Sunday, February 28, 2010
Also, Bruce mentioned Cycad theft being a problem. There are several articles online about this. Here's one from California. I'm curious how you would go about selling a large stolen cycad. In the movies they always pass stolen goods through pawn shops (in the US) or sell them in a pub (in the UK). Both of these venues seem appropriate for a stolen video camera or watch but not for a large, and spiky, plant you are trying to sell for thousands of dollars.
The article suggests that ' thieves may be stealing to fill orders for an international black market most active in supplying collectors in the United States, Mexico, the Bahamas and South Africa.'
Somehow I find this international black market in a somewhat obscure group of gymnosperms hard to imagine. It's almost pythonesque. 'It's a holdup not a botany lesson.' I wonder what else there is a thriving international black market in that I am totally unaware of?
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Here are two articles about the Lotusland gardens and their founder, Ganna Walska, Forget About Rubies – She Wanted Cycads from the Christian Science Monitor and What The Diva Wrought, published in the Wall Street Journal. Both are short and well worth a read. The second article is hosted at the Lotusland website so click the links on the left for further information about Lotusland.
Friday, February 26, 2010
I don't think it will snow but just in case here is a handy guide to tracks we might find. Okay, 'fess up which ones don't you get? I confess I've never been into the Lord of the Rings so I don't get the Legolas reference although I do recognize the name as some elf or pixie or something. I think the rabbit one is the funniest.
From xkcd - the nerdiest strip out there. Math humor and science pathos under one roof.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
You should really all get all of these right although one of them (the violet) is a little clumsily presented.
There are several interesting videos and articles at the website. I don't think you can watch the whole show but you can see a nice clip on youTube.
Mark Capelli, NOAA, who will speak about his work incorporating global climate change predictions in the Southern California Steelhead Recovery Plan
Monday, 6pm, BSIF 1217
Monday, February 22, 2010
In the latest PNAS: Selective loss of polymorphic mating types is associated with rapid phenotypic evolution during morphic speciation
Abstract: Polymorphism may play an important role in speciation because new species could originate from the distinctive morphs observed in polymorphic populations. However, much remains to be understood about the process by which morphs found new species. To detail the steps of this mode of speciation, we studied the geographic variation and evolutionary history of a throat color polymorphism that distinguishes the “rock-paper-scissors” mating strategies of the side-blotched lizard, Uta stansburiana. We found that the polymorphism is geographically widespread and has been maintained for millions of years. However, there are many populations with reduced numbers of throat color morphs. Phylogenetic reconstruction showed that the polymorphism is ancestral, but it has been independently lost eight times, often giving rise to morphologically distinct subspecies/species. Changes to the polymorphism likely involved selection because the allele for one particular male strategy, the “sneaker” morph, has been lost in all cases. Polymorphism loss was associated with accelerated evolution of male size, female size, and sexual dimorphism, which suggests that polymorphism loss can promote rapid divergence among populations and aid species formation.
The paper was also summarized at Science Daily Evolutionary Game of Rock-Paper-Scissors May Lead to New Species.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Based on the extremely long corolla (about a foot in length) the moths would need to probe to get the nectar Darwin deduced that there must be moths with extremely long tongues in Madagascar even though he never saw them:
"It is, however, surprising that any insect should be able to reach the nectar: our English sphinxes have probosces as long as their bodies: but in Madagascar there must be moths with probosces capable of extension to a length of between ten and eleven inches!" Darwin, 1862 in On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing.
This photo was the Botany Photo of the day on Feb 12th and they include a link to an interesting paper in the American Entomologist entitled Darwin's Madagascan Hawk Moth Prediction that describes how Darwin's description of the orchid and proposed moth was ridiculed by some as being impossible while others suggested the long nectaries were proof of supernatural creation. Darwin and Wallace went on to explain how evolutionary processes could develop both a long-nectaried orchid species and a co-evolved moth.
Unfortunately Darwin did not live long enough to see the discovery of the moth in 1903. Although the moth was originally named "praedicta" in honor of the fact that Darwin predicted its existence the name was later, unfortunately, changed.
The moth approaches the flower to ascertain by scent whether or not it is the correct orchid species. Then the moth backs up over a foot and unrolls its proboscis, then flies forward, inserting it into the orchid's spur.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Some of mankind's most devastating inherited diseases appear to be declining, and a few have nearly disappeared, because more people are using genetic testing to decide whether to have children.
