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The Artful Amoeba

The Artful Amoeba

A Blog About the Weird Wonderfulness of Life on Earth

  • Soil-Dwelling Fungus Rode Joplin Tornado to Unexpected Human Home

    Soil-Dwelling Fungus Rode Joplin Tornado to Unexpected Human Home

    By Jennifer Frazer | July 28, 2015 |

    The most unexpected beneficiary of the EF-5 tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri, on May 22, 2011 was a fungus named Apophysomyces . It may, in fact, have been the only beneficiary. The mile-wide tornado touched down just to the west of Joplin that day and rampaged through town. […]

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  • How Do Sea Sapphires Become Invisible?

    How Do Sea Sapphires Become Invisible?

    By Jennifer Frazer | July 23, 2015 |

    The sea sapphire combines the brilliance of a morpho butterfly, the cuteness of copepod, and the cloaking skills of a Klingon Bird-of-Prey . One second it shimmers brightly with color and then, poof, it disappears before your eyes. Have a look at this video from the Journal of the American Chemical Society to see what I mean. […]

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  • Shimmering, Squishy Comb Jellies Once Had Skeletons

    Shimmering, Squishy Comb Jellies Once Had Skeletons

    By Jennifer Frazer | July 20, 2015 |

    An evolutionary arms race during the blossoming of most multicellular life on Earth may have caused gelatinous comb jellies to armor up half a billion years ago. So says a team of Chinese scientists just over a week ago in Science based on three new fossils and three reinterpreted fossils from Chengjiang, China that date to 520 million years before the present. […]

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  • Why Red Algae Never Packed Their Bags for Land

    Why Red Algae Never Packed Their Bags for Land

    By Jennifer Frazer | July 13, 2015 |

    Red algae are the great “also-ran” of plant evolution. Though they are by far the most diverse seaweeds in the ocean, they rarely occur in freshwater and never on land, and so almost no one has ever heard of them (though if you've ever eaten sushi, you've certainly had an intimate red algal encounter). […]

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  • Starfish Show Tracking Tags Who's Boss [Video]

    Starfish Show Tracking Tags Who's Boss [Video]

    By Jennifer Frazer | June 23, 2015 |

    A funny thing happened when two Danish college students injected tracking tags into starfish. The tracking tags kept mysteriously winding up on the bottom of the tank. The students – Trine Bottos Olsen and Frederik Ekholm Gaardsted Christensen -- tell the story far better than I can … P { margin-bottom: 0.08in; } Starfish are famous for their ability to regenerate a disconcertingly large chunk of their bodies if dismembered. […]

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  • Playing in a Deep-Sea Brine Pool Is Fun, as Long as You're an ROV [Video]

    Playing in a Deep-Sea Brine Pool Is Fun, as Long as You're an ROV [Video]

    By Jennifer Frazer | June 18, 2015 |

    The Gulf of Mexico is known for many things, and sad to say, most are bad: hurricanes, oil spills ... the infamous Dead Zone . But there is a Wonder of Nature that the gulf should be known for but isn't. That would be the Brine Lakes of the Gulf of Mexico, amazingly located inside the gulf. […]

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  • Swapping Symbionts Enabled Mediterranean Lichen to Conquer the Arctic

    Swapping Symbionts Enabled Mediterranean Lichen to Conquer the Arctic

    By Jennifer Frazer | June 3, 2015 |

    In 2003, the Mediterranean coral Oculina patagonica did something that was supposed to be impossible: it destroyed bacteria that had formerly been bleaching and killing it. This was a great shock, because the prevailing wisdom is that corals do not possess immune systems like ourselves, and thus have no ability to develop immunity. […]

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  • Root Fungi Can Turn Pine Trees Into Carnivores — or at Least Accomplices

    Root Fungi Can Turn Pine Trees Into Carnivores — or at Least Accomplices

    By Jennifer Frazer | May 12, 2015 |

    Springtails are little leaping insects far too small to catch the notice of the naked human eye. But with a little magnification, some of them turn out to be adorable beyond belief. Take this clip from the BBC’s David Attenborough classic Life in the Undergrowth :   Life In The Undergrowth – Springtail Dance (music by David Poore) from David Poore on Vimeo . […]

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  • Dying Trees Can Send Food to Neighbors of Different Species via ‘Wood-Wide Web’

    By Jennifer Frazer | May 9, 2015 |

    No tree stands alone. Douglas-fir at Silver Falls State Park by Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives. Click image for source and license. No tree is an island, and no place is this truer than the forest. Hidden beneath the soil of the forest understory is a labyrinth of fungal connections between tree roots that scientists call the mycorrhizal network . […]

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  • A Five-Minute Taste of Deep Sea Exploration

    By Jennifer Frazer | May 5, 2015 |

    NOAA’s research ship Okeanos Explorer and its ROV Deep Discoverer (aka D2) wrapped up their latest exploration of the seafloor and marine canyons around Puerto Rico last week . Not all of the video logs summarizing their dives are up yet, but I thought this one gave a particularly nice taste of the geology and fantastic lifeforms the scientists encountered. […]

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