Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New Deep Sea Creature Surfaced!

Think sharks are scary? They're downright cuddly compared to the Bathynomus giganteus, a very terrifying (and very real) sea creature that recently surfaced from the deep.

See Flickr photos of the creature. (Warning: May give you nightmares.)

So, what the heck is it? According to an article from Fox News, the Bathynomus giganteus (henceforth known as "Bart") is a type of giant isopod, "a large crustacean that dwells in deep Atlantic and Pacific waters," and looks like a huge, gigantic cockroach! It passes the time by feeding on "dead whales, fish, and squid."

Ol' Bart attached itself to a submarine that was exploring the ocean floor. When the sub surfaced, people got an unexpected look at the slithery stowaway. The creature is a pinkish in color, two and a half feet long, and wouldn't be out of place in an Ed Wood movie (no offense, Bart).

The story was originally posted on Reddit by a guy who works for the submarine company. It quickly went viral from there. Once news of the creature's existence hit, Web searches immediately soared. Online lookups for "sea creature found," "giant isopod," and (our personal favorite) "terrifying sea creature" all roared.

It's worth noting that the existence of the Bathynomus giganteus isn't, in and of itself, a surprise. Scientists have long been aware of them. The shock came from seeing one up close in all its cockroach-like glory. Can't. Look. Away.

Article thanks to: Mike Krumboltz, "Sea Creature Surfaces, Chaos Ensues"

CCBER seminar for Spring 2010

CCBER's conservation and restoration ecology seminar series.

This spring we will be discussing the importance (or not) of using local genetic ecotypes for restoration as well as other ways that genetic information can inform restoration efforts; see schedule below.

Seminars are Monday evenings, 6-7pm. This Spring they will be in North Hall Rm 1109
  • March 29th – Introduction, Wayne Chapman for Lisa
  • April 5th – Genetics 101, Lisa Stratton
  • April 12nd – Genotypes and Local restoration: Issues, constraints and examples, Wayne Chapman.
  • April 19th –Native seed production: Issues and Constraints; Paul Albright, Albright Seeds
  • April 26th – Genetic issues related to rare species conservation - Mark Elvin, USFWS
  • May 3rd – Gene flow, genetic structure, and restoration ecology of oaks– Victoria Sork, UCLA
  • May 10th – Evolutionary Restoration, Kevin Rice, UCDavis
  • May 17th – Creating a cultivar & hybridization risks, Bart O’ Brien, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
  • May 24th – Final Discussion

Friday, March 19, 2010

Get involved: USA National Phenology Network

Here is a cool website to check out over Spring Break. Something you can get involved with or have your friends or family do as well.
Just observe the phenology of certain life history traits of plants that you can probably find in your backyard. The website is national effort to monitor information about the plants. The website is self explanantory and easy to navigate. Check it out and have fun!

Click on link:

PHENOLOGY

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A film about pines

We watched this film in my plant biology class, and it really helped me understand the specifics of pine reproduction.

http://mentor.lscf.ucsb.edu/course/summer2009/eemb127/media/pines.mov

Friday, March 12, 2010

Travels

Okay, I'm going to take a break from daily postings for a while - although I may still post the odd item. I'll be back and posting daily again next quarter. Oh, and I will add a post tomorrow or so about some of the questions on the multiple choice test I handed out.

Final question, what good non-fiction books have you read outside of biology lately? I'm a little late to the party but I just picked up a copy of last year's UCSB Reads book 'The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy.' It's really interesting and is helping explain a lot about the global economy to me - even if I am reading it a year after everyone else. Post any suggestions you have for other good non-biology books in the comments.

Good luck with your finals and have a fun, and safe, Spring Break.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Crow Paradox

Congratulations to Garrett for the 500th posting to the CCSBio blog. Sadly there is no prize. (no, not even a 'no-prize').

I'm now set up for the rest of the quarter (or what remains) because your presentations have reminded me of a number of items.

Thanks again for presenting. I thought everybody did a great job and almost all of you kept to time well. Sorry for being so strict on time, it would have been great to follow each person with a few questions or discussion, but you have to be tough when you are trying to fit in a lot of presentations.

