SYMBIOSIS (made in RPG Maker VX Ace) is a short, straightforward game about environmentalism and the nuclear apocalypse. In it you take the role of Guinevere, a well-armed and resolved survivor with a vital objective in mind. Her partner is a small fern she keeps in a backpack - the two of them rely on each other for survival, recycling each others’ breaths to create a clean supply of air despite the polluted air around them.

As you progress through the game’s world, the story will piece itself together. Remnants such as newspapers, journal entries, signs, billboards, and graffiti will reveal much about how the world arrived at the state it’s in. You’ll definitely want to go out of your way to explore each map and examine the objects and curiosities you encounter.

(The game runs on Windows exclusively.)


DOWNLOAD HERE: [dropbox] / [4shared]

You can also follow the game’s BLOG, I’ll be answering questions and taking comments there. Also, I may be posting extra content there in the future. I’ve had plans for a few comics to expand on the game’s story and background.

Bacteria from bees possible alternative to antibiotics

Raw honey has been used against infections for millennia, before honey – as we now know it – was manufactured and sold in stores. So what is the key to its’ antimicrobial properties? Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have identified a unique group of 13 lactic acid bacteria found in fresh honey, from the honey stomach of bees. The bacteria produce a myriad of active antimicrobial compounds.

These lactic acid bacteria have now been tested on severe human wound pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Pseudomonas aeruginosa and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), among others. When the lactic acid bacteria were applied to the pathogens in the laboratory, it counteracted all of them.

Tobias C Olofsson, Èile Butler, Pawel Markowicz, Christina Lindholm, Lennart Larsson, Alejandra Vásquez. Lactic acid bacterial symbionts in honeybees - an unknown key to honey’s antimicrobial and therapeutic activities. International Wound Journal, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/iwj.12345

Working bees on honey cells (stock image). Raw honey has been used against infections for millennia, before honey – as we now know it – was manufactured and sold in stores. Credit: © Dmytro Smaglov / Fotolia

Yucca flowers (by flora-file)

“For more than 40 million years there has been a relationship between yucca plants and yucca moths.  It’s a particularly important one because neither the yucca or the moth can survive without the other.  The moth’s larvae depend on the seeds of the yucca plant for food, and the yucca plant can only be pollinated by the yucca moth.”  (read more)
-via The Prairie Ecologist

Mitochondria: A Parasitic Powerhouse?

If you ask most people what they remember about mitochondria from high school biology, they will immediately reply: “Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell”. This classic trope is an excellent way to remember the mitochondrial function in the cell - to provide the cell with ATP, which is then used as energy. However, as much as we know about the mitochondrion’s function, we still know relatively little about its origins.

Possessing their own DNA, the going theory has been that way back in the early stages of life, mitochondria were ATP-producing bacteria which were either purposefully or accidentally ingested by single celled organisms. The mitochondria then developed a symbiotic relationship with the single cell, offering its excess ATP in exchange for protection from other predators, who would simply digest it. However, this view of mitochondrial origins is being challenged, thanks to a recent study at the University of Virginia.

In the study, a team of researchers sequenced the genomes of 18 bacteria who were thought to be close relatives of mitochondria. Using these DNA sequences, the team then constructed a likely genome for mitochondrial ancestors - but there was something strange. The DNA constructed presented a far different story to mitochondrial ancestors than previously thought. Rather than having a symbiotic relationship with its host cell, it’s predicted that mitochondrial ancestors may have actually been parasitic, stealing ATP from the host cell rather than producing it. Mitochondria, so vital to the beginning stages of complex life, continue to vex scientists with their origins. And though the path from parasite to powerhouse is not yet clear, we may be one step closer to solving one of the most troubling enigmas of modern biology.

To read more, please visit Science Daily.

Submitted by Nick V, Discoverer.

Edited by Carrie K.


Barnards’ Swordswallower by Alex Ries. Follow on Tumblr

“Living in the oceans of a dense metal rich planet, the Swordswallower moves through the sea on a single undulating ventral fin. As it moves, its jaw sweeps planktonic life into its small mouth at the back of the ‘net’, where it is filtered and any food swallowed. The membrane it uses to hunt may look delicate, but is make from silk-like secretions and is easily repaired by glands in the egg shaped 'mouth’.

To alter its depth, a gas bladder fills much of its insides and can change volume at will, letting the Swordswallower feed using minimum energy.

Under the shadow of this specimen, a school of smaller fish-size relations of the Swordswallower seek shelter under its shadow. If I predator attacks, the feeding mouth of the large creature can be retracted, and the fish size creatures will hide inside. In return for this shelter, the fish like animals keep the Swallower free from parasites.

Trailing from the rear of this specimen are two long pale strings of gametes, releasing hundreds of reproductive cells into the sea as it swims, to mix in the water with the eggs and sperm of others swimming nearby.

To see the internal anatomy of this critter check out my gallery.

It was painted in Photoshop using standard fuzzy brushes set to between zero and 70% hardness, with hard brushes used for fine details.”

