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Hoopoe (Upupa epops)

The hoopoe is a colourful bird found across Afro-Eurasia, notable for its distinctive “crown” of feathers. It is the only extant species in the family Upupidae. Nine subspecies of hoopoe are recognise. hey vary mostly in size and the depth of colour in the plumage. The strengthened musculature of the head allows the bill to be opened when probing inside the soil. The hoopoe has two basic requirements of its habitat: bare or lightly vegetated ground on which to forage and vertical surfaces with cavities in which to nest. In what was long thought to be a defensive posture, hoopoes sunbathe by spreading out their wings and tail low against the ground and tilting their head up. The diet of the hoopoe is mostly composed of insects, although small reptiles, frogs and plant matter such as seeds and berries are sometimes taken as well.

And may I add that its call seriously sounds like a “whoop whoop whoop”?

photo credits: funmozar, wiki, wiki, wiki, azawakh-idi

Hugs Help Protect Against Stress, Infection

A new study shows that a hug a day, instead of apples, may keep the doctor away, as these loving embraces help protect against stress and infection, a new study shows.

According to new research from Carnegie Mellon University, hugs may not just be a form of social support but medical support as well. More frequent hugs protected people from the increased susceptibility to infection associated with being stressed, and resulted in less severe illness symptoms.

"We know that people experiencing ongoing conflicts with others are less able to fight off cold viruses. We also know that people who report having social support are partly protected from the effects of stress on psychological states, such as depression and anxiety," lead study author Sheldon Cohen said in a statement. “We tested whether perceptions of social support are equally effective in protecting us from stress-induced susceptibility to infection and also whether receiving hugs might partially account for those feelings of support and themselves protect a person against infection.”

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Overly intelligent Invertebrate

A tripartite heart, neat predatory techniques and their remarkable use of camouflage are only a few interesting facts about octopuses. The alien-like molluscs seem to walk lightsome through water, smoothly moving their arms in all directions. The boneless body of an octopus moving through water is a harmonious picture, a bit like the perfect performance of an ice dancer.

Octopuses are considered to be the most intelligent of all invertebrates. Only part of the octopus’s complex nervous system is located in its brain, while other neurons are found in each of its eight arms. Covered with many suction cups, the octopus’s arms are capable of both tasting and feeling. They are controlled and moved independently, which often leads to the common belief that octopuses have 9 brains, a central brain and one for each of its eight arms. This unusual physical constitution has led to various experiments in order to understand the mechanisms that coordinate and control such centralised and distributed processing.

Although the exact extent of their intelligence is unknown, maze and problem-solving experiments have proven that octopuses are capable of cognitive learning. In captivity they can open jars or navigate through a maze to get food. Scientists that observed these animals for a longer time refer to them as dexterous and mysterious. Surveying octopuses in captivity is rather tricky, Alexa Warburton, a former student at Middlebury College’s whose work researched how the octopus is able to solve maze problems, said. Keeping them alive is only one of several problems. Their lifespan, from 6 months to 5 years, is very short and is terminated even earlier when they mate or injure each other. Keeping them away from each other, even when the tank is separated by glass panes, is a problem, since they are able to squeeze themselves through the smallest openings. Some octopuses, Warburton said, seemed to be purposely uncooperative when they had to be transferred to a different tank with the maze by hiding in the tiniest spots or holding on to objects and not letting go.

When living in the ocean, due to the lack of a shell, hiding is the octopus’s main survival strategy. Not having any bones, even big species can squeeze themselves and hide in spots the size of an orange. Another effective strategy to hide from predators is found in their remarkable camouflage skills. Some octopuses are capable of rapidly changing their skin colour and surface texture through nervous control of chromatophores (pigment-containing and light-reflecting organelles in cells) and muscles. One particular neat species, the mimic octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus) is capable of actually miming other sea animals, such as lion fish, sea snake or jellyfish, by arranging its arms in a specific way. Further special features are the octopus’s tripartite heart, two to pump blood to the lungs and a third to transfer blood throughout the body, a parrot-like beak to open shells, and black ink to eject and irritate predators when it is too late to hide. 

Neuroscientist Jennifer Mather suggests that the reason for the octopus evolving such a high level of intelligence lies in the loss of its ancestral shell. Without a shell the octopus evolved to a fast hunter with a special hunting strategy for each type of prey, but in turn it had to perfect its defence as well.

