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The Artful Amoeba

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    Jennifer Frazer Jennifer Frazer is a AAAS Science Journalism Award-winning science writer. She has degrees in biology, plant pathology/mycology, and science writing, and has spent many happy hours studying life in situ.
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  • A Few Moments With an Earthly Alien Close Cousin to You


    In the comments of the following video on Youtube, a viewer asks, “Is that a real video ? Or Cgi ?” What you will see in this video is very much real, but I can see why someone might get confused. The serene, fuzzy, and vaguely sparkly pink tube you just saw is both profoundly [...]

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    Dandruff-Causing Skin Fungi Discovered Unexpectedly in Deep Sea Vents, Antarctica


    Until relatively recently, the fungus Malassezia was thought to have one favorite home: us. As the dominant fungus on human skin and sometimes-cause of dandruff, the yeast Malassezia was thought to live a simple if sometimes irritating domestic existence humbly mooching off the oils we exude. No more. Thanks to the efforts of scientists over [...]

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    An Eye-Popping New Look at Flowers’ Highly Public Private Parts


    People who lack the gardening bug often regard flowers like fashion models: pretty but boring. Jens Petersen, the man who gave us the groundbreaking photographs of fungi in “The Kingdom of Fungi”, which I reviewed here in March, has a new book of photographs (still available only in Danish, unfortunately, and called Blomsterliv — “Flower [...]

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    Deepsea Challenge Hits Theaters; Here’s the Biology Behind the Film


    Note: James Cameron’s National Geographic film “Deepsea Challenge 3D” documenting his trip to Challenger Deep at the bottom of the Mariana Trench has been released at last — to about 300 “select theaters” on August 8. So far, critics’ reviews have been mixed, with some saying that the movie is long on Cameron and short [...]

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    Wonderful Things: Parasite Shoots Tiny Animals with Harpoons Launched from Guns

    Haptoglossa_gun_Barron 1987_Fig1_200

    The most complicated fungal cell known to science belongs to a parasite called Haptoglossa mirabilis first lured into a rotifer-baited trap in the soil of a tropical greenhouse in a Toronto suburb on October 7, 1979. Inside that trap lay a cell so intricate and finely tuned it gives jellyfish stinging cells a run for their money.

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    Mysterious Tiles from a Time When Art and Science Were Friends


    Forces in society of late have lots of us longing for the days of the Enlightenment, smallpox, powdered wigs, ridiculously uncomfortable clothing and all. It must have been nice to live in an era when science and scientists were respected, admired, and generously funded (though often by self-funded aristocrats or by royal grants gleaned from [...]

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    Some Spider: My House Spider Took Out a Scorpion


    Two scorpions, actually. One of the more unpleasant facts about life in the Deep South is the sheer number of insects who call your house home. When I moved to southern Texas from my nearly bug-free Colorado quarters, I discovered I would now be sharing digs with carpenter ants, sugar ants, tiny paper-eating silverfish, an [...]

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    Bread Wheat Genome Contains “Shocking” Plot Twist


    “Wheat P1210892” by Copyright © 2007 David Monniaux – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. Yesterday scientitsts announced in a quartet of papers in the journal Science that the draft genome of bread wheat — Triticum aestivum — had been decoded and mapped. Together with barley, wheat is the crop on [...]

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    Giant, Ancient Chirping Pill-Millipedes of Madagascar: Irresistible


    On the island of Madagascar lives a group of millipedes that can roll into balls as large as a small orange. Although that may seem alarming, they have no poison glands. They can, however, activate your cuteness sensors.

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    Open Ocean Mama Squid Clings to Bundle of Squirming Bubble Wrap


    Bottom-dwelling squid and octopus usually attach their eggs to a hard surface, but open ocean squid have no such luxury. For many years, scientists thought such squid simply released their eggs to the whims of the currents. Recently, however, Stephanie Bush at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute discovered that the situation for some open ocean [...]

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