expanded with the discovery that a large portion of the genome is transcribed into RNAs that don’t go on to make proteins, but have an important functional role themselves.
Citation: Hopkins, K (2009). The Evolving Definition of a Gene. BioScience 59(11):928-931. doi: 10.1525/bio.2009.59.11.3
December 7, 2009
While we’re on the subject of leopard seals… I think you have to be a little crazy to be a National Geographic photographer.
December 3, 2009
Last weekend I attended the 12th Annual NZ Molecular Ecology meeting, held in the Catlins
, in the deep south of New Zealand. NZ’s molecular ecologists have a traditional of holding their annual meeting in beautiful, out-of-the-way places, and this year was no exception with the Tautuku Outdoor Education Centre in the heart of the Catlins being our base. This year’s meeting brought together 50 researchers from Crown Research Institutes, DoC, and universities across New Zealand (plus a few from across the ditch).
Tautuku Bay and the coastal rainforest surrounding it provided a stunning backdrop to the meeting, and provided plenty of opportunity for wildlife spotting – the highlight (for me anyway) being a leopard seal which made itself at home on the beach on Saturday.
Leopard seal taking a break at Tautuku Bay
But enough about the scenery, what of the science, I hear you ask?
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