-Cé

Image Credit:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/125265709@N08/14217664448/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/wbaiv/13999987713/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/lecates/2399855932/
http://www.thecephalopodpage.org/behavior.php

Read more: http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/6474/

anonymous asked:

Thoughts on "Otherkin"?

"Otherkin are a community of people who see themselves as partially or entirely non-human. They contend that they are, in spirit if not in body, not human. This is explained by some members of the otherkin community as possible through reincarnation, having a nonhuman soul, ancestry, or symbolic metaphor.”

One can easily justify identifying with a broad range of animals and matter because we are literally the entirety of universal phenomena condensed into flesh and blood throughout the evolutionary process. We have all been entity’s of lesser awareness, survival based on more carnal extincts, which we can still vaguely tap into despite our domestication.

Aside from the logical standpoint, I have also known individuals so dangerously disengaged with Reality that they claim to be fictional characters from fictional universes.

I have actually been aggressively condemned due to asking others very basic questions to yield a more cohesive understanding of this frame of mind; this hostility being a good example of how individuals may feel threatened by critical analysis when attempting to secure and isolate themselves in irrational beliefs; an example of escapism.

Stunning zinc fireworks when egg meets sperm

Sparks literally fly when a sperm and an egg hit it off. The fertilized mammalian egg releases from its surface billions of zinc atoms in “zinc sparks,” one wave after another, found a Northwestern University-led interdisciplinary research team that includes experts from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory.

Using cutting-edge technology they developed, including new high-energy X-ray imaging techniques, the team is the first to capture images of these molecular fireworks and pinpoint the origin of the zinc sparks: tiny zinc-rich packages just below the egg’s surface.

Zinc flux plays a central role in regulating the biochemical processes that ensure a healthy egg-to-embryo transition, and this new unprecedented quantitative information should be useful in improving in vitro fertilization methods.

"The amount of zinc released by an egg could be a great marker for identifying a high-quality fertilized egg, something we can’t do now," said Teresa K. Woodruff, an expert in ovarian biology and one of two corresponding authors of the study. "If we can identify the best eggs, fewer embryos would need to be transferred during fertility treatments. Our findings will help move us toward this goal."

The study, to be published Dec. 15 by the journal Nature Chemistry, provides the first quantitative physical measurements of zinc localization in single cells in a mammal, using mouse eggs.

A combined imaging approach was used to identify and characterize zinc-enriched packages in the mouse egg. These include live-cell zinc label imaging (top left, green), a state-of-the-art electron microscope (top middle, blue), and high-energy X-ray imaging at the Advanced Photon Source (top right). With this combined data, researchers were able to determine that each zinc package contains ~1 million zinc atoms. Bottom images: Release of thousands of these packages results in the striking event called the zinc spark that is a hallmark of fertilization in mammals. In the images shown, bright fluorescent signal coming from the egg is a result of the release of groups of zinc-rich packages from the egg to form a zinc spark. Credit: Northwestern University

A new report states that antimicrobial resistance could kill 300 million by 2050

Antimicrobial resistance is something that people always think is a minor problem, only encountered in a few hospitals here and there around the world. The scary reality is that it’s actually a global problem that is rapidly emerging as one of the biggest threats for humanity in the 21st century. We’re moving into a post antibiotic era, where people are once again going to start dying from minor infections because we just wont have the tools to help clear these bacteria.

The problem has been exacerbated by many factors, such as the over use of antibiotics and politics. Unfortunately we live in a world run by politicians and economist rather than scientists. Less than 1% of research funds were allocated to combating antibiotic resistance between 2008 - 2013, but now it seems that.

If things don’t change India and China alone potentially might have to deal with 1 - 2 million deaths per year in 2050. 

Source: Science alert

Source: Antimicrobial resistance review 

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9 Tips To Save Your Life

Sitting can be lethal - here’s how to counteract it!

By: AsapTHOUGHT.

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For researchers who study the genetic roots of human diseases, most of the light has shone down on the 2 percent of the human genome that includes protein-coding DNA sequences. “That’s fine. Lots of diseases are caused by mutations there, but those mutations are low-hanging fruit,” says University of Toronto (U.T.) professor Brendan Frey who studies genetic networks. “They’re easy to find because the mutation actually changes one amino acid to another one, and that very much changes the protein.”

