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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

Winner of Best Biology Blog Post of 2013 from Scienceseeker.org 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 [...]

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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

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, [...]

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Extinction Countdown

First Major Genetic Study of Elusive South African Dolphin Reveals a Species in Peril

Heaviside-Dolphin

In 1828, in a short paper in the journal Spicilegia Zoologica, British zoologist John Edward Gray reported six “new and undescribed” marine animals, among them a small dolphin found off southern Africa’s Atlantic coast. The specimen had been brought to him by Thomas Haviside, a captain for the East India Company, who encountered the dolphin [...]

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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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Food Matters

The 4 Billion-Year-Old Story of Obesity

Source: genome.gov, captivating DNA diologue by author

Once upon a time some amino acids got smooshed together and stuck inside a tiny bubble of lipids. Inside the bubble these molecules were safe and free to duplicate themselves without getting gobbled up or broken down by the reactive acidic environment outside the bubble.  No one knows for sure just how or where this [...]

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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

“Gene Drives” and CRISPR Could Revolutionize Ecosystem Management

picture of adult cane toad

A note from the authors: With this guest blog post we want to share the key features of an innovative method for the high-precision genome editing of wild populations that has been outlined by our team at the Wyss Institute, Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard School of Public Health. Our technical description of the [...]

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Guest Blog

We’re All X-Men as Far as Genetic Mutations Go

x-men 1

“Mutants became objects of fear and hatred.” — Kitty Pryde narrating in the story “Days of Future Past” found in The Uncanny X-Men #141 in January 1980 “In her DNA they found the key to her mutant power.” — Professor X musing about how Mystique was used to derive special powers for the Sentinel army [...]

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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

“Bionic Pancreas” Manages Blood Sugar Levels in Type 1 Diabetics

Credit: Flicker CC//Melissa J

Smartphone apps are useful for more than dating or ordering a taxi—they’re increasingly helping people manage their health, including monitoring blood pressure or sending reminders to take medications. Now, a device has incorporated smartphone app technology to potentially help millions of Americans better control Type 1 Diabetes. The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, [...]

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Observations

What Do Your Tumor Genes Say about Your Prospects? The Quest, Part 7

In the past couple of months, three people have told me that they or someone they love has cancer. Fortunately in each case, the tumors were caught early and some combination of surgery and radiation was all the treatment that was likely to be needed. Now, however, all three patients are waiting to hear what [...]

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Observations

Firstborn Girls Most Likely to Succeed

Hillary Clinton

Bossy, know-it-all older sisters everywhere now have something else to lord over their younger siblings: Researchers have found that firstborn girls are the most ambitious and successful children in their families. A slew of real life examples appear to back this up: Beyonce, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Sheryl Sandberg are all firstborns. Oldest children [...]

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Observations

Y Chromosome May Protect against Cancer, Other Diseases

The image shows our 23 pairs of chromosomes

Elderly men who have lost the Y in blood cells have their lives cut short, compared with men who still have the little chromosome

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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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Octopus Chronicles

Common Octopus Proves Uncommonly Difficult to Define

The seemingly ubiquitous common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) is our platonic octopus ideal. Even if Plato didn’t write about it, Aristotle did. And since then, it has been the most widely studied (and consumed) species. But contemporary science is complicating things, a new paper, published this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, details. The [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

DNA Finds New Octopus Species Hiding in Plain Sight

octopus

Describing a new species for science is not quite as easy as it was in the days of 17th- or 18th-century naturalists. But that just means we have to look a little more closely. Such as, into an organism’s DNA. And rather than hunting through the dense jungles for years, scientists can, with a little [...]

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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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PsiVid

The Perfect 46 Movie Available Worldwide for Streaming Viewing

The Perfect 46

Back in April, I featured the thought provoking film The Perfect 46 here at SciAm. I was impressed with the show and highly recommend it. Fortunately for us, it has gone beyond the film festival circuit and is available at Vimeo on Demand for rent. Check it out! (No immediate plans for release on Netflix [...]

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PsiVid

Amazing Animation Meets Mouse Genetics

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 3.20.34 PM

How does a mouse build a burrow, and do genes help control this behavior? This was a question asked by members of the Hoekstra lab at Harvard. Research results from Dr. Hopi Hoekstra’s lab, based on the 2013 Nature paper, Discrete genetic modules are responsible for complex burrow evolution in Peromyscus mice, has been released [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Is Your Sense of Humor in Your Genes? Geneticists Crack the Code

          // Editor’s note: Brain Basics from Scientific American Mind is a series of short video primers on the brain and how we feel, think and act. Below is a synopsis of the seventh video in the series written by a guest on this blog, Roni Jacobson, a science journalist based [...]

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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 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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