Inspired by Whitney's talk about facial recognition I thought some of you might enjoy this little NPR animation. I don't think I can embed it but if you click the image it will take you to the NPR page with the video. Yes, that is Dick Cheney.

Here's a surprise: Wild crows can recognize individual people. They can pick a person out of a crowd, follow them, and remember them — apparently for years. But people — even people who love crows — usually can't tell them apart.

Can YOU recognize different crows?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Subglacial Lake Research


Researchers have thawed ice estimated to be perhaps a million years old or more from above Lake Vostok, an ancient lake that lies hidden more than two miles beneath the frozen surface of Antarctica using novel genomic techniques to determine how tiny, living "time capsules" survived the ages in total darkness, in freezing cold, and without food and energy from the sun.

Lake Vostok is located beneath four kilometers of ice in East Antarctica. The lake is approximately 250 km long and 50 km wide. The overlying ice provides a continuous paleo-climatic record of 400,000 years, although the lake water itself may have been isolated for as long as 15 million years.

Because of the long isolation, it's believed that Lake Vostok could contain new lifeforms, and unique geochemical processes. For five years, scientists in Russia and the United States have sought to probe the ancient lake to discover the secrets lying inside this pristine body of water.

A major issue is the reality that it is impossible to penetrate an isolated ecosystem without contaminating it. The catch 22 inherent in Lake Vostok is that the very thing that make it potentially unique: because of its millennia of isolation from the rest of the world, it cannot be explored without introduction of microbes from the outer world.

NASA has expressed interest in exploring the lake to search for microbes that might be similar to ones on other planets. How the bacteria get energy to survive is an important unanswered question. The lake could be an analog to Jupiter's moon Europa or subsurface where conditions are similar.

The ice segments were cut from an 11,866-foot ice core drilled in 1998 through a joint effort involving the United States, Russia, and France. The core was taken from approximately two miles below the surface of Antarctica and 656 feet (200 meters) above the surface of the lake, and has since been stored at -35 degrees Celsius at the National Ice Core Laboratory, Denver, Colo.

"This lake may have been isolated for that long - 15 million years," said Lanoil, the principal investigator of the research project. "After nearly a year of preparation and verifying protocols, we are now ready to process the samples, and will examine the DNA of these microorganisms to understand how they survived in such an extreme environment."

New Dinosaur Discovered


ScienceDaily (Feb. 24, 2010) — A team of paleontologists has discovered a new dinosaur species they're calling Abydosaurus, which belongs to the group of gigantic, long-necked, long-tailed, four-legged, plant-eating dinosaurs such as Brachiosaurus.

In a rare twist, they recovered four heads -- two still fully intact -- from a quarry in Dinosaur National Monument in eastern Utah. Complete skulls have been recovered for only eight of more than 120 known varieties of sauropod.

"Their heads are built lighter than mammal skulls because they sit way out at the end of very long necks," said Brooks Britt, a paleontologist at Brigham Young University. "Instead of thick bones fused together, sauropod skulls are made of thin bones bound together by soft tissue. Usually it falls apart quickly after death and disintegrates."

Analysis of the bones indicates that the closest relative of Abydosaurus is Brachiosaurus, which lived 45 million years earlier. The four Abydosaurus specimens were all juveniles.

Most of what scientists know about sauropods is from the neck down, but the skulls from Abydosaurus give a few clues about how the largest land animals to roam the earth ate their food. "They didn't chew their food; they just grabbed it and swallowed it," Britt said. "The skulls are only one two-hundredth of total body volume and don't have an elaborate chewing system."

All sauropods ate plants and continually replaced their teeth throughout their lives. In the Jurassic Period, sauropods exhibited a wide range of tooth shapes. But by the end of the dinosaur age, all sauropods had narrow, pencil-like teeth. Abydosaurus teeth are somewhere in between, reflecting a trend toward smaller teeth and more rapid tooth replacement.

The fossils were excavated from the Cedar Mountain Formation in Dinosaur National Monument near Vernal, Utah. The site is just a quarter of a mile away from the condemned visitor center that displays thousands of bones that remain in place on an uplifted slab of sandstone.

