Tag Archive: animals

Weirdest Animals of the Ocean Depths

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Many creatures of the deep are not well known, and we feel that all of them deserve a bit more publicity (even if some of them have faces more suitable for radio than the internet). So, we present our top favourite weird sea creatures that you may not have heard of before.  7. Amphioxus Considering we filmed a video about Scottish wildlife, it’s only fair that the first animal on this list can be found in Scottish waters. Although, it looks like a fish, it is actually a distant relative. Amphioxus doesn’t have a backbone. I don’t mean it’s a cowardly animal, rather, it’s spinal chord is surrounded by  a rod of cells called a notochord. Scientists believe that this arrangement was also found in our earliest vertebrate ancestors. Again, no disrