This tumblr's for all the great men and women of science for whom we owe our current understanding of the natural world; their achievements, their failures, and even their quirks, we celebrate them all.
For Science. For Inquiry. For Humanity.
Owl Neck Rotation
as many of you have heard owls can turn their necks 360 degrees fully around. Well I’m here to tell you that is not entirely true, as owls can only turn their head 270 degrees. But how? Well owls are special because they have fourteen different bones in their neck protecting their spinal chord, compared to the 7 bones found in humans, this excess amount of bones means more flexibility and as such owls can turn their necks farther . But why are owls the only birds that can do this? well it is obvious that owls are physiologically different than most birds especially in their heads, and owls lack the muscles in their eyes that allow them to rotate so owls cannot move their eyes without moving their heads, and if an bird cannot see behind it or to its side it is easy prey to a predator, so to prevent this these wise birds evolved an alternate method to move their field of view and look creepy in the process…
Short-tailed fruit bat (Carollia perspicillata)
Lateral (top) and ventral (bottom) views of stage 19 bat embryos as viewed by reflected light (left) or after alcian blue staining and clearing (right).
photo by Chris Cretekos and Richard Behringer
Cells cultured along origami seams, prodded to self assemble into 3D shapes. Future applications include organ growth and drug delivery.
Awesome! If you missed this cellular origami technique a couple weeks ago, you can read about it in this post of mine from a couple weeks ago. On a side note, I’m always happy when people turn science into GIFs.
It seems size does matter in the brain. Even the smallest stroke can cause widespread damage.
Researchers led by David Kleinfeld of the University of California, San Diego, induced tiny strokes in rats by blocking blood vessels called arterioles, stopping blood from reaching capillaries deeper in the brain.
Blocking just a single arteriole caused cell death in all directions for hundreds of micrometres after the blockage. Block several and you can knock out entire brain regions as the damage travels even in areas still fed by intact vessels. It was previously assumed that strokes on this scale would be innocuous.
The damage impaired the animals’ ability to judge when a gap between two platforms was too wide to cross. But giving the rats injections of memantine – a drug already approved to treat people with Alzheimer’s disease – within 45 minutes of the stroke prevented both the damage and loss of function even when multiple vessels were blocked.
In people, these “silent” mini-strokes go unnoticed and are undetectable by brain scans, says Kleinfeld, but could have an impact on brain function over time.
Journal reference: Nature Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1038/nn.3278
In many lakes and other bodies of water, you’ll be able to find a small genus of creatures called hydras. Hydras are part of the hydrozoa family, and are usually around a few millimeters long. However, their “tentacles” are often much longer than their “abdomen.” Hydras are hermaphrodites, and they often reproduce assexually, by growing small buds on their body wall, which grow into new hydras. Contrary to the other members of the hydrozoa family, who change from polyps to an adult form, called a medusa, hydras remain as polyps throughout their lives. Hydras are known to have a regenerative ability, and are thought to never age. Hypothetically, hydras could live forever, if they didn’t die from accidents or disease. When feeding, hydras’ tentacles extend up to four or five times their body length, and coil around their prey. The prey is pushed into the body cavity, which can stretch a considerable amount, able to accommodate prey twice its initial size. While hydras are quite incredible, they are not known to have a true brain, nor a mammalian nervous system. Rather, they have a nerve net. However, hydras are well known for their hypothetical immortality, and some scientists hope that it may have practical implications on humans someday in the future.
A human brain preserved in a jar of formaldehyde (CH2O). Formaldehyde is a crosslinking fixative and acts by creating covalent bonds between proteins in tissue. This anchors soluble proteins to the cytoskeleton, and lends additional rigidity to the tissue. Additionally, it acts as a disinfectant, killing most types of bacteria and fungi.
Frogfish: The Ocean’s Disguise Artists
Biomimicry is one of evolution’s most mind-blowing avenues of adaptation. It’s one thing to adapt thanks to maxing out the biological limits of speed, or selecting for the ever-longer, better-feeding necks of giraffes or the ability to use a new, untapped food source at the bottom of the ocean. But to become another life form? It shows us that natural selection is not only a powerful force, but also a delicate one, fine-tuning things like colors and patterns like only the finest human artists can.
Above are three examples of frogfish biomimicry, a family of fish that separately mimics algae, sponges and even sea urchins. They evolved these costumes as a way to avoid predators and become better predators themselves. Check out an in-depth post about frogfish biomimicry at Why Evolution is True (wait until you see them eat!), and if you want more here’s a whole website (Comic Sans warning!) dedicated to frogfish camo.
These guys even give Peeta Mellark a run for his money:
Genus cassiopea is a genus of jellyfish commonly known as Upside-down jellyfish found in coastal regions around the world in mangroves, mudflats and turtle grass. they earned the name upside-down jellyfish due to the Medusa stage usually lives upside down with the tentacles in the “air” and the bell on the bottom like a sea anemone, they then sit on the floor and feed. their sting is relatively mild as the animals are primarily photosynthetic. they have a symbiotic relationship with the urchin crab (Dorippe frascone) who picks up the cnidarian and carries it on its back and the jellyfish defends the crab. the genus includes 8 species: C.andromeda,C.depressa,C.frondosa,C.medusa,C.mertensi,C.ndrosia,C.ornata,C.xamachana. people often think something is wrong with the animals as they sit on the bottom and just pulse but they are fine.
*Also yay 200th post!!
Phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) (AKA phenylthiourea (PTU))
PTC is a molecule that looks like .
The story of this molecule is as follows. One day, Arthur Fox was using some PTC powder and accidentally made a mistake, leading it to disperse in the room. A colleague complained about the bitter taste of the molecule while Fox tasted nothing.
This led to him testing this bitter taste on family and friends, and found a strong familial (therefore genetic) correlation. At this time, DNA tests were not developed yet, and PTC taste tests were used as paternity tests.
In 2003, the PTC gene (TAS2R38) was discovered, and the ability to taste the bitterness is a dominant (or incomplete dominant) allele. People have been noted to taste different degrees of bitterness, to some believe it is incomplete dominance.
Under EU classification, PTC is very toxic.
PTC is also said to inhibit melanogenesis and is used to grow transparent fish.
PTC paper can be used to test, but because of its toxicity, should only be tested once.
Monkeys apparently have a similar trait, but the gene regulating it it different.