Guys, insects are animals

I don’t know how or why so many people think that insects aren’t animals. It’s not debated or controversial; there is not a scientist in the whole world that thinks insects shouldn’t be classified as animals. The only other options are plants or fungi and they definitely aren’t either of those.

Please stop saying insects aren’t animals because it hurts my insect-loving biologist heart.


Hey, look! We’ve got new clues on the triggers for leglessness in snakes!

We know that snakes originally had four limbs; they were basically just long lizards.

The fossil record was already strong as to when and how it happened (at least physically), and we’ve even known for a long time that the front limbs became vestigial and disappeared long before the hind limbs.

But now a new study seems to show that the Sonic Hedgehog Gene (SHH), which also influences eye, brain, and central midline splitting in vertebrates, is the gene responsible for reducing the size of snake limbs. It’s a fascinating gene, and is what’s responsible for most incidences of cyclopia (one-eyedness) in mammals.

While SHH is actually not mutated in snakes, an enhancer gene that turns it “on” and “off” during development has three separate mutations. Whereas a limbed vertebrate has the trigger gene keeping SHH active throughout the embryonic and fetal development process, in snakes, it flickers on and almost immediately shuts off. No limbs if it doesn’t stay on!

While this might not have been the very first step in making snakes legless, it’s a huge clue as to how they evolved.

I wonder what gene mutations are found in legless lizards? Get on it, Science!

More Information:

UF Health video explaination

Basics of why three tiny tweaks can influence all the limbs
The World’s Second Largest Reef Is in Danger
The government of Belize has announced a drilling plan in the barrier reef. Here’s the latest on what we know.

Belize, what are you doing?!

On October 18th, Belize announced plans for the start of oil offshore exploration across a vast stretch of its waters. The seismic testing will occur very close (about 1km away!) from the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage site, which has been listed as in danger by UNESCO and is the second largest barrier reef in the world. 

On top of the probable damages from seismic testing, WWF has warned that an oil spill anywhere within Belize’s waters could be catastrophic for residents whose livelihoods depend on healthy marine and coastal ecosystems. 

In February 2012, about 96% of the local population actually voted “NO” to offshore oil in Belize, very well aware of the importance of the country’s natural resources for ecotourism and its fishing industry. Over half of Belizeans depend on the reef and the marine ecosystem for livelihood. Even late last year, Belize committed to ban oil exploration within the World Heritage site, but still has not passed the ban into law.

This seismic oil exploration is at the moment a very contentious issue in the country, as it appears none of the stakeholders were consulted beforehand and no environmental impact assessment was put into place. Testing was supposed to start today (October 20th) but it appears to have started even earlier, to the anger and dismay of the locals and further fueling rumors of corruption that could be behind all of this.

You can keep updated through Oceana Belize’s Facebook page, where they have been live broadcasting many town hall meetings and presentations. 

Koutalisaurus koherorum

By José Carlos Cortés on @ryuukibart

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Name: Koutalisaurus kohlerorum

Name Meaning: Spoon Reptile

First Described: 2006

Described By: Prieto-Márquez et al.

Classification: Dinosauria, Ornithischia, Genasauria, Neornithischia, Cerapoda, Ornithopoda, Iguanodontia, Dryomorpha, Ankylopollexia, Styracosterna, Hadrosauriformes, Hadrosauroidea, Hadrosauridae, Lambeosaurinae, “Cristohadria”, Tsintaosaurini

Koutalisaurus is a poorly known genus of Hadrosaurid from the Tremp Formation near Lleida, Spain. It lived in the Maastrichtian age of the Late Cretaceous, approximately 66 million years ago. It is known from a portion of the jaw, which is very long and has a toothless portion where the beak would have been attached, which was bent down fairly dramatically, giving its jawa  spoon like shape. It would have been a fairly small hadrosaur, and it is thought to have been closely related to the Tsintaosaurs, though this is relatively uncertain. 