Now explore that number at NumberGossip.com
You'll learn the unique properties of the number, the rare properties and the common properties.
You'll learn about evil numbers, odious numbers, narcissistic numbers, untouchable numbers, vampire numbers and many more.
Not directly biology related but if it makes math a little more fun then my work here is done.
Friday, February 19, 2010
It is not only an image of a plant, but representation of the intellect’s power and its elaborate tools for scrutinizing nature. The transparency of this work refers not only to the lucid petals of a flower, but to the ambitious, romantic and utopian struggle of science to see and present the world as transparent (completely seen, entirely grasped) object.
This is a very informative and FUN website that I love to lose myself in. My favorite feature is the "random page" link, which takes you to a random species page, where you can read up about them!
Here is the synopsis:
The Tree of Life Web Project (ToL) is a collaborative effort of biologists and nature enthusiasts from around the world. On more than 10,000 World Wide Web pages, the project provides information about biodiversity, the characteristics of different groups of organisms, and their evolutionary history (phylogeny).
Each page contains information about a particular group, e.g., salamanders, segmented worms, phlox flowers, tyrannosaurs, euglenids, Heliconius butterflies, club fungi, or the vampire squid. ToL pages are linked one to another hierarchically, in the form of the evolutionary tree of life. Starting with the root of all Life on Earth and moving out along diverging branches to individual species, the structure of the ToL project thus illustrates the genetic connections between all living things.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Bananas are thought to have been one of the earliest fruits to have been 'domesticated'. Apparently in the middle ages both Moslems and Christians assumed that the forbidden fruit mentioned in the bible was the banana (the precise species is of course not revealed). I'm not sure when this tradition changed to the apple but it may have been because in Latin malum means apple and mālum means evil.
All bananas today are sterile. Here's an interesting article on the fate of the poor, sexless and therefore defenceless, banana.
Pity the banana. Despite its unmistakably phallic appearance, it hasn’t had sex for thousands of years. The world’s most erotic fruit is a sterile, seedless mutant—and therein lies a problem. The banana is genetically old and decrepit. It has been at an evolutionary standstill ever since humans first propagated it in the jungles of Southeast Asia at the end of the last ice age. And that is why some scientists believe that the banana could be doomed. It lacks the genes to fight off the pests and diseases that are invading the banana plantations of Central America and the small holdings of Africa and Asia.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Answer - the first annual "Research Week". Please visit the CCS Gallery this week to see a range of research poster presentations provided by CCS Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows and other CCS research-active students.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Monday, February 15, 2010
Here's a map showing the bike route from CCS (click for a larger version).
Speaking of plants being unable to move, and instead having to rely on adaptability. Sounds like the poor Redwoods aren't keeping up with the dryness.
On a different but bio-related note: has anyone ever woken to find a Jerusalem Cricket in their shoe? God, what a monster.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
This is a great chance to find out what all those grad students actually do. And do I see a CCS student presenting?
10:00‐10:30 am Registration and Coffee
10:30‐10:40 Welcome & Intro: Dr. Bob Warner, Professor and Chair of EEMB
10:40‐11:20 Keynote speaker: Dr. Catherine Gautier, Professor of Geography
11:20‐11:30 Mid‐morning coffee break
11:30‐12:30 pm SESSION I
• J. Stephen Gosnell: Non‐consumptive effects of a keystone intertidal predator and community consequences
• Caitlin Fong: The evolution of phototransduction and its role in behavior in Hydra magnipapillata
• Xueying (Shirley) Han: Spatial patterns in density of the sea urchin Diadema savignyi: Effects of predators
• Thomas Smith: Interactions between tadpoles, mayflies, and epiphyton in alpine
lakes of the Sierra Nevada
12:30‐1:40 Lunch (2nd floor balcony)
1:40‐1:50 Half‐time show
1:50‐3:05 SESSION II
• Karen Stahlheber: Islands of invasion: Dominance of exotexotic species near living and dead oak trees (Quercus spp.) in California grasslands
• Nathan Derieg: A flower color polymorphism: adaptations at odds?
