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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. Follow on Twitter @JenniferFrazer.
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  • Bacterial Motors Come in a Dizzying Array of Models

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    Bacteria that can swim propel themselves with corkscrew tails anchored in rotary motors. That may seem surprisingly mechanical for a microbe, but it is a system that has been wildly popular and conserved across billions of years of evolution. To see what I mean, I encourage you to visit this page. All four videos are [...]

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    Parasitic Trypanosomes Contain Nature’s Only Chain Mail DNA

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    The organisms that cause us untold suffering can also be astounding works of art, sculpted by evolution into elegant, deadly packages. Such is the case for the trypanosomes, the protists I discussed last time as the source of Chagas Disease, but which also cause sleeping sickness in Africa. But what lurks inside those little packages [...]

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    Americans May Be More at Risk from Deadly Heart Parasite Than Realized

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    The kissing bug may have the most misleadingly cute name in entomology. It bites, rather than smooches, its victims around the mouth or face. But far worse than the bite itself is what may find its way into it: wriggling worm-like parasitic protists called Trypanosoma cruzi that teem in the feces of these bugs, which [...]

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    Wonderful Things: The Giant Transparent Ribbons of Eel Larvae

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    Author’s note: This is the latest post in the Wonderful Things series. You can read more about this series here. It is startling how different the larvae of fish can be from the adults that produced them, as I wrote in a blog post a few months ago. But even I was shocked by the [...]

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    Plankton Astound With Their Many Ways of Bustin’ a Move

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    Though plankton drift with the ocean currents, that doesn’t mean they’re incapable of any movement. Many of them can move to find food or mates, and they do so in some surprising and sometimes entertaining ways. Just have a look at this sampler of dinoflagellaes, ciliates, rotifers, cladocerans, and copepod larvae and adults put together [...]

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    Origin of Mysterious Portuguese Mathematical and Geographical Tiles Revealed

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    A few months ago I wrote about some mystifying mathematical and geographic tiles I encountered at the National Tile Museum in Lisbon, Portugal. Their accompanying label gave no clue to who had made them or why. Several readers subsequently wrote to tell me what they knew about these tiles. Thank you to everyone who did [...]

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    Amborella, the Ancient Shrub with the Hoard of Foreign Genes

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    Amborella is a humble shrub with a noble pedigree: it is the first plant to have split from the rest of the flowering plants after their evolution that has survived to the present day. Its rather rudimentary-looking flowers and evergreen leaves may be testimony to that fact. This wasn’t known until relatively recently, though, partly because the plant dwells on only one island in the world — Grand Terre in the remote French archipelago of New Caledonia in the South Pacific — and partly because it was only when we got a look at its DNA that we could see this.

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    Fern Frozen in Time by Volcanic Flow Reveals Stunning Detail

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    It defies belief, but a 180 million year old fern fossil unearthed in Sweden is so exquisitely preserved that it is possible to see its cells dividing. So pristine is the fossil, reported scientists from the Swedish Museum of Natural History in the journal Science in March, that it is possible for them to estimate [...]

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    Wonderful Things: The Starry Night Beneath the Caribbean Sea

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    One of the most astounding events of my life was immediately preceded by one of the scariest: I turned out my dive light in the ocean at night.

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    Cosmic Karma: Mosquitoes Have Flying, Blood-Sucking Parasites of Their Own

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    In 1922, a scientist named F.W. Edwards published a paper describing a remarkable thing: a flying, biting midge collected from the Malay Peninsula in southeast Asia that he named Culicoides anophelis. What made the midge was remarkable was the thing it bit: mosquitoes.

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