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The Artful Amoeba

A Blog About the Weird Wonderfulness of Life on Earth
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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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  • 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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    Funnel-Shaped Animals Invented Reefs Prior to Cambrian Explosion

    Ediacaran reef Penny et al 2014 Fig 2 closeup_200

    Scientists have long thought of the Cambrian Explosion 541 million years ago as the flowering of complex life on Earth. Strangely shaped, large soft-bodied organisms were known to have lived in the period just prior — the Ediacaran — but they made few hard parts and scientists have debated whether any or how many were [...]

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    Natural History is Dying, and We Are All the Losers

    Grasses’ Secret: They Have Flowers, and Some Are Gorgeous


    Growing up, I felt certain that grass and most trees did not have flowers. They just had leaves and seeds — that was all I could see, anyway. It wasn’t until college that my eyes were opened. Not only do all trees except conifers and tree ferns have flowers, so do all grasses. All of [...]

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    Spiny Baby Sea Bass Illustrates Surprising Physiques of Young Fish


    Among divers and marine biologists, it’s common knowledge that ocean fish lead double lives. Like birds and butterflies, their young often look nothing like the adults, but unlike birds and butterflies, it is the young that are often more beautiful and ornate than their parents. I think this bit of natural history remains largely unknown [...]

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    Kawasaki Disease Traced to Winds from Northeast China Carrying Unusual Fungal Load


    In 2012 I wrote a story for Nature about a strange illness called Kawasaki Disease whose cause has eluded scientists for over 50 years. The diseases causes inflammation of the blood vessels in small children that leads to fever, rashes and reddening, and even coronary aneurysms that can cause heart attacks in the young. Whatever [...]

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