more biologists!

Sea Urchin-Inspired House Captures Tidal Energy

If you’ve ever dreamed of having a seafront home shaped like a sea urchin — who hasn’t? — then hold onto your swim fins.

The Hydroelectric Tidal House, envisioned by architectural designer Margot Krasojević, draws inspiration from some of nature’s weirdest sea creatures — echinoderms like starfish and sea urchins whose symmetrical shapes have long fascinated biologists. Learn more

What if You Were Born in Space?

Did you know that there has been an ‘uninterrupted’ human presence in space ever since November of 2001? That is rather awesome when you think about it, but all of the people who have spent time in space were born and grew up on Earth.

Okay, technically we were all born in space. But what would things be like for a person who was conceived and born in outer space?

NASA funds research programs devoted to studying a variety of aspects of living in space including the possibility of growing plants to the physical effects on the human body in a zero-gravity environment. These experiments are still in their very early stages since space travel itself is relatively new.

A woman has yet to give birth on a shuttle or in the Space Station nor has a pregnant woman even traveled in space. However, a few studies have sent pregnant rats into space so the development of the (Earth-born) babies could be investigated.

More recently in 2001 biologists Jeffrey Alberts of Indiana University and April Ronca of the NASA Ames Research Center sent 20 pregnant rats into space to determine some of the effects the zero-gravity environment had on the fetuses. The rats were sent in the middle of their pregnancies when the vestibular systems were beginning to develop in the fetuses. (The vestibular system in humans is a network of channels and sacs of fluid in the inner ear that regulates balance.) The mothers gave birth to normal-sized babies and were able to lactate and care for them normally. Even after the muscle mass lost due to the lack of gravity the labor contractions did not pose a problem for the mothers. There were noticeable effects on the vestibular systems of the space-based rat infants, however. The Earth-based babies were able to immediately right themselves upon being turned on their backs in water. The space-based babies had more trouble; some had to make a few attempts before achieving success and others were unable to do it at all. After five days of the same test though all the babies were able to roll over. The researchers also determined that the vestibular organs detecting angular changes were actually more advanced in the space-based babies, probably because their mothers were forced to roll around a lot on the shuttle due to the lack of gravity.

Sex is very difficult in zero gravity, apparently, because you have no traction and you keep bumping against the walls. Think about it: you have no friction, you have no resistance. But the lack of gravity is not the only issue making space births difficult. The effects on a developing fetus would likely be severe, perhaps disrupting normal embryonic development and even neurological functioning. A baby’s body and bones may develop differently in weightlessness.

If a pregnant woman flies in space and gives birth almost right away, the baby will be born pretty normal because it will develop in the womb very normally at Earth’s gravity. What happens then is very interesting.

The bone cells are programmed to grow; they don’t stop until you are a teenager or so. But it is gravity as a stress that makes the cells in the bones have the right alignment, or stack up properly and pull the bone so that it forms straight. Without gravity, the baby’s bones won’t get long and thin like adult bone. They will be very easy to break, and they won’t grow as fast. This is true for arms and legs.

The bones at the top of the baby’s head will actually grow thicker and stronger than on Earth. This is because your heart does not have to work so hard to move blood and other fluid from your feet to your upper body because there is no gravity. What happens is that the heart still pulls on the fluid in the legs, which now comes out much more easily. This causes the upper body to have more fluid and more pressure, which causes stress. Stress is always what makes bone grow and change. So, more pressure, more growth in the skull.

The bones in the hands will probably be normal because the baby/child/adult will use his hands just like on Earth. The feet will probably not grow much because they don’t get the stress from having the weight of your whole body on them. Ribs are interesting. Ribs protect your lungs and give support to your body so they don’t collapse. They would probably be okay, but develop thinner than on Earth, so they wouldn’t be nearly as strong. The spine is really going to be affected. The gravity won’t push/pull down on you, so the vertebrae won’t feel the stress, and they won’t grow. But they will get stress from the spinal cord as it grows and pushes out. You would probably end up with thinner, very easily crushed vertebrae.

Muscles work the same way. They need stress to grow and develop. Gravity is a stress force that pulls in one direction causing the muscle to develop in the right shape. So, if it is a muscle that won’t be used much (say, the muscles that move your feet), they won’t grow nearly as strong. Some muscles will be almost the same, such as your hand muscles. Other muscles, like your heart, will be different. Your heart won’t have to work as hard because there is no gravity to make blood circulation difficult. This takes a while to happen though. With a baby just born, probably the heart will never develop nearly as strong as a baby on Earth will.

Muscles and bones work together. The muscles are attached to bone, and they are very tightly connected. If you exercise a muscle, it pulls on the bone and causes a pulling stress. This helps the bone grow stronger in that area. This is why kids are told to play around outside when they are young - their bones grow very fast and if the child does a lot of exercise, the muscles get strong, making the bone very strong.

