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Posts Tagged "Genetics & Molecular Biology"

Anthropology in Practice

Editor’s Selections: Roman lead poisoning, Dyslexia, Intelligence in context, and A. bosei’s teeth

Part of my online life includes editorial duties at ResearchBlogging.org, where I serve as the Social Sciences Editor. Each Thursday, I pick notable posts on research in anthropology, philosophy, social science, and research to share on the ResearchBlogging.org News site. To help highlight this writing, I also share my selections here on AiP. Bloggers in [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

For Plants, Polyploidy Is Not a Four-Letter Word

Nelumbo_nucifera_wiki_pd_200

For animals, inheriting more than the usual two copies of DNA is usually a very bad thing. It can happen when two sperm fertilize one egg, or when sexual cell division errs, leaving a sperm or an egg with double the approved payload. But for animal embryos, the result is usually the same: death. This [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Scientific American Goes Bananas on December 20

Editor’s note: Join the Hangout by visiting Scientific American’s Google Plus page at 1 p.m. Eastern on Thursday. That’s right. Using ordinary household items and a humble piece of fruit, we’re going to perform a seemingly magical feat of science while you watch on a Google Science Fair Hangout on December 20 at 1 p.m. [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Q & A with Temple Grandin on The Autistic Brain

RW Temple headshot best_0

To many, Temple Grandin is the public face of autism. Grandin’s story has significantly increased autism awareness around the world, and has increased society’s appreciation of the unique and positive characteristics of the autistic mind. But Grandin is much more than just a label: in addition to being an activist, Grandin is also an author, professor, [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Review of The Autistic Brain

The-Autistic-Brain3-198x300

To many, Temple Grandin is the public face of autism. A professor of animal science at Colorado State University, Grandin’s story has significantly increased autism awareness around the world, and has increased society’s appreciation of the unique and positive characteristics of the autistic mind. Therefore, it is with immense respect, enthusiasm, and attention to detail [...]

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Cross-Check

Have researchers really discovered any genes for behavior? Candidates welcome

double helix

A couple of science-writing colleagues objected to my recent post on the "warrior gene." Both accuse me of throwing the baby of modern behavioral genetics—which seeks to link complex behavioral traits to specific genes—out with the bathwater of media hype. Naturally, my innate bellicosity compels me to respond. My warrior-gene post examined the reported association [...]

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Cross-Check

Code rage: The “warrior gene” makes me mad! (Whether I have it or not)

Mel Gibson in the film Braveheart

Just when you think the blame-it-on-our-genes craze can’t get worse, the "warrior gene" goes viral. The latest media outlet to flog it is the Dr. Phil show, which on April 4 broadcast "Born to Rage?". From the promo: "Scientists believe they may know why some people are quicker to anger than others. A new study [...]

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Cross-Check

“Gene-whiz” science strikes again: Researchers discover a liberal gene

Homosexuality is a lifestyle choice. Or so religious conservatives would have us believe. But liberalism is in our genes. Or so researchers at the University of California, San Diego, and Harvard University would have us believe. Yes, the inevitable has happened. Just before Election Day—surely not a coincidence—scientists report an association between liberal political views [...]

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Culturing Science

What The Ruling on Gene Patenting Means

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Although I mostly think about conservation, ecology and nature, I have a soft spot for medicine and, in particular, genetics. It’s partly due to my own family history and experience, partly my interest in how people think about medicine and death, and partly my 6-month internship at Nature Medicine, which began more than two years [...]

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Culturing Science

Bermuda Bluebirds Aren’t Native: They Moved In 400 Years Ago

bermuda-bluebird-small

The eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) has lived in Bermuda as long as recent human memory can recall. It’s considered a native species, and some people even consider the population to be a subspecies–the Bermuda bluebird (Sialia sialis bermudensis)–because it looks a bit different from its mainland counterparts: its blue is a little more purple, and [...]

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Culturing Science

The Narcissism of De-Extinction

passenger-pigeon-small2

The TedxDeExtinction conference, discussing how and whether to resurrect extinct species from DNA, took place on the Ides of March 2013 at the National Geographic headquarters in Washington, DC. Watch archived versions of the talks. If people had the ability to resurrect extinct species (dubbed “de-extinction”) and reintroduce them to the wild, should we direct [...]