Pandas Might Go EXTINCT!!!


China's famous mascot, the giant panda, could disappear from the wild in two or three generations, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Beijing. Experts warn the animal's natural habitat in southwest China is threatened by development.

Fan Zhiyong, Species Programme Director for the World Wide Fund for Nature in Beijing voiced concerns in a report by the Xinhua News Agency, saying basic housing projects have "a fundamental conflict with conservation."

Heavy traffic has stopped pandas from crossing over highways, inhibiting the pandas' ability to meet and interact with each other, as they normally do. Roads, power lines and water projects are also cutting off pandas from nearby areas where they might find a suitable mate.

Researchers have increased the number of pandas held in captivity through artificial insemination. But, in the the wild, pandas are terrible at reproducing on their own and no fewer than 1,600 of them exist.

Although the WWF was not against economic development, Zhiyong said considerations for pandas should be made when developing housing ideas.

"We shouldn't say 'don't let development happen.' We are just asking if, in the process of developing these areas should we, can we, stop and think that as a Chinese national treasure and a globally protected species, can we plan with them in mind? Can our development plans include them in the considerations?"

Ongoing construction could soon shrink the wild panda population to nothing. Zhiyong said, "If these animals are all raised by people they are no longer a wild species...if at some point in the future the only way to see the survival of the panda as a species is to rely on the artificial insemination of frozen sperm, we will know the extinction of this species is not far off."

Red Queen

Come see the Red Queen in action or just blow off some steam before finals. UCSB Running Series presents the Shamrock Scramble this Saturday (March 13th) at 9am - starting and ending at the West Campus and taking in Del Playa and a loop around Manzanita housing.
Online registration ends today (Wednesday) but you can sign up on the day if you pay $5 extra. Funds raised benefit the Alumni Association Scholarship Fund.

This is the way it was(n't)



No dinosaurs were harmed during the making of this movie. Despite the scientific innacuracies you have to admire the skill of the master of stop-motion animation Ray Harryhausen who is on record as saying that he did not make One Million Years B.C. for "professors" who in his opinion "probably don't go to see these kinds of movies anyway."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

No Sex Needed: All-Female Lizard Species Cross Their Chromosomes to Make Babies

This species of lizard is comprised solely of females. They are able to reproduce asexually.



http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=asexual-lizards

Animals Getting Drunk

We watched this documentary "Animals are Beautiful People" in AP biology, and its hilarious. This particular clip is about how some animals get drunk. Just a little comic relief.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtPplZnPuMA

-Kylie

Water Bears

Don't let the cute and cuddly fool you, these guys can survive the most intense climates!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBNM7hvodmE

Growing low-oxygen zones in oceans worry scientists

Lower levels of oxygen in the Earth's oceans, particularly off the United States' Pacific Northwest coast, could be another sign of fundamental changes linked to global climate change, scientists say.

They warn that the oceans' complex undersea ecosystems and fragile food chains could be disrupted.

In some spots off Washington state and Oregon, the almost complete absence of oxygen has left piles of Dungeness crab carcasses littering the ocean floor, killed off 25-year-old sea stars, crippled colonies of sea anemones and produced mats of potentially noxious bacteria that thrive in such conditions.

In areas such as the Southern California coast, oxygen levels have dropped roughly 20 percent over the past 25 years. Elsewhere, scientists say, oxygen levels might have declined by one-third over 50 years.

"The real surprise is how this has become the new norm," said Jack Barth, an oceanography professor at Oregon State University. "We are seeing it year after year."

Barth and others say the changes are consistent with current climate-change models. Previous studies have found that the oceans are becoming more acidic as they absorb more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

"If the Earth continues to warm, the expectation is we will have lower and lower oxygen levels," said Francis Chan, a marine researcher at Oregon State.

As ocean temperatures rise, the warmer water on the surface acts as a cap, which interferes with the natural circulation that normally allows deeper waters that are already oxygen-depleted to reach the surface. It's on the surface where ocean waters are recharged with oxygen from the air.