• Barbara Bastos Horta e Costa: Evaluation of the first effects of conservation measures on reef fish communities in the Arrabida Marine Park, Portugal
• Alison Pischedda: Contrasting the relative importance of pre‐ and post‐copulatory sexual selection
• Tate Tunstall: Water flow and the amphibian pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis : How environment may affect disease outcome
3:05‐3:20 Mid‐afternoon coffee break
3:20‐4:20 SESSION III
• Brian Haggerty: TBD
• Julio Lorda: The effect of the trematode Microphallus sp. on the New Zealand mud snail, Potamopyrgus antipodarum, population in their native range
• Steve Sadro: Microbial effects on diel patterns of community respiration in an oligotrophic alpine lake
• Nicole Molinari: Native vs. non‐native grassland species: Who will win under future global change scenarios?
4:30‐5:30 Happy hour (2nd floor balcony)
5:45‐late Dinner, Alumni House, please give $10 to Alina Haas (LSB 4312) to attend
Saturday, February 13, 2010
"Cycads grow in hot and arid environments and they grow slowly. To get a long stem it might taken 400 to 800 years. As a result, their prices go through the roof,"
"In South Africa, some cycad colonies have virtually been wiped out by collectors seeking a sample," he said. "When a botanist a few years ago discovered a new species, Encephalartos cerinus, thieves plundered so many of the plants that they nearly wiped out the species within weeks of its discovery."
"Identification is nearly impossible when plants are stripped of their leaves for transport purposes, and it is therefore also important to identify species when only fragments from an individual specimen are available."
Friday, February 12, 2010
You can read more about gymnosperm derived compounds such as Ephedra and Ginkgo and numerous other herbal supplements and remedies.
You can download all the factsheets at once in pdf format if you click the image above. If you know someone who is a little too into herbal remedies you may want to pass on a copy. Not because the herbs are necessarily bad or dangerous but because they may have adverse interactions with other commonly prescribed medicines (eg for diabetes or blood pressure) and the factsheets clearly summarize our current state of knowledge.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Scientists have sequenced the DNA from four frozen hairs of a Greenlander who died 4,000 years ago in a study they say takes genetic technology into several new realms.
Surprisingly, the long-dead man appears to have originated in Siberia and is unrelated to modern Greenlanders, Morten Rasmussen of theand colleagues found.
"This provides evidence for a migration from Native Americans and Inuit," the researchers wrote in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.into the New World some 5,500 years ago, independent of that giving rise to the modern
Not only can the findings help transform the study of archeology, but they can help answer questions about the origins of modern populations and disease, they said.
Read the rest of the article by following the link above. Woot woot for genomic sequencing!
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
no time to write because I'm at work right now, but just saw this sciencedaily article that's very relevant to what we discussed in class yesterday.
Wort derives from the Old English wyrt, which simply meant plant! It was often used in the names of herbs and plants that had medicinal uses, the first part of the word denoting the complaint, or area of the body, against which it might be specially effective.
Although some of these names were acquired because the plants actually did contain substances that helped others were acquired because the plant, or part of the plant, merely resembled part of the body. This relationship of plant form to function was based in the "Doctrine of Signatures" and probably had its basis in natural theology: "it was reasoned that the Almighty must have set his sign upon the various means of curing disease which he provided."
Examples include Spleenwort (thought to be useful in treating the spleen), Liverwort (thought to be useful in treating the liver), Toothwort (thought to be useful in treating tooth ailments0 and Lungwort (thought to be useful in treating pulmonary infections). There are also lots of examples where plant in some way resembled the symptoms of a disease. So, for example, Poplar or "Quaking Aspen" leaves were used for shaking or uncontrollable body movements (medically known as palsy).
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Monday, February 8, 2010
A paper in The American Naturalist confirmed this prediction for the first time in 2007: orchid bees with long tongues suck up their nectar more slowly than bees with shorter tongues.
Scaling of Nectar Foraging in Orchid Bees
Sunday, February 7, 2010
I just discovered WikiQuote and it's there so it must be true.
Anywhow I'm probably the only person who thinks this is a good metaphor for evolution, particularly macroevolution, but this story made me think of it again.
In a finding that overturns conventional wisdom, scientists are reporting the first discovery of the female sex hormone progesterone in a plant. Until now, scientists thought that only animals could make progesterone.
"While the biological role of progesterone has been extensively studied in mammals, the reason for its presence in plants is less apparent." They speculate that the hormone, like other steroid hormones, might be an ancient bioregulator that evolved billions of years ago, before the appearance of modern plants and animals.