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Expeditions

You wanted to know: what is this virus that infects the phytoplankton? (Part One)

So far I’ve told you about the phytoplankton we’re studying — the coccolithophores, how we figure out where they’re going to be, and how we collect them. But there’s a key element that’s missing in this description: the virus that infects them. And a lot of you wanted to know about it. What kind of [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Sunday Species Snapshot: Puerto Rican Parrot

Puerto Rican Parrot

The only native parrot species still living in the U.S., these birds nearly went extinct in the second half of the twentieth century. By 1975, only 13 parrots remained. Intense conservation efforts over the past few decades have helped to turn that around, but the species still has a long way to go. Species name: [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Roosevelt’s Barking Deer, Unseen for 85 Years, Photographed in Vietnam

roosevelt's montjac

A rare deer species first discovered by the sons of Pres. Teddy Roosevelt 85 years ago has been rediscovered in Vietnam. Camera-trap images of Roosevelt’s muntjacs (aka Roosevelt’s barking deer, Muntiacus rooseveltorum) and other samples collected in Xuan Lien Nature Reserve are the sole record of the species in the country, which was previously known [...]

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Extinction Countdown

New Crocodile Species Discovered in West Africa

slender-snouted crocodile

Studying crocodiles in some of the world’s most remote and inaccessible places isn’t easy, but it’s all in a day’s work for researcher Matthew Shirley. It is also, as he says, a “crazy amount of fun”—even on the days when catching and studying crocodiles leaves him covered in his own blood. “I love cruising through [...]

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Extinction Countdown

What Do Tigers and Kiwi Have in Common? The Answer Lies in Their Genes

bengal tiger

At first (and probably second) glance you wouldn’t think that tigers and kiwis have all that much in common. Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) live in India and the surrounding countries, where the predators can weigh more than 220 kilograms. Little spotted kiwi (Apteryx owenii) live exclusively in New Zealand, where the flightless birds weigh [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Chlamydia Is Killing Koalas—Will Genetics Find a Cure?

koala

Why do some koalas die from chlamydia and an AIDS-like retrovirus whereas others manage to avoid contracting the sexually transmitted diseases? The answer, it seems, may be in the genes. Scientists in Australia announced last week that they have sequenced the koala interferon gamma (IFN-g) gene, a discovery that they call the “holy grail” for [...]

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Extinction Countdown

De-Extinction: Can Cloning Bring Extinct Species Back to Life?

passenger pigeon

At some point in the next decade, if advances in biotechnology continue on their current path, clones of extinct species such as the passenger pigeon, Tasmanian tiger and wooly mammoth could once again live among us. But cloning lost species—or “de-extinction” as some scientists call it—presents us with myriad ethical, legal and regulatory questions that [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Brazil Plans to Clone Its Endangered Species

black lion tamarin

If scientists in Brazil have their way, the populations of eight endangered species could soon expand through a mass effort to clone them. The project is spearheaded by the Brasilia Zoological Garden in partnership with Embrapa, the Brazilian government’s agricultural research agency. The scientists have already spent the past two years collecting 420 genetic samples [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Last 500 Ethiopian Wolves Endangered by Lack of Genetic Diversity

ethiopian wolf

The last wolves in Africa face a difficult road if they are going to survive. Just 500 Ethiopian wolves (Canis simensis) remain in the mountains of the country for which they are named. The animals now live in six fragmented populations located hundreds of kilometers apart from one another; three of these populations have fewer [...]

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Extinction Countdown

DNA Test Could Help Save Scottish Wildcat from Extinction—If It Still Exists

Scotland is home to a least a hundred thousand feral cats. Unfortunately, the cats that now live in the Scottish Highlands are not native to the country, and they have helped push the already squeezed native felines closer toward extinction. The native group—the Scottish wildcat (Felis silvestris grampia), also known as the Highland tiger—isn’t much [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Platypus Populations on Small Australian Islands Show Lack of Genetic Diversity, High Risk of Disease

Last year we learned that climate change could soon make Australia too hot for the cold-loving, iconic platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus). Now we have word of a new threat to these unique, egg-laying mammals: inbreeding, which has put the platypuses living on two small Australian islands at enhanced risk of disease. According to research published March [...]

