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The Artful Amoeba

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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  • New Worm-Like Mite Features Extraordinary Upholstery


    This bizarre structure is not from the prop shop of a science fiction movie, though it may well provide inspiration there. What might you guess this claw-like appendage is attached to? Would you have guessed . . . a mite? As in, the same group of spider-relative arachnids that brought us the dust mite, the [...]

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    Tiny, Ancient Crustacean Preserved in Fool’s Gold, Legs, Eggs and All

    ostracod_Siveter et al Image 1_200

    Once upon a time there lived a little crustacean inside a little shell. This is not a usual state of affairs for a crustacean. Most are clad in figure-hugging armor (like lobsters or crabs), but they don’t live inside clam-like shells. This one was different. It had both armor and a hinged shell. Inside her [...]

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    Defrosted Moss Sprouts Anew After 1,500 years in Antarctic Permafrost


    Last year I blogged about the surprising discovery that mosses released after 400 years of frozen glacial ensquashment had managed to survive and sprout new growth, a finding that radically altered our ideas about regrowth during the retreat of ice ages. Now, a new study in Current Biology pushes that back at least a millennium [...]

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    Fungi Like You’ve Never Seen Them Before


    When I took Mycology 101 in grad school, the textbook situation was so bad that the one we used came on a CD-ROM. Not came with a CD-ROM. It was one. My professor grumbled that printed mycology texts all had their flaws and none was great. The illustrations were usually fair to poor. The drawings [...]

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    Solving a Winemaker’s Dilemma With Wild Yeast


    Have you noticed that wine seems to be packing more punch? Well, it’s not your imagination. Over the past 20 years, wine really has been getting stronger for some reasons that may surprise you. And it’s not a phenomenon that vintners are happy about. They would like to get those alcohol levels down. As a [...]

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    New Octopus-like Protists in Termite Guts Named for HP Lovecraft Cosmic Monster ‘Cthulhu’

    Nerds have a particular fascination for the Cthulhu mythos of horror novelist and all-around-weird-guy H. P. Lovecraft. In Lovecraft’s stories, Cthulhu was a tentacle-faced titanic god-monster who slept in a mythic undersea lair called R’lyheh, dreaming of the day he could emerge to destroy humanity. Nerds hold the mythic being in high esteem and have [...]

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    Flying for Free the Horsetail Spore Way


    In spite of their sedentary reputations (putting down roots being, perhaps, the ultimate symbol of stability), plants are capable of a surprising range of movements, and not just the Venus flytraps of the world. Observe: At :36, the spores appear to scuttle about like dozens of itsy bitsy spiders, and at 1:17 they launch themselves [...]

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    An Illustration of the Many Ways to Be Multicellular on Planet Earth


    How many ways are there to be multicellular on Earth? You know, organisms made of more than one cell? Let’s see . . . plants, animals, and fungi. Three, right? Wrong. I give you “Representative Diverse Origins of Multicellularity …”, aka, Fig. 1 from the paper “The Evolutionary-Developmental Origins of Multicellularity” in the January issue [...]

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    A Closer Look at a Tiny, Floating Horde


    It’s a strange but true fact that the young of many familiar sea creatures look nothing like them. Drifting on currents to distribute their kind, they are an unsung part of the plankton, itself an unsung part of the sea. A few years back, I wrote about the work of Richard Kirby, a research fellow [...]

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    Suspicious Virus Makes Rare Cross-Kingdom Leap From Plants to Honeybees


    When HIV jumped from chimpanzees to humans sometime in the early 1900s, it crossed a gulf spanning several million years of evolution. But tobacco ringspot virus, scientists announced last week, has made a jump that defies credulity. It has crossed a yawning chasm ~1.6 billion years wide. And this is likely bad news for its [...]

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