The trouble is, many disease-related mutations also happen in noncoding regions of the genome—the parts that do not directly make proteins but that still regulate how genes behave. Scientists have long been aware of how valuable it would be to analyze the other 98 percent but there has not been a practical way to do it.

(please click the link for the complete article)

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Created by designer ‘Istvan’ of Chaotic Atmosphere, these geometric insects are a beautiful exercise in fictional biology, code, and digital illustration. The collection of nearly 100 organisms with day/night variations is titled Biotop from Polygonia was made in Cinema 4D using random values within parameters designed by Istvan. You can see the full series over on NeonMob, a digital platform for discovering, collecting, and trading art online. 

The Biologist Apprentice

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Ants: Super Soldiers

Take a microscopic look at an army of tiny but ruthless creatures: ants. Chemical warfare and aggressive military-style strategies help them accomplish their one mission in life: ensure the survival of the colony at all costs.

By: Earth Touch.

MORE THAN ONE POPULATION OF BLUE WHALES IN THE SOUTHEASTERN PACIFIC 

The population of blue whales living off Chile’s southern coast could be a slightly smaller version of their Antarctic neighbors, and that has scientists thinking they may have found a new subspecies of the cetacean.

Scientists from WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), the Universidad Austral de Chile, the Blue Whale Center, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), NOAA, and other organizations are examining molecular clues to answer a big question: how many types of blue whales exist in the waters of the southeastern Pacific?

The answer seems to be two distinct populations, according to a genetic study comparing the blue whales off the southern coast of Chile with those swimming in the waters of Antarctica and other nearby regions. One of the populations could be made up of pygmy-type blue whales, a subspecies slightly smaller than the Antarctic blue whale. The findings could help wildlife managers devise more effective conservation plans for this endangered species

Although whaling records dating back to the 1960s indicate that both Antarctic and pygmy-type blue whales utilized Chilean waters, it wasn’t until 2004—when a blue whale feeding and nursing ground was discovered in the protected bays of southern Chile—that scientists began to question whether multiple populations of blue whales currently utilized the southeastern Pacific. A previous study had even recognized the existence of an as-of-yet unnamed subspecies of blue whale based on size differences in animals in the southeastern Pacific. At the time, however, it was unknown how closely related the whales on this Chilean feeding ground were to those in other areas, and thus what this discovery might mean in terms of the recovery of the animals in the Southern Hemisphere.

Invasive Insect of the Week: Colorado Potato Beetle

I thought I’d shake things up this week by picking an invasive insect that’s FROM the United States.

Life Cycle

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Adult Form

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Distribution

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What Is It?

Colorado Potato Beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata)

Order Coleoptera (Beetles)

Family Chrysomelidae (Leaf beetles)

Native Range?

Mexico, Southwestern United States

Invasive Range?

Eastern US, Europe, Russia, China, Iran

Read More

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Why Do We Eat Spoiled Food?

MinuteEarth provides an energetic and entertaining view of trends in earth’s environment — in just a few minutes!

By: Minute Earth.
Support on Patreon: www.patreon.com/minuteearth

Holiday food for thought: Will religion disappear? How hard-wired is a feeling of religion or spirituality hard-wired into our brains?

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As you sit down for whatever winter holiday this year, most likely, it’s got some kind of religious basis, even if you don’t believe in that particular religion, whether your family is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, neo Pagan or if you’re atheist or agnostic, but you’re still doing “Christ Mass” anyway, this might provoke some hearty holiday dinner discussion. While many prominent atheists have publicly wished religion would just go away, it’s literally been with humanity since we began, and the point at which archaeologists begin to define modern humans and our ancestors is when we started showing evidence of complex abstract thought as told in the tales of the artifacts of religious-like ceremonies for birth and death.

Even many children from a very young age, growing up around almost no religion, seem to have an innate sense of some kind of “god” or gods, and a natural feeling of separation between mind and body, which leaves this “god shaped hole” in most people’s brains that has to be filled with some kind of religion or spirituality and some people don’t have that at all. What’s up with that?

Read the story here