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Food Matters

The 4 Billion-Year-Old Story of Obesity

Source: genome.gov, captivating DNA diologue by author

In light of the upcoming celebration of ghosts, ghouls, and of course, the stomach ache-inducing over-consumption of candy, I thought I’d revisit this piece I started earlier this year. And if you eat too much this Halloween, really you’re just acting naturally, so enjoy! Once upon a time some amino acids got smooshed together and [...]

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Food Matters

The Genetics of the Immune System

a-new-vision-for-teaching-science_1

Last week, I had the opportunity to talk with a group of students from Grandview Heights School in Edmonton, Canada. The students are learning about genetics, and the instructor, John Chase asked me to talk about how genetics impacts my field, and to give them a perspective on how this stuff translates to the real world. [...]

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Food Matters

Introducing: The Food Matters Crew

Credit: Kathleen Raven

Do you ever wonder about the science behind your food? We do, too. Our group of writers serves up juicy topics like genetic engineering, gut bacteria and the chemical reactions that occur during cooking. Together, we’ll peer inside factory farms, dark jungles, cafeterias, laboratories and those trendy molecular gastronomy spots. Grab a bite, and sit [...]

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Guest Blog

Hallmarks of Cancer 7: Genome Instability and Mutation

BRCA1 structure

All cancers share ten underlying principles, also known as the Hallmarks of Cancer. You can read about the first six here. The seventh is defined as genome instability and mutation. Cancer Cells Evolve Not all cancer cells are equal. They vary, they compete, and the fittest survive to pass on their genes to daughter cells, [...]

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Guest Blog

A genome story: 10th anniversary commentary by Francis Collins

francis collins and bill clinton announced completion of human genome in 2000

For those of you who like stories with simple plots and tidy endings, I must confess the tale of the Human Genome Project isn’t one of those. The story didn’t reach its conclusion when we unveiled the first draft of the human genetic blueprint at the White House on June 26, 2000. Nor did it [...]

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Lab Rat

Guest post: I am my mother’s chimera

A tortoiseshell shorthair cat, image from wikimedia commons.

This weeks post is a guest post from the wonderful E.E. Giorgi who blogs at: http://chimerasthebooks.blogspot.co.uk/ I AM MY MOTHER’S CHIMERA. CHANCES ARE, SO ARE YOU For years now the concept of a “genetic chimera” has sparked the imagination of writers: the idea that an individual could harbor his/her own twin is creepy and intriguing at the [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Tick Tock: the connection between celestial mechanics and genetics

Astronomical Clock in Prague (Maros Mraz)

Sitting below the swirling leaves and darkening skies of New York today I realized that yet again our planet is roaring up on perihelion at 30 kilometers a second. This means that in about three weeks those of us in the United States will be shifting our clocks back an hour (after due reverence for [...]

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Observations

Neuroscientist Who Doggedly Pursued Genetic Hunch Wins Pearl Meister Greengard Prize

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A professor at Baylor College of Medicine (B.C.M.) has received the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize for her pioneering work as a neuroscientist. The prestigious $100,000 prize is awarded annually to a distinguished woman in biomedical research. Huda Zoghbi discovered the genes for spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs) type 1 in 1993, atonal homolog1 in 1996, and for [...]

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Observations

Superstitions Fuel Violence against Tanzania’s Albinos [Video]

Being born without skin pigmentation in the U. S., a condition called albinism, does not usually shorten an individual’s lifespan. But in Tanzania, it can be a death sentence. While reporting in Tanzania this past fall as a fellow with the International Reporting Project, I spoke with several people with albinism and medical professionals who [...]

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Observations

How to Save Coral Reefs from Climate Change: Genetic Manipulation

palmyra-reef

What’s the best idea for reducing the impacts of ocean acidification on the environment and society? After all, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continue to go up and up and up, which suggests that the pH of seawater will continue to fall and fall and fall. The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation has weighed [...]

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Observations

Fruit Flies Aid Efforts to Develop Personalized Cancer Treatments

For years clinicians have puzzled over the observation that people with type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop certain malignancies, such as pancreatic, breast and liver cancers. The reason behind their confusion: standard biological principles predict that, if anything, folks with diabetes should suffer fewer tumors, not more of them. However, new research on [...]