Commonly, ocean "dead zones" have been linked to agricultural runoff and other pollution coming down major rivers such as the Mississippi or the Columbia. One of the largest of the 400 or so ocean dead zones is in the Gulf of Mexico, near the mouth of the Mississippi.

"It's like an experiment," said Francis Chan, a marine researcher at Oregon State. "We are pulling some things out of the food web and we will have to see what happens. But if you pull enough things out, it could have a real impact."

--Courtesy of Les Blumenthal - McClatchy Newspapers

Anglerfish: Let Me Be A Part of You. Literally.

The Prickly Deep Sea Anglerfish males become one with their female.

Anglerfish, a deep sea fish named for the spiny appendage on its head that it uses as bait to "fish" its prey, has an unusual mating habit. As it spends its time in the bottom of the ocean, finding a mate is a problem – but the species solved this evolutionary challenge beautifully.

At first, scientists were perplexed because they’ve never caught a male anglerfish. Also, all female anglerfish have a lump on their body that looks like a parasite. Only later did scientists discover that the lump is the remain of the male fish.

The tiny male anglerfish are born without any digestive system, so once they hatch, they have to find a female quickly. When a male finds a female, he quickly bites her body and releases an enzyme that digests his skin and her body to fuse the two in an eternal embrace. The male then wastes away, becoming nothing but a lump on the female anglerfish’s body!

When the female is ready to spawn, her "male appendage" is there, ready to release sperms to fertilize her egg.

Topical

It's official: An asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs
A giant asteroid smashing into Earth is the only plausible explanation for the extinction of the dinosaurs, a global scientific team said on Thursday, hoping to settle a row that has divided experts for decades.

From an article, The Chicxulub Asteroid Impact and Mass Extinction at the Cretaceous-Paleogene Boundary, in the Journal Science just this week.

The Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary ~65.5 million years ago marks one of the three largest mass extinctions in the past 500 million years. The extinction event coincided with a large asteroid impact at Chicxulub, Mexico, and occurred within the time of Deccan flood basalt volcanism in India. Here, we synthesize records of the global stratigraphy across this boundary to assess the proposed causes of the mass extinction. Notably, a single ejecta-rich deposit compositionally linked to the Chicxulub impact is globally distributed at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary. The temporal match between the ejecta layer and the onset of the extinctions and the agreement of ecological patterns in the fossil record with modeled environmental perturbations (for example, darkness and cooling) lead us to conclude that the Chicxulub impact triggered the mass extinction.

When I was a kid there were literally dozens of theories for what killed the dinosaurs (from poisonous plants to overheated testicles). In 1980 an asteroid impact hypothesis got a big boost by the discovery of Iridium in the sedimentary rocks at the K-T boundary. In the 30 years since then this theory has gone from being highly speculative to being mentioned in textbooks to being generally accepted and finally it has become scientific orthodoxy.

BoingBoing

BoingBoing, a directory of wonderful things, has been on a bit of a roll lately.
Check out:

The Manakin Would Do Michael Jackson Proud!

These compact stubby Manakin birds might not look as dazzling as Michael Jackson did, but they sure do him justice.

The Manakins are from the family, Pipridae, of some 60 passerine bird species of subtropical and tropical mainland Central and South America, and Trinidad and Tobago. They range in size from 7-15 cm and weigh between 8-30 grams. The females are a dull green color while the males are mostly black with striking color patches.

These birds have spectacular, elaborate courtship rituals. Their modified wing feathers are used to make unique high pitched buzzing and snapping sounds at a speed the human eye can not even detect, making them the fastest wings on earth!

Not only are these speed demons the fastest flight birds on the planet but they also have moves that would make Michael Jackson proud!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Still running

Alice in Wonderland Barbie and friends.

As we come to the end of our first quarter I think it's time we returned to the Red queen hypothesis. Although much data is consistent with the red queen hypothesis and it helps explain numerous phenomena, it has been hard to directly test it because of the time scales involved with evolutionary processes.