It seems to me we shouldn't be too surprised by the discovery of progesterone in plants because it is, after all, all one song.
Occurrence of Progesterone and Related Animal Steroids in Two Higher Plants
Saturday, February 6, 2010
This week's Nature Video is also cool, and relevant to class.
The fossilized remains of 395-million-year-old footprints in Poland have turned back the clock on the evolution of four-legged creatures, or tetrapods. The finds, reported this week in Nature, are 18 million years older than the earliest confirmed tetrapod fossils.
Scientists are getting better at getting their stories out (or at least some journals are better at presenting stores to the media in digestible form)
Read the original Article, the accompanying News and Views, related news story and listen to the Nature Podcast.
Friday, February 5, 2010
I was going to leave this until next quarter but since being on the cover of Nature last week barefoot running is attracting even more attention from the media. Nature is actually a little slow to this bandwagon - just this week I've caught two CCS students indulging in barefoot escapades.
Nature have a nice series of short videos that illustrate some of their papers.
This actually reminds me of a story I read recently, in Wired magazine I think. Some researchers were interested in using force platforms to help rehabilitate stroke victims by giving them feedback on balance and forces. The type of force platform that would typically be used, like the one used to calculate the forces on the foot in the study above, can cost well over $10,000. Looking for a cheaper alternative they dismantled the balance board available for skateboarding and balance games on the Nintendo Wii system. They found the accelerometers and strain gauges more than adequate. Thanks to the Internets I can confirm that this half remembered second hand story is actually true.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Watch the video here.
I've posted this to the blog before but I think it is worth a repost. I've thought about this video a lot and I think the point it makes is spot on. Somewhere in all the teaching, especially in big intro classes, we forget to include the wonder. Sometimes you really do need to stop and see the wood in the trees.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
1. Registration: It is time to register for the 2010 Conference. Our website includes the registration form and the website allows you to pay via credit card. http://www.scu.edu/cas/biology/wcbsurc/index.cfm
2. Abstract Deadline: March 1, 2010. Please read the guidelines for preparing your abstract on our website. E-mail abstracts to me: firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Background: On Saturday April 24, 2010 the 35th Annual West Coast Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference will be held at Santa Clara University. Two other Santa Clara faculty and I founded the Conference in 1975 and Santa Clara exclusively hosted the Conference for the first decade. Over the years the Conference has grown in size and prestige and now rotates between Northern and Southern California. Each year about 100 undergraduate students along with their faculty sponsors attend the Conference and students give oral presentations or posters of their original research. Typically we have a broad spectrum of undergraduate students from large universities like Stanford and UCLA to smaller colleges like Occidental and Westmont.
4. Keynote: This year's keynote speaker will be Dr. Christopher Field, Director of the Carnegie Department of Global Ecology. Dr. Field, as chair of an international research team on global warming, shared the Nobel Prize with Al Gore in 2007.
5. We will send e-mails to remind you of abstract deadlines, etc.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
But the best part are the PLANTS. This show really brings them to life and everyone has to watch at least 10 mins of it, you won't regret it. This is only part 1 of 6, and if your further interested, youtube their "Private Life of Plants" Series. The link will be below the video. Have fun :)
Suggest you FULL SCREEN this video.
Here is link to Series " Private Life of Plants":
Aside from the poor dialogue and overall bad storyline, the movie was terrible because of how it depicted evolution. I don't want to give it away (I think everyone seriously considering studying evolutionary biology should be forced to watch the film) but the entire premise is based on what John was saying in class today about how plants adapt given that they cannot move...
I don't know. Maybe one of these days I'll host a "Happening" party and we can all whine and gripe and grumble together.
Monday, February 1, 2010
Pretty crazy. This snake, Rhabdophis tigrinusof Japan is resistant to a species of toxic toad. After eating the toad, the snake is able to maintain the toxins in its neck glands and use them a chemical defense.
Today's EEMB seminar is presented by Ben Gilbert, a postdoc here at UCSB. His talk is entitled, "Maintaining species diversity: Untangling the roles of environment, space and competition."
4:00 in the MSRB auditorium.
Next week's (February 8th) CCBER restoration ecology seminar is Understanding the impacts to Global Climate Change on Plant Phenology and Pollination Patterns – Brian Haggerty, UCSB
BSIF 1217. (between Noble and BioII)