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Observations

Why Total Reporting of Genetic Results Is a Bad Idea

Laboratories that sequence an individual’s entire genome should limit the results they report to clinicians and their patients based on certain usability criteria, according to the first set of guidelines on the subject from the American College of Medical Genetics (ACMG). Geneticists simply don’t know what to make of most of the information that they [...]

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Observations

Growth Factor: How Bacterial Infections Persist through Antibiotics [Video]

bacteria persists with antibiotics by growing

Some strains of nasty bacterial infections, such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), come loaded with resistance to antibiotics built right into their genes. But certain infections seem to acquire an ability to persist in the face of drugs that should knock them out—without developing the genetic hallmarks of antibiotic resistance. For decades, researchers have thought [...]

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Observations

The Most Fascinating Human Evolution Discoveries of 2012

Australopithecus sediba skull

Recent years have brought considerable riches for those of us interested in human evolution and 2012 proved no exception. New fossils, archaeological finds and genetic analyses yielded thrilling insights into the shape of the family tree, the diets of our ancient predecessors, the origins of art and advanced weaponry, the interactions between early Homo sapiens [...]

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Observations

New Toxic Nocturnal Primate Species Discovered

new slow loris species toxic bite primate Borneo

The slow loris shouldn’t be a difficult object of study. For one thing, it’s slow—very slow (think sloth slow). And these small primates, which are unique in possessing a toxic bite to ward off predators, are charismatic due in large part to their compelling, wide-eyed faces. But they are also nocturnal, and they tend to [...]

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Observations

Genetic Sequencing Traces Gypsies Back to Ancient Indian Origin

romani gypsy roma genetic india

The Romani people—once known as “gypsies” or Roma—have been objects of both curiosity and persecution for centuries. Today, some 11 million Romani, with a variety of cultures, languages and lifestyles, live in Europe—and beyond. But where did they come from? Earlier studies of their language and cursory analysis of genetic patterns pinpointed India as the [...]

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Observations

Real-Time Genetics Could Squash “Superbug” Outbreaks before They Spread

track superbug outbreak real time genetic sequence

Genetic sequences of drug-resistant bacteria have helped scientists better understand how these dastardly infections evolve—and elude treatment. But these superbugs are still claiming lives of many who acquire them in hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. And recent outbreaks of these hard-to-treat infections can spread easily in healthcare settings. Researchers might soon be able to track [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Antarctic Ice Sheet Collapse Recorded in Octopus DNA

western ice sheet antarctica

Octopuses have made themselves at home in most of the world’s oceans—from the warmest of tropical seas to the deep, dark reaches around hydrothermal vents. Antarctic species, such as Turquet’s octopuses (Pareledone turqueti), even live slow, quiet lives near the South Pole. But these retiring creatures offer a rare opportunity to help understand how this [...]

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Oscillator

DNA stories

microarray

This post was originally written for the Superflux blog. Superflux is a collaborative design practice working at the intersection of emerging technologies and everyday life to design for a world in flux. Their new project, Dynamic Genetics vs. Mann, deals with issues of genomic prediction, privacy, and piracy. This is me What if personalized medicine [...]

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Oscillator

Identity Theft: Nature and Nurture in Art and Science

Art and science address the question of what makes us who we are in different, difficult, often contradictory ways. Since the phrase “nature and nurture” was first used in the late 19th century, trying to separate the contributions of inborn heredity and external environment to our unique individuality, there have been people who argue for [...]

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The Scicurious Brain

On Genes and Eating Disorders

At Neurotic Physiology today, I’m talking about eating disorders. We’ve long suspected a genetic basis, but it’s been hard to pinpoint which genes might be involved. Now, a study has found two genetic mutations, that may end up doing the same thing. Head over and check it out.

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The Scicurious Brain

Did Your Daddy Raise You to Sing Like That?

800px-Taeniopygia_guttata_-Bird_Kingdom,_Niagara_Falls,_Ontario,_Canada_-pair-8a

When most of us hear birds twittering away in the trees, we hear it as background noise. It’s often hard to separate out one bird from another. But when you can, you begin to hear just how complex birdsong can be, a complex way of male signaling to a female how THEY are the best, [...]

