sea urchin teeth (called “Aristotle’s Lantern”)

Made with Vine

The Brain Scoop:
Why did King Tut have a flat head?

Ah, body modification: a tale as old as time. Artificial head binding has been practiced all around the world and for thousands of years. In the case of high status figures in Ancient Egypt, often this tradition was carried out in secrecy in order to perpetuate conceptions that such royalty were godly figures. We sat down with Dr. Robert Martin, curator of human evolution at the Field, to talk more about this custom.

If you want to learn more about Dr. Martin’s work, you can read his blog.. here!

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.

someone asked for a picture of my class lecture notes, so here are some of my messy lecture notes from ap bio! there are a couple of people who always ask the teacher questions and i’m so grateful for them because it stalls the teacher and prevents her from moving on to the next slide lmAO

//taken from my studygram :)

I commissioned some amazing artwork from the one and only @smartchocobear She was a complete delight to work with, If you guys and amazing artwork done by an amazing artist, I highly recommend her. 

Sasuke and Sakura were waiting for Kakashi and Naruto. At first Sasuke was really frustrated because they had been waiting for over 30 minutes so he and Sakura sat under a nearby tree.

 After an hour of waiting  “Sasuke-kun…I’m going to rest my eyes for a bit, wake me up if they show up.” Soon after, she was asleep, Sasuke noticed that she was slumped in a very uncomfortable position. “Tch, Annoying girl” Sasuke said to himself as he repositioned himself behind her so that she can rest on his chest. “She smells so good” he thought, “her hair is so pink, how is this natural?” as he picked up a few strands. Sasuke couple feel his face getting warmer, “Shit, why am I acting this way? Sakura’s just a fan girl…right?” he thought to himself. He began to think about the land of waves, and how she was crying on his chest. He remembered how beautiful she looked with her hair all over the place and with such a look of relief on her face.

“Maybe she’s not just a fan girl…” As he held those strands to his mouth and smiled ever so slightly.


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

Sperm Whale Clans Preserve Culture And Social Bonds After Relocation

Sperm whales vocalize to communicate with other members of their pod. Those matriarchal pods generally consist of 10-12 adult females and their offspring; adult males are more free-roaming, but interact with pods during mating season. Pods communicate with consistent patterns of clicks, called “codas,” with each coda ranging from 3 to 40 clicks and usually lasting around 3 seconds. Young sperm whales learn these codas from their mothers rather than inheriting them in their genes.

What’s more, not every sperm whale pod communicates using the same codas. Pods can be categorized into distinct “vocal clans,“ with each clan containing thousands of individual whales using the same codas. Vocal clans are also distinguished by other behaviors, such as preferred prey. Pods socialize only with members of their own vocal clan, and retain their unique codas and behaviors even when they live in close proximity to pods from a different clan. And, as we’ve recently found out, they retain their unique codas even when they relocate to an entirely different part of the ocean.

Hal Whitehead and his team have been researching sperm whale populations around the Galápagos Islands since 1985. Between 1985 and 1999, the Galápagos sperm whales belonged to two distinct clans: the “Regulars,” and the “Plus-Ones.” (The Regulars have a series of uniformly-spaced clicks, while the Plus-Ones have a long pause before their final click.)

The Galápagos sperm whales began to decline in the mid-1990s. They weren’t dying off; they were simply moving elsewhere, and were later heard off Chile and Northern California. By 2000, they had completely disappeared from the Galápagos, and Whitehead and his team stopped their research. Then, in 2011, Whitehead learned that sperm whales had once again been sighted in the waters around the Galápagos, and he and his team returned to research the whales – only to find that none of the whales there belonged to the Regulars or the Plus-Ones.

Instead, the researchers found hundreds of new whales, all of whom belonged to either the “Short” or the “Four-Plus” clans. (The Shorts produce brief codas of about five clicks, while the Four-Plusses usually produce codas with a base of four regular clicks.) The Shorts and Four-Plusses had been heard before near Chile, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands…but not in the Galápagos. But they were there now, and they had brought their unique codas with them.

This was a rare instance of one social group (or, in this case, two) entirely replacing another. Such shifts are common among humans, but not at all common among animals.

This mass emigration/immigration show that clans tend to migrate together. If one social group from a particular clan decides to move from their chosen habitat, other groups appear to follow, indicating that cultural ties are stronger than ties to a particular habitat. More research may grant us insight into the decision-making progress among sperm whales’ social groups; Whitehead’s earlier research into sperm whale foraging patterns suggested that movement decisions among sperm whales might be democratic, with multiple whales’ opinions on destination taken into account during foraging. Could the same be true of long-distance movements, such as relocations to other areas of the ocean?

One part of this story isn’t clear: the researchers aren’t sure what caused the Regulars and Plus-Ones to emigrate en masse out of the Galápagos, or what caused the Shorts and Four-Plusses to move in years later. Two scenarios are hypothesized: one, that the clans were forced to relocate in pursuit of their chosen prey due to environmental changes caused by the El Niño Southern Oscillation; or, two, that the relocations were a delayed response to massive population changes caused by commercial whaling, and that the vocal clans were relocating to take advantage of the surplus prey left behind in the wake of the mass killings.

More research is needed to determine the motivation behind this particular relocation phenomenon, and to help us predict how sperm whales – and other marine animals – might respond to a rapidly-changing ocean. With regard to sperm whales, we clearly must also investigate how strong social and cultural ties could influence their responses to environmental changes.

  • Submitted by volk-morya
  • Journal reference: Mauricio Cantor, Hal Whitehead, Shane Gero, Luke Rendell. Cultural turnover among Galápagos sperm whales. Royal Society Open Science, 2016. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160615
  • Image: Female sperm whales and calves near Pinta Island credit. (Credit: Flip Nicklen, Minden/Corbis)
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. 

ALS Study Reveals Role of RNA-Binding Proteins
Finding provides new therapeutic target

Although only 10 percent of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) cases are hereditary, a significant number of them are caused by mutations that affect proteins that bind RNA, a type of genetic material. University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers studied several ALS cases with a mutation in a RNA-binding protein known as hnRNP A2/B1. In the study, published October 20 by Neuron, they describe how damage to this protein contributes to ALS by scrambling crucial cellular messaging systems.

“Our findings are a significant step forward in validating RNA-based therapy as a treatment for ALS,” said senior author Gene Yeo, PhD, professor of cellular and molecular medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a devastating neurological condition affecting more than 20,000 Americans. The disease greatly diminishes patients’ quality of life and is terminal. ALS affects a special kind of nerve cell called a motor neuron. These motor neurons enable us to move our bodies. Currently, there are no effective treatments for ALS, largely due to poor understanding of how the disease initiates and progresses at the molecular level.  

Yeo’s team studies RNA-binding proteins and their ability to control how, when and if cells make certain proteins. To unravel the role RNA-binding proteins play in ALS, Yeo’s team gathered skin cells from four patients with the disease — three with mutations in the hnRNP A2/B1 gene, one with a mutation in a different gene — and two healthy volunteers as controls. The researchers coaxed these skin cells into becoming a special kind of stem cell called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and ultimately turned these patient-specific stem cells into motor neurons. This technique provided them with personalized models of each patient’s disease, in a laboratory dish, where it’s easy to do experiments.

To determine the effects of the mutant hnRNP A2/B1 proteins in these samples, the researchers then measured the activity of thousands of genes in each of the ALS and healthy motor neuron samples. In the ALS patient samples, Yeo and team found that the hnRNP A2/B1 mutation these patients had didn’t merely disable the protein. Instead, the mutation gave the protein new toxic properties that scrambled RNA processing, and ultimately led to the death of motor neurons.

Read more here

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!