ADVERTISEMENT
  About the SA Blog Network

Posts Tagged "taxonomy"

The Artful Amoeba

Planthoppers of Iran: Are You OK?

planthopper_siphanta_acuta_Brocken_Inaglory_wiki_cc_200

Every once in a while, a scientific work comes along of such import that it is impossible not to cover it. Such is the paper “Planthoppers of Iran” (well, actually “An annotated checklist of the planthoppers of Iran (Hemiptera, Auchenorrhyncha, Fulgoromorpha) with distribution data“). Now, I’ll wager you know what an Iran is. But did [...]

Keep reading »
The Artful Amoeba

The Surprising Lives of Cycads

cycad_flickr_kiryna_cc_comm_200

If you had to guess which organism possesses sperm with 40,000 tails, what would you guess? Elephant? Whale? Chuck Norris? Would you have guessed that it belongs to a plant? This is the sperm of Zamia roezlii. It has a flapper dress-like fringe of tens of thousands of flagella to turbo-charge its way to eggs.* [...]

Keep reading »
The Artful Amoeba

The Story of Spigelia genuflexa, or, Why Biology Needs YOU

spigelia_200

The above plant is a sweet little creature, yet may not seem particularly noteworthy. But it did to a handyman named Jose Carlos Mendes Santos, who found it in the backyard of an amateur Russian botanist named Alex Popovkin in northeast Brazil, took the trouble to carefully uproot it, and shared it with his employer. [...]

Keep reading »
The Artful Amoeba

The Mystery Rust of Kivalina, Alaska

rust_spore_sem_alaska_200

Author’s note: This is the last of a series of four posts in Fungi Month here at TAA. Enjoy! Last month a mysterious orange film (“goo” in the media vernacular) washed up on the shores of a northwest Alaskan village called Kivalina. Experts suspected crustacean eggs; locals were unnerved. In retrospect, reports that the substance [...]

Keep reading »
But Seriously...

Olinguito: New Kid on the Block

Olinguito

The olinguito has become a science media darling this past week. And why not? It’s small and furry and doesn’t look quite like anything you’ve seen before. Unless you’ve seen an olingo. Olingos are relatively obscure relatives of the more popular raccoon. They live up in rainforest canopies of South America, and are mostly active [...]

Keep reading »
Compound Eye

Why are media insects misidentified?

Here’s a book cover that reliably sends entomologists into hysterics: What’s so funny? Well, that’s not a bee. In fact, this insect last shared an ancestor with a bee over 350 million years ago. That’s before dinosaurs. According to an index I whimsically invented last year, this cover measures a taxonomy fail of 58. How [...]

Keep reading »
Culturing Science

The Best Things I’ve Read All Week (8 Jan 2012)

girlreading

Here are the best things I’ve read all week. The pieces are not necessarily news and could be decades old, and they’re probably longform writing but not always. Maybe there is one link, maybe there are forty. But they all were thought-provoking enough that they hopped around in my brain long past the read. Enjoy. [...]

Keep reading »
Culturing Science

Botanists finally ditch Latin and paper, enter 21st century

Badianus-small

While some schoolchildren daydream about crushes during class, delicately inscribing their names in paper margins, others instead yearn to one day discover and name their own species for the cute boy at the corner desk. But they know little about the excess work involved in plant discovery. Even after discovering and confirming a new species [...]

Keep reading »
Extinction Countdown

Genetic Tests Reveal 10 Previously Unknown African Terrapin Species

african helmeted terrapin

Imagine living underground for six years waiting for water. That might seem like a challenge, but it’s just a normal part of the life cycle for the African helmeted terrapin. These common side-necked turtles, which bend their necks to the side until their heads are protected by one leg and an overhang of their shell, [...]

Keep reading »
Lab Rat

Butterfly watch: four legs vs. six legs

A large white, Pieris brassicae, image (c) James Gould

After last years rains and the late snows of winter, this summer has been a really good one for British butterflies. As August has now come to an end, and summer technically turns into autumn, I thought it was time for another butterfly post. In particular, I wanted to write about one of the stranger [...]