However in Nature recently a group of workers from the University of Liverpool (and elsewhere) used experimental populations of bacteria and their viral pathogens to directly test the hypothesis.
Antagonistic coevolution accelerates molecular evolution
(T)he rate of molecular evolution in the phage was far higher when both bacterium and phage coevolved with each other than when phage evolved against a constant host genotype. Coevolution also resulted in far greater genetic divergence between replicate populations, which was correlated with the range of hosts that coevolved phage were able to infect. Consistent with this, the most rapidly evolving phage genes under coevolution were those involved in host infection. These results demonstrate, at both the genomic and phenotypic level, that antagonistic coevolution is a cause of rapid and divergent evolution, and is likely to be a major driver of evolutionary change within species.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Seeing faces

In 1976 NASA's Viking 1 Mars Lander spacecraft took a photograph of the surface of the Cydonia region of Mars that was to become rather controversial over the years. In the poor resolution available to Viking's camera, it appears to show a human face on the surface of Mars. Over the years higher resolution pictures became available and the clearer the picture the less evidence there is for a face.

Yesterdays post made me have to go and look up a word I couldn't remember - Pareidolia. This is the psychological phenomenon involving a vague visual image being perceived as significant.

As biologists though we want to dig a little deeper. Why do we see faces everywhere we look - in clouds, on the moon, in squid and on grilled cheese sandwiches? The New York Times had a good article on this a couple of years ago.

Compelling answers are beginning to emerge from biologists and computer scientists who are gaining new insights into how the brain recognizes and processes facial data.

Long before she had heard of Diana Duyser’s grilled-cheese sandwich, Doris Tsao, a neuroscientist at the University of Bremen in Germany, had an inkling that people might process faces differently from other objects. Her suspicion was that a particular area of the brain gives faces priority, like an airline offering first-class passengers expedited boarding.

The bottom line:

“It’s extremely beneficial for the brain to become good at the task of face recognition and not to be very strict in its inclusion criteria. The cost of missing a face is higher than the cost of declaring a nonface to be a face.”

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Squid friends

Although Blobby was often sad he always had his squid friends, the Glass Squid and the Piglet Squid, to cheer him up. How can you not be a biologist when such fabulous creatures exist?

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Current Status of the BLOBFISH


The saddest looking fish in the sea may soon be wiped out!
The blobfish is a bloated bottom dweller, living at depths of up to 800m. It can grow up to 12 inches in length, but is rarely seen by humans.

However, it is most noticeable for having the saddest face in the ocean! Its appearance is due to its ability to live at depths where pressure is several dozen times higher than at sea level. To remain buoyant, it evolved to have flesh slightly denser that water, allowing it to float about without the use of muscles.

Surprisingly, it is in danger of being overfished. Not because it is in high demand, or any demand for that matter, but because it is being dragged up with tastier catches like lobster and crab.

Deep-sea expert Professor Callum Roberts was very troubled over the blobfish’s chances of survival. “The Australian and New Zealand deep-trawling fishing fleets are some of the most active in the world so if you are a blobfish then it is not a good place to be."

"Blobfish are often mistakenly caught by fishermen trawling for lobsters, which also often live at great depths. A very large amount of the deep sea is under threat from bottom trawling, which is one of the most destructive forms of fishing."

"There are some deep-water protected areas around sea mounts in the Southern Ocean but that is only really to protect coral and not the blobfish."

Any Man's WORST Nightmare....


Some of you have probably heard of the tiny Amazonian catfish called the Candriu that has the ability to swim up a human penis and well, I wont spoil the ending...just see for yourself! Just don't EVER pee in the Amazon River. EVER!

Read and be disturbed. DO NOT PASS THIS UP!!! I guarntee you will not be disappointed.

This is for the video:

...And you think YOUR kids are crazy!!!

This video wouldn't let me embed it but seriously check out this video! the second half shares the story of the female sea louse, which, once impregnated, remains a captive of the male in his underwater dungeon until she gives birth. Unfortunately, she never lives to see mother's day because her children eat her from the inside out while they develop, eventually swimming free of her empty carcass. Gruesome.

