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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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  • 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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    Two-Billion-Year-Old Fossils Reveal Strange and Puzzling Forms


    To a human, two billion years is an unfathomable interval. But that, a team of European, Gabonese, and American scientists now say, is how long ago a recently discovered hoard of fossils suggests Earth’s first big life evolved — large enough to see with the naked eye, and in a spectrum of forms that tease [...]

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    Ocean Giants: How Big Are They Really?


    Just how big is a giant squid? Not quite as big, perhaps, as you might think. This fabulous new graphic from the Deep Sea News crew and several other scientists represents *a lot* of research to find out the true largest sizes of 25 ocean creatures of giant repute. It appeared today to accompany an [...]

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    Deepest Fish Features Angel Wings, Tentacles and Amazing Ability to Perform Under Pressure


    There comes a depth at which even fish struggle to survive the titanic pressure. But that depth is only found at the few places on Earth that lie below 27,600 feet of water, where the weight of the water warps piscine proteins and crushes cells. Such a place is the Mariana Trench, which plunges to [...]

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    Wonderful Things: Ferns Eject Their Spores with Medieval-Style Catapults


    Author’s note: This is the latest post in the Wonderful Things series. You can read more about this series here. One of the more under-appreciated and ingenious machines evolved by plants is the cavitation catapult of leptosporangiate ferns. If that sounds exciting and mysterious, that’s because it is. This is a leptosporangium, where the fern [...]

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    A Sweet Seahorse Tale From Fantastic New Web Series “Deep Look”


    Today I have a small biology present for you courtesy of a new series of short videos produced by PBS Digital Studios and KQED San Francisco. For those of you who, like me, take pleasure in exploring Earth’s more diminutive wonders, this new web series is a treat you should know about. It’s called “Deep [...]

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    Bacterial Motors Come in a Dizzying Array of Models


    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


    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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