Shout out goes to @itsjordichicletol!

Nanoparticle vaccines against dengue fever?

Nanoparticle vaccines against dengue fever?

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Every year more than 350 million people in over 120 countries contact dengue fever, which can cause symptoms ranging from aching muscles and a skin rash to life-threatening haemorrhagic fever. Researchers have struggled to create effective vaccines against dengue virus, in part because four distinct serotypes of the virus cause dengue fever and a vaccine must immunize against all four…

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The science world is freaking out over this 25-year-old's answer to antibiotic resistance
Could this be the end of superbugs?
By Fiona MacDonald

A 25-year-old student has just come up with a way to fight drug-resistant superbugs without antibiotics.

The new approach has so far only been tested in the lab and on mice, but it could offer a potential solution to antibiotic resistance, which is now getting so bad that the United Nations recently declared it a “fundamental threat” to global health.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria already kill around 700,000 people each year, but a recent study suggests that number could rise to around 10 million by 2050.

In addition to common hospital superbug, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), scientists are now also concerned that gonorrhoea is about tobecome resistant to all remaining drugs.

But Shu Lam, a 25-year-old PhD student at the University of Melbourne in Australia, has developed a star-shaped polymer that can kill six different superbug strains without antibiotics, simply by ripping apart their cell walls.

“We’ve discovered that [the polymers] actually target the bacteria and kill it in multiple ways,” Lam told Nicola Smith from The Telegraph. “One method is by physically disrupting or breaking apart the cell wall of the bacteria. This creates a lot of stress on the bacteria and causes it to start killing itself.”

The research has been published in Nature Microbiology, and according to Smith, it’s already being hailed by scientists in the field as “a breakthrough that could change the face of modern medicine”.

Before we get too carried away, it’s still very early days. So far, Lam has only tested her star-shaped polymers on six strains of drug-resistant bacteria in the lab, and on one superbug in live mice.

But in all experiments, they’ve been able to kill their targeted bacteria - and generation after generation don’t seem to develop resistance to the polymers.

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Scientists reveal most accurate depiction of a dinosaur ever created
Reconstruction is based on studies of a spectacular fossil from China, preserved with skin and pigments intact
By Elsa Panciroli

It’s not like anything seen alive on Earth today: it’s the size of large turkey, but with a face like a Jim Henson puppet. The head is a shoe-box with eyes, the Frankensteinian flatness on top accentuated by horns sticking out horizontally from each cheek. A parrot-like beak juts out at the front. One researcher reaches out and dares to touch the broom-like bristles that erupt from its tail. Another leans over and studiously peers up at the animal’s bottom.

This was the scene at the unveiling of paleoartist Bob Nicholls’ new reconstruction of Psittacosaurus. Hailed as the most accurate dinosaur reconstruction ever, it is based on studies of a spectacular fossil from China, carried out by a team led by Dr Jakob Vinther of the UK’s University of Bristol…
One of the physicists behind the Higgs boson has made an algorithm to replace the pill
It's up to 99.5% effective at stopping pregnancy.
By Fiona MacDonald

One of the physicists who helped find the Higgs boson, Elina Berglund, has spent the past three years working on something completely different - a fertility app that tells women when they’re fertile or not.

It’s not the first fertility app out there, but Berglund’s app works so well that it’s been shown to help women avoid pregnancy with 99.5 percent reliability - an efficacy that puts it right up there with the pill and condoms.

Best of all, the app doesn’t have any side effects, and just requires women to input their temperature daily to map their fertility throughout the month.

Back in 2012, Berglund was working at CERN on the Large Hadron Collider experiment to find the famous Higgs boson. But after the discovery of the particle, she felt it was time to work on something completely different.

“I wanted to give my body a break from the pill,” she told Daniela Walker from Wired, “but I couldn’t find any good forms of natural birth control, so I wrote an algorithm for myself.”

The resulting app is called Natural Cycles, and so far, it’s had pretty promising results.

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