Keep reading »
Lab Rat

How the animals lost their sensors

The components of the two-component signalling system. Picture (c) me.

For free-living organisms, the ability to sense and respond to the outside environment is crucial for survival. Eukaryotes, such as animals and plants, often have highly complex network systems in place to monitor their surroundings and respond effectively, but bacteria have developed a remarkably simple system. It’s called the ‘Two Component System’ because it literally [...]

Keep reading »
Lab Rat

Fungi that steal genes from bacteria

A tree in Sicily covered in different types of lichen, credit below

In order to survive in complex and interesting environments in the wild, bacteria have a whole arsenal of chemical products that they make within the cell. These chemicals are used for signalling, defence and communication between bacterial cells. One particular group of these chemicals is called the polyketide group, which I have a particular fondness [...]

Keep reading »
Lab Rat

Ancient Diseases of Human Ancestors

A rather beautiful picture of B. pertussis colonies growing on agar supplemented with charcoal (to provide extra carbon)

I’ve written before about ancient diseases of the ice age, but this time I’m going even further back in time, to diseases that were present in the first human-like hominids. Although many human infections only developed after human settlements and animal domistication, early human ancestors would still have been fighting off bacteria and other nasty [...]

Keep reading »
Lab Rat

The evolution of bacterial energy centres

bacteria on a grain of sane

One of the first things you learn once you start taking biology as a subject is that life is split into two separate domains – prokeryotes and eukaryotes. Prokaryotes are small and blobby and have no nucleus or internal organisation, while eukaryotes are big and multicellular and contain not just a nucleus, but all sorts [...]

Keep reading »
Observations

Previously Unknown Mammal Spent Decades Hiding in Plain Sight

picture of the olinguito

As fans of the TV show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation know, skulls and teeth can provide excellent forensic clues. Yet any taxonomist will tell you that hard-boiled detectives and forensic scientists are far from the only ones to appreciate the investigative powers of craniums and pearly whites. The most recent proof of their taxonomic utility [...]

Keep reading »
Observations

The Race to Catalogue Living Species before They Go Extinct

soft-coral

The U.S. has spent several billion dollars looking for life on other planets. Shouldn’t we spend at least that much finding and identifying life on Earth? That is the argument behind a taxonomy analysis by a trio of scientists in Science, published on January 25. They argue just $500 million to $1 billion a year [...]

Keep reading »
Octopus Chronicles

Unusual Offshore Octopods: More (Octopus) Suckers Born Every Minute in Cold Water

deep sea octopus sucker count Jordan

That octopuses can survive in the extreme, sunless environments around deep hydrothermal vents is surprising enough. But comparing octopuses that make their homes there has led to some even more interesting discoveries about animal development. The rarely seen Muusoctopus hydrothermalis live some 2,495 to 2,620 meters below the surface, along the East Pacific Rise. There, [...]

Keep reading »
Oscillator

The Taxonomy of Wonder

Wonder and amazement at the natural world inspire many blog posts, projects, and even careers in science, but it’s rare that you’ll see wonder break through the soul-crushing passive voice of the scientific literature. It wasn’t always this way, of course. In Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750, historians of science Lorraine Daston and [...]

Keep reading »
Tetrapod Zoology

Taxonomic vandalism and the Raymond Hoser problem

Australia sure has some amazing elapids. Given that Hoser claims to have the interests of the animals at heart, it's bizarre that he defaces their taxonomy with horrible names that never honour the animals themselves. This is Oxyuranus microlepidotus, the Inland taipan. Photo by AllenMcC, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

For some years now, a prolific amateur herpetologist has published an absolutely extraordinary number of new taxonomic names* for snakes, lizards and other reptiles. In addition to naming well over 100 supposedly new snake and lizard genera, this individual has also produced taxonomic revisions of the world’s cobras, burrowing asps, vipers, rattlesnakes, water snakes, blindsnakes, [...]

Keep reading »

More from Scientific American

Scientific American Holiday Sale

Give a Gift &
Get a Gift - Free!

Give a 1 year subscription as low as $14.99

Subscribe Now! >

X

Email this Article

X