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Symbiartic

Welcome to the Center for Epigenetic Cloning

clone.mod.jk.jesus.lo_220

Welcome to the Center for Epigenetic Cloning. Within, you will find epigenetic clones of Lady Gaga, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, Napoleon and Jesus. From the Center’s press release: The procedure is completely noninvasive. Neither Merkel nor Gaga have been notified, nor have Napoleon and Christ needed to be exhumed. “We’re doing it entirely with data [...]

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Talking back

Homo (Sans) Sapiens: Is Dumb and Dumber Our Evolutionary Destiny?

James R. Flynn’s observation that IQ scores experienced dramatic gains from generation to generation throughout the 20th century has been cited so often, even in popular media, that it is becoming a cocktail party talking point. Next stop a New Yorker cartoon. (An article about Flynn and the Flynn effect has already been published in [...]

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Talking back

Out of Africa: Startling New Genetics of Human Origins

I love population genetics for its ability to peer back into human history through the medium of DNA’s ATCGs. One of the stars of this discipline is Sarah Tishkoff, a standout in African genetics, someone who will readily haul a centrifuge into the bush in Cameroon. Tishkoff of the University of Pennsylvania is lead author [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Scientific American comes out in favor of GMOs, and I agree

Golden Rice (Image: Wikipedia Commons)

In the September 6 issue of Scientific American, the magazine’s editors pen a piece explicitly supporting GMOs and opposing GMO labeling. I applaud the editors for taking an official position on a topic that still sparks intense debate. Both the wording and content of the editorial reflect an adherence to what is called “good scientific [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Gene duplication frees up enzymes for molecular promiscuity

Chemists studying metabolism in living organisms usually classify it into two kinds; primary and secondary. Primary metabolism is concerned with the production and reactions of essential biomolecules like proteins, sugars and lipids. Secondary metabolism refers to the production of small molecules which, although not essential, are still important in a variety of key functions. Secondary [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Cooler Than #SharkWeek: What Can We Learn From the Brains of the Largest Sharks?

A whale shark feeds vertically

Shark Week is upon us, and rather than be fooled by sharky fakery or outright lies, how about some real, true, scientifically-accurate shark science? Here’s a piece I originally wrote in August, 2012. The largest fish in the ocean is the whale shark (Rhincodon typus). This massive, migratory fish can grow up to twelve meters [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Singing Mice May Join Humans and Songbirds As Vocal Learners

mouse-crop

My high school biology teacher once told me that nothing was binary in biology except for alive and dead, and pregnant and not pregnant. Any other variation, he said, existed along a continuum. Whether or not the claim is technically accurate, it serves to illustrate an important feature of biological life. That is, very little [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

The WEIRD Psychology of Elephants

African Elephant (Loxodonta africana)

In 1976, psychologists John and Sandra Condry of Cornell University had 204 human adults view videotaped footage of an infant boy named David and infant girl named Dana, and asked them to describe the infants’ facial expressions and dispositions. They described their findings in an article in the journal Child Development. In the video, infants [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

What Does A Whale Shark’s Brain Look Like? (And Why Should We Care?)

A whale shark feeds vertically

The largest fish in the ocean is the whale shark (Rhincodon typus). This massive, migratory fish can grow up to twelve meters in length, but its enormous mouth is designed to eat the smallest of critters: plankton. While the biggest, the whale shark isn’t the only gigantic filter-feeding shark out there: the basking shark and [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Guest Post! Learning from Domesticated Foxes

Editor’s Note: While I’m on vacation, I’ve arranged a series of guest posts from other writers who routinely cover animal behavior and cognition. Today’s post, about my favorite domesticated foxes, comes from The Dog Zombie who blogs at The Dog Zombie. My own first-ever blog post on Scientific American blogs, last summer, was about these [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Monday Pets: The Russian Fox Study

This post was chosen as an Editor

I’ve decided I want to cover some recent research on social cognition in domesticated dogs. But first, we need some background. So here’s a repost from the old blog. Today I want to tell you about one of my most favorite studies, ever, of animals. Are you ready? It’s a FIFTY YEAR LONG longitudinal study [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Monday Pets: Where Did Cats Come From?

ResearchBlogging.org

Why were cats domesticated in the first place? And how? Given their relatively poor ability to socially engage with humans, it isn’t exactly clear why or how they were domesticated, or how they came to play such a significant role in human culture.

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