Here is the link: (embedding is disabled on the video but still, CHECK IT OUT!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIhM52SHBEk

You'll believe a penguin can fly

I've posted this before but I'm posting it again for two reasons. 1) You get to see penguin's 'flying' 2) the combination of soundtrack and video is truly strange. Penguin's - adorable flightless comedians of the Antarctic. Leonard Cohen - the adorable flightless poet from Canada. Put them together and you get something truly disturbing.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Basalt and granite

I think it was Whitney who asked a question about the relationship between basalt rock and granite rock. It turns out that this is key to understanding which plate 'wins' when they collide. Basalt rock is heavier and granite is lighter. Plates made of basalt tend to be forced under the lighter granite plates. The lighter granite plates form the continents. Basalt and granite are addressed here at the Ask a Geologist page. The analogy seems backwards though - the heavier truck ends up on top of the lighter VW whereas the heavier basaltic plate ends up underneath the lighter granitic plate.

As it turns out, most of the ocean floor is basalt, and most of the continents are granite. Basaltic crust is dark and thin and heavy, while granite is light and accumulates into continent-sized rafts which bob about like corks in this "sea of basalt." When a continent runs into a piece of seafloor, it's much like a Mac truck running into a Volkswagon. Not very pretty, but at least there's a clear winner. And the seafloor basalt ends up in pretty much the same position as does the VW - under the truck (or continent, as the case may be). This may seem like a drag for the basalt, but remember that it isn't all that happy on the surface anyway, and this gives it the heat it needs to re-melt and try to complete the differentiation process which was so rudely interrupted at the spreading ridge. If successful and allowed to continue, what's left behind is a "purified" magma with most of the iron, magnesium, and other heavy elements removed. When it cools, guess what forms? And the continental land mass just got a wee bit larger.

The following YouTube video from National Geographic is a little dramatic and they fail to mention now speculative the positions of the early continents are but even so I thought I'd post it because it nicely covers several topics we looked at from the bombardment of the earth, to the origin of life, to the production of heat via radioactivity and the movement of the plates.

Can a single layer of cells control a leaf's size?

Found this online and thought it was interesting.  Especially because we were talking a lot about what makes the plants growing longer on one side.  

http://www.biologynews.net/archives/2010/02/25/can_a_single_layer_of_cells_control_a_leafs_size.html

Ever looked carefully at the leaves on a plant and noticed their various sizes and shapes? Why are they different? What controls the size and shape of each individual leaf? Very little is known about the developmental control of leaf size and shape, and understanding the mechanisms behind this is a major issue in plant biology.


A leaf's size is determined by a combination of cell number, cell size, and intercellular space. Michael Marcotrigiano from Smith College, Massachusetts, wanted to find out what role cell layers played in regulating leaf size and shape. He utilized a powerful tool—the synthesis of graft chimeras—that has allowed him to carefully analyze the developmental regulation of leaf size and shape in Nicotiana and has published his findings in the February issue of the American Journal of Botany (http://www.amjbot.org/cgi/content/full/97/2/224).

By grafting plants of different Nicotiana genotypes Marcotrigiano was able to recover shoots from the graft union that were chimeras. These shoots were composed of both genotypes. Eventually he recovered leaves with two genetically distinct cell layers. He grafted N. tabacum, a large-leaf genotype, and N. glaucum, a small-leaf genotype, to produce leaves where the resulting epidermal cell layer was a different genotype than the mesophyll cell layer—but on only one side of the leaf, allowing for direct comparison of the growth of the leaf from one side to the other. Thus, one side of the leaf could act as a "control" for the other side of the leaf. This enabled him to set up some nicely designed comparisons where on one side of the leaf the outer cell layer (the epidermis) differed in genotype from the rest of the leaf.

"Since leaves generally vary in size along the length of the stem and leaf size is strongly influenced by environmental factors, my method allowed me to compare one side of a leaf to the other, negating the complications that arise when comparing different leaves on a single plant or leaves on different plants," Marcotrigiano said.

