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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. Follow on Twitter @JenniferFrazer.
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  • Discover the Puerto Rico Trench with America’s Ocean Exploration Team

    Every two years people around the world suddenly obsessively watch odd niche sports like ice dancing, biathalon, and rhythmic gymnastics. So I wish similar enthusiasm could be summoned for the exploration dives of the Deep Discoverer, NOAA’s ROV aboard the research vessel Okeanos Explorer and vehicles like it, which are streamed live on the internet. [...]

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    Glass Anchors Strengthen Sponges and Enlighten Engineers


    It must be the Year of the Sponge here at The Artful Amoeba, because I can’t seem to write enough posts about sponges and their amazing micro-scale architecture. Below is the Sponge of the Day, and it’s one I’ve discussed here before:  Euplectella aspergillum, also called Venus’s flower basket. “Euplectella aspergillum” by NOAA/Monterey Bay Aquarium [...]

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    Wonderful Things: The Amazing Mimicry of the Mummy Berry Fungus


    Author’s note: This is the latest post in the Wonderful Things series. You can read more about this series here. There is a fungus on our planet which is capable of not one, but two audacious and duplicitous acts: it pretends, on separate occasions, to be a flower and a pollen grain, and its performances [...]

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    Ferns Get It On After 60 Million Years Apart


    An unassuming little fern has left scientists scratching their heads at the feat of reproductive hijinks it apparently represents. The fern, xCystocarpium roskamianum (the prefix ‘x’ indicates it is a hybrid), collected in the French Pyrenees, appeared to be a blend of two ferns they know well. Although this fern is infertile as many hybrids [...]

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    Ahoy! Thar Be a New Seadragon in the Briny Deep


    As fabulous, fantastical gems of evolution go, seadragons are hard to beat. The weedy seadgragon: “Weedy seadragon-Phyllopteryx taeniolatus” by Sylke Rohrlach – Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons. The leafy seadragon, one of my favorite animals of all time: “Leafy Seadragon” by Joseph C Boone – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA [...]

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    Ever Wish You Could Put Ernst Haeckel On Your Lamp Shade? Now You Can


    If you’re like me, you’ve always wanted Ernst Haeckel in your house. Well, not literally Ernst Haeckel, the great 19th century biologist (although that would be cool, in alive form). “Ernst Haeckel 1860“. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. His prints. “Haeckel Discomedusae 8” by Original: Ernst Haeckel. Scan: Ragesoss. Cleanup: Ilmari Karonen. – [...]

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    Tiny Cell Grows Giant Death Spike and Lives to Grow Another


    Let’s say you’re a small cell engaged in heavy manufacturing. Like most animal cells, you are coated only in a thin membrane made a double layer of fluid fat-like molecules. The thing you make is a giant, pointy glass rod twice your size. Would you expect to survive this process? Well, if you’re a cell [...]

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    What on Earth Made These Perfect Fossil Rings?

    rings_wisconsin_Hughes Lab, UC Riverside_200

    See these annular structures? They are 492 million years old and come from Wisconsin. Here are some more. Was there a severe shortage of beer coasters in Cambrian Wisconsin? We’ve seen a lot of interesting fossils around the blog lately (see here, for instance, for some strange fossils that are four times as old as [...]

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    Lowly Sponges Conceal Astounding Architecture


    To look at a rock sponge, which usually has all the visual appeal of a potato, you would never guess that inside lies the Notre Dame of animal skeletons. But so it is. Here are a few: The rock sponges (named for their notable lack of squish) build their skeletons out of tiny bits of [...]

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    For These Plants, No Victim Is Too Small


    The tropical plant Genlisea is a tiny, homely rosette of simple green leaves. If you dig up its roots, you will find what look like an unremarkable bunch long, pale underground roots. Except they are not roots. They are death traps.

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