Fictional animals


Plants talk to each other

If you missed the last post about bacteria communicating and acting together like a wolfpack using underground systems to coordinate attacks, then check it out over at Wired.

But going with the theme, plants do a similar thing. They use mechanisms underground for communication and talk to each other, sort of like in Avatar. In this case, the plants are using a fungi that lives in the soil to relay messages of impending danger. A fungal-phone line.

Considering plants can’t fight, they use the fungus to send messages like “Aphids! Watch out!” and they all start secreting a scent that brings something which can fight. The sent lures wasps over which help fight off the aphids. Pretty cool right? Now you know there are tons of underground communication systems happening without you even realizing because evolution is freaking awesome.
Via Economist


Urchin Crab (Dorippe frascone)

Also known as the carrier crab, the urchin crab is a species of dorippid crab that is found in the Red Sea and eastern Indian Ocean. Like its common name suggests this crab is famous for the symbiotic relationship it holds with several species of sea urchin. The urchin crab will grasp an urchin (usually A.radiata or D.setosum) with its back two legs and carry it around on its carapace. The urchin’s spines then provide the crab with protection, and the urchin will get access to a quick ride to new feeding grounds and will passively submit to this relationship.



Image Source(s)

Large stalked sponge (Bolosoma sp.) providing a home for a myriad of brittlestars and crustacean associates.

ROVs Deep Discoverer and Seirios are safely back on deck of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer after being recovered early due to strong currents (safety first!). We’ll be back for one more dive, before heading into port for a few days of rest, and then heading back out again. 

For more images, visit:   NOAA Ocean Explorer

Western Underground Orchid

Jack Trott had bent to investigate an odd crack that had appeared in his garden’s soil, and had noticed a sweet smell that arose from the ground. Scraping away the soil, he soon uncovered a tiny white flower, about half an inch across, growing underground. What he had found was an entirely new type of orchid. The discovery generated such excitement that a wax model was toured around the British Isles.

The white leafless plant is made up of a fleshy underground storage stem (or tuber), which produces flower head consisting of around 150 tightly packed, tiny flowers. Unlike any other orchid in Australia, the Western Australian underground orchid remains completely underground for its whole life. Not being able to obtain the sun’s energy, it instead feeds on the broom honeymyrtle, a shrub. It is linked to it by a mycorrhizal fungus named Thanatephorus gardneri.

[flickr]  [wiki]


Primeval Symbiosis

Would you love to live in a treehouse, but do you think that the trees could suffer for it and so you decided not to have a real treehouse?

The Danish student of Design and Architecture, Konrad Wójcik, design an eco- “treehouse” project, for which he gained a special mention at the “D3 Natural Systems International Architectural Design Competition. This construction allows to create four different levels with different functions to each floor, with all the spaces that a real house can have. But there’s more, Konrad studied also a unit that could be self-sufficient, or how we say in architectural language, a passive house! He designed an “unit that would not require any connection to the local technical infrastructure.

Want to see more? Go to Pretty Architecture!

The Story of the Butterfly That Got Adopted by A Red Ant

With unexpected infanticide and toxic chemicals, it’s a story loved by all…

by Marissa Fessenden

Once there was a caterpillar, hungry enough to chow down on the flower buds of a plant known for its toxic fumes. One day, the caterpillar left the plant and fell to the ground. There, an ant passing by picked it up and took it back to the ant nest to care for the little caterpillar. The caterpillar made itself at home and started eating all the larvae in the ant nest until one day it turned into a beautiful butterfly.

The story is true and the players — oregano, the Large Blue butterfly and the red ant called Myrmica — have a unique relationship, the details of which scientists have just unraveled, reports Nicholas Wade for The New York Times. The toxic fumes and apparent betrayal by the caterpillar make the story a little less children’s book and a little more classic Mother Nature.

The caterpillar fools the ant into thinking that it is a misplaced grub from the ant’s own nest. It does this by mimicking the posture of an ant larvae and chemically cloaking itself in a scent the seems like the ant. Once the caterpillar has been “returned” to the nest, it start clucking — a sound that imitates the ants queen. This ensure that the ants will leave it alone when it starts munching the nest’s own larvae…

(read more: Smithsonian Magazine)

photograph by PJC&Co

Mitochondria may have once been energy parasites

“We believe this study has the potential to change the way we think about the event that led to mitochondria,” said U.Va. biologist Martin Wu, the study’s lead author. “We are saying that the current theories – all claiming that the relationship between the bacteria and the host cell at the very beginning of the symbiosis was mutually beneficial – are likely wrong.

"Instead, we believe the relationship likely was antagonistic – that the bacteria were parasitic and only later became beneficial to the host cell by switching the direction of the ATP transport.”

Zhang Wang, Martin Wu. Phylogenomic Reconstruction Indicates Mitochondrial Ancestor Was an Energy Parasite. PLOS ONE, 2014 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0110685