Creating these graft chimeras was time-consuming and involved an element of chance; often the growing tip of the chimeral shoots reverted back to a non-chimeral shoot rendering the leaves generated from that point on useless for analysis. However, over the past decade enough leaves were recovered that were perfectly bisected, homogeneous on one side of the midvein and with a unique epidermis on the other. This allowed Marcotrigiano to use them to examine how leaf cell layer affects leaf size and shape.

Marcotrigiano's most striking finding was the important role that the epidermal cells played in determining leaf size. He found that leaves grew asymmetrically when one side of the midvein contained identical cell layer arrangements and the other side contained epidermal cells that differed genetically from the mesophyll cells. When big-leaf epidermal cells surrounded small-leaf mesophyll cells in an otherwise all small-genotype leaf, the big-leaf epidermal cells caused that side of the leaf to be bigger than the other side. In contrast, when small-leaf epidermal cells surrounded big-leaf mesophyll cells in an otherwise all big-genotype leaf, the small-leaf epidermal cells caused that side to be smaller than the other side.

Epidermal cells not only controlled overall leaf size, but also influenced the number of cells produced in the mesophyll layer. For example, small-leaf epidermal cells surrounding big-leaf mesophyll cells caused the mesophyll cells to have many fewer cell divisions than when they were surrounded by big-leaf epidermal cells. Interestingly, the epidermal cells did not influence, or change, the size of the mesophyll cells.

Marcotrigiano concludes that while regulation of leaf size is complex and influenced by many factors and many genes, his findings show that communication between adjacent cell layers plays an important role in determining leaf size. Cells in one tissue layer can control the rate of division of cells in another tissue layer, which in turn influences overall leaf size.

Source : American Journal of Botany

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

More Lotusland

More photographs courtesy of Lauren. Again, click for a larger version of the contact sheet.
Here are a couple of my favorites in all their glory:
DSC_5187 - lemons
DSC_5193 - rain

I uploaded some more photos from the first contact sheet. See the post below.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lotusland Pictures

Lauren sent me some great pictures she took at Lotusland. I made a contact sheet out of them (fyi Photoshop will do this automatically for you using File> Automate> Contact Sheet if you have a directory full of photo images) and if you click on the image you should get a slightly larger version.

I uploaded a number of the photographs at their full size and they are available here:
CSC_5355.JPG
DSC_5095.JPG
DSC_5099.JPG
DSC_5114.JPG
DSC_5128.JPG
DSC_5132.JPG

I'll upload a second contact sheet and some more full size images shortly.

Earthquake in Chile shifts Earth's axis

Hopefully it's common knowledge by now that there was an earthquake in Chile over the weekend. Upon learning the magnitude of an earthquake my thoughts generally drift toward concern for the people of that region. However, in addition to the 700+ people who died and many who were injured, the Earth took a toll as well, slightly shifting its axis in response to the quake. As a result, it is estimated that days on Earth have been shortened by about 1.26 microseconds. While the change is seemingly negligible, I found it interesting that it could happen at all.

Here's the link to the NASA report:

http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/earth-20100301.html

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ancient plant has hot, stinky sex

If you go into science journalism you too can get to write headlines like this:
Ancient plant has hot, stinky sex
The actual paper this news article is based on has the decidedly more prosaic title of:
Odor-Mediated Push-Pull Pollination in Cycads
The reproductive organs of some plants self-heat, release scent, and attract pollinators. The relations among these processes are not well understood, especially in the more ancient, nonflowering gymnosperm lineages. We describe the influence of plant volatiles in an obligate pollination mutualism between an Australian Macrozamia cycad (a gymnosperm with male and female individuals) and its specialist thrips pollinator, Cycadothrips chadwicki. Pollen-laden thrips leave male cycad cones en masse during the daily thermogenic phase, when cone temperatures and volatile emissions increase dramatically and thrips are repelled. As thermogenesis declines, total volatile emissions diminish and cones attract thrips, resulting in pollination of female cones. Behavioral and electrophysiological tests on thrips reveal that variations in b-myrcene and ocimene emissions by male and female cones are sufficient to explain the observed sequential thrips' repellence (push) and attraction (pull). These dynamic interactions represent complex adaptations that enhance the likelihood of pollination and may reflect an intermediate state in the evolution of biotic pollination.