So, a baby born in space is going to have pretty strange and weak bones in most parts of their body. This shouldn’t affect them too much if they spend their whole life in space, but they will be in a lot of trouble if they come back to Earth. Their leg and feet bones will be too weak to hold them, the spine will probably crush under its own weight. The heart muscle will not be strong enough to pump blood around the whole body because of gravity pulling the blood down, and leg muscles will be too weak for you to stand. Basically, your bones and muscles will be much too heavy to support, and you will fall down in a big heap and die.

But if you are a baby born in space and someone drops you on your head when you return to Earth, your skull will be nice and thick.

[sources: x x x] For more info check this video.

theatlantic.com
Natural History Museums Are Teeming With Undiscovered Species
Tracking them down is a globe-trotting adventure that rivals any jungle expedition.
By Ed Yong

“That’s why the act of collecting still matters. A recent opinion piece, published in the top-tier journal Science, argued that specimen collecting risked killing off vulnerable species, and should be supplanted by audio recordings, camera-trap images, and non-lethal tissue gathering. It drew a loud response from more than 100 biologists, who argued that none of those strategies beats having an actual specimen. 

Biologists would never have identified the greater monkey-faced bat, or the sacred crocodile, or the olinguito through camera-trap images alone. The act of collecting sacrifices a few individual lives, but in return, it gives us irreplaceable information about hidden species and changing communities, about how our wildlife is reacting to our changing world, and about how to protect them in the future. The dramatic dwindling of the planet’s diversity—the so-called sixth extinction—makes such work more critical, not less. “There’s a tendency to see research on collections as inherently old-fashioned—a misconception of dustiness, or looking towards the past,” says [Kris] Helgen. “But it’s inherently forward-looking.” 

“It’s maybe not an intuitive thing that anyone should take dead animals and plants and lock them in a cabinet and keep them there for years, decades, even centuries,” he adds. “But that’s the business natural history museums are in. And it’s an extraordinary pursuit.” 

While this piece focuses on animal collections, all the points raised are true for dried plant specimens stored in herbaria around the world. 

Socrates and Cupid: A Dialogue (Part Three)

Socrates: I will try my best. First, suppose we were to ask an evolutionary biologist, what is love? This is what I hypothesize: Taking great care to ensure his scientific rigidness is not misinterpreted as cynicism—a care that I myself will not take in summarizing his belief—the evolutionary biologist will tell us that love is a cosmic deception; that is to say, love once awoke in the minds of the earliest humans as but a small kindle in the heart, and has since grown as the generations come and go, for the sheer purpose of prolonging our species. Do you understand?

Cupid: No!

Socrates: Because I have not explained this biologist’s point of view sufficiently, of course, so I will give a more mindful attempt. The biologist has been trained in her studies to view all things through the lens of evolution, and, begrudgingly, love can be no exception for her. So, in the strictest terms of evolutionary biology, she thinks to herself, why does love exist? And the answer is immediately apparent. Look before you now, dear Cupid, at the scores of couples down below, playing with their children, guiding them to grow strong, as their parents have done for them, and the parents of the parents before them. One could even go so far as to say love tricks us into having babies. And so I ask you: How many of these couples, do you suppose, would go through this trouble were it not for the love they feel for their kids, and the love they feel for their partners, who through good and bad take upon this endless responsibility by their sides. 

Cupid: Tehe! Not many at all! I have made the experience joyous for them, because they love each other. 

Socrates: This is the point our biologist wishes to make, and I can find no fault with this point—it is scientific and it is unbiased and it accounts for a great deal of the evolutionary purposes of love. But now, o chubby floating baby, let’s say we leave our biologist to her studies, and we find another with whom we may engage in conversation.

Cupid: Oh, you’re making me tingly, Socrates. Don’t make me wait—who will we ask about love next?

Socrates: We will ask my protégé, Plato, whom I miss dearly. In his typical fashion, he will transfix us with a beautiful story, so that through metaphor we may encounter a deeper truth. Here is his story: Humans were once creatures with two heads, four arms, and four legs, but upon angering the heavens, Zeus summoned his lightening to slice us all in two parts, and thus love is the journey we take in finding our other halves, in becoming whole again. 

Cupid: Tehehe. His metaphor tickles!

Socrates: The man had many metaphors, all of which tickled as much or even moreso than the one I have just summarized. This is why I miss him so dearly. But, since we are still speaking on the subject of love, I will move forward to two more people to whom we can ask our question. First, we will approach a shy young girl, who blushes at the prospect of conversation, but nevertheless we shall push forth and have her explain to us why she has fallen in love with a boy. Perhaps this boy is her new romantic partner or perhaps the boy is just a celebrity whom she will never personally know, yet whom she will love from the confines of her own home. Either scenario is sufficient for the question we will pose to her: Why do you love this boy?

Cupid: Fuck you, Socrates, tehehe! She won’t know—she can’t possibly know that I shot her with my arrow. It’s magic! 

Socrates: You are right, and I will therefore rephrase. Instead, we will ask her of the affects she has experienced from her newfound love.

Cupid: That’s better!

Socrates: What say she? As she perks up from the chance to talk of her love and her cheeks begin to glow, with brimming excitement will she not go on about how her man has made her feel special, has brought her out of her shell, and has allowed her to find meaning, an escape from her loneliness?

Cupid: She will, and I’ll shoot her with a thousand more arrows!

Socrates: And thus, for her, love is the esoteric sensation that causes her to withdraw from her shell of isolation, to integrate with another human and learn from his experiences. Hence, for her, love is growth. Finally, suppose we were to ask an old, rich man, who has come to experience all of the luxuries and freedom of financial well-being, what purpose love has brought upon him now. He will say that his love for a woman whom he has recently met—an aspiring model with nineteen years of age—has suppressed his boredom and has brought upon him a resurgence of the passion he once felt as a child. With delight, he will marry the young bride, and once the girl has reached the boring age of twenty-two, he will gladly cede to her half of his fortune in order that they should depart one another in divorce, for he has found a new love, freshly nineteen, who has again rekindled his passion and who he shall now marry.

Cupid: Tehehe, that’s the California Sunrise at work! You know my strains very well! 

Socrates: But do you see what has happened, dear Cupid: We have asked several people the question of what is love, and each has provided us with a different, though equally suffice, response.

Cupid: And suppose we were to ask Socrates? Tehe.

(…To be continued…)

Follow @zeezyzach for weekly Socratic dialogues

  • Environment: so we need more space for animals...
  • Biologists: bridges.
  • Environment: wat
  • Biologists: big bridges.
  • Environment: that's not going to work.
  • Biologists: bridges. Clumps of land.
  • Environment: where are you going to get these land clumps?
  • Biologists: FROM THE CLUMP GODS.
  • Environment: ...clump gods?
  • Biologists: ALL HAIL THE LAND CLUMP BRIDGE GODS
  • Environment: BIOLOGISTS PLS
  • biologists: BRIDGES EVERYWHERE
  • environment: CHILL
  • biologists: *explode*
  • Interviewer: So what makes you qualified for this position?
  • Me: Anti-SJW, Anti-feminism, Anti-cultural isolation. Pro fucking logic. Send me your hate, its the only thing that gets me up in the morning. I’m pretty much here solely to debate/prove people wrong. So if you think you can pull one over on me, think your sociology degree has taught you more about biology than biologists? Think you can prove god is real? Think you’ll be the first person to actually offend me? Give it your best shot. We can do it civilly, or start a flame war, I fuck with either one.

WORK IN CURRENT HERPETOLOGY:

Epictia septemlineata, A New Species of Epictia (Serpentes: Leptotyphlopidae) Endemic to the Dry Forest of northwestern Peru  [2015]

Abstract:

Three new blindsnake species of the genus Epictia are described based on material collected in the Peruvian Regions Amazonas, Cajamarca and La Libertad. All three species are well differentiated from all congeners based on characteristics of their morphology and coloration.

All three species were collected in the interandean dry forest valleys of the Marañón River and its tributaries. This region is an area of endemism and warrants further attention from systematic and conservation biologists…

(read more: NovaTaxa - Species New to Science)

Koch, C., P. J. Venegas & W. Böhme. 2015. #Zootaxa. 3964(2): 228–244. DOI: dx.doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.3964.2.4
ResearchGate.net/publication/277559545_Three_new_endemic_species_of_Epictia_Gray_1845_(Serpentes_Leptotyphlopidae)_from_the_dry_forest_of_northwestern_Peru

A misinterpretation of Taureans are that we are “natural hippies”. That we carelessly bask in the warm breeze, under the trees, that we enjoy warm food indoors while it’s raining.

But we are actually very calculated, we see the order in chaos. We’re more “natural biologists”. We enjoy the Universe because we meticulously pick at things, admiring fields of green but keeping an eye out for four leaf clovers, sticking our tongues out during a sprinkle to see when a raindrop will finally land on our tongues, matching the beat of our footsteps to the sounds around us. We subconsciously are, “Everything happens for a reason.” It’s probably because Taurus succeeds the intelligent and headstrong Aries in the astrological cycle that in comparison we aren’t so smart, but in reality, Arians are just incredibly genius, and Taureans don’t really mind if people think they’re dumb.

Lungs of an American alligator have a more birdlike airflow than biologists imagined, as does the savannah monitor lizard (bottom row). Air flows two ways in the trachea, but deeper in the lung, it follows a one-way path (right panels). 

(via: Science News)

images: Alligator, from left: C.G. Farmer and Kent Sanders/Univ. of Utah; E. Otwell. Lizard: E.R. Schachner et al/Nature 2013

come out to the sea, my love (and drown with me); part 1

about: in which a mermaid and a marine biologist are more similar than different, hands are sometimes made of metal, and privacy is subjective. also known as that au i’ve been blogging about.

warnings: generally unhealthy relationship dynamic but not much you wouldn’t find in the show itself

note: part one of three, though originally parts 1, 2, and 3 not necessarily in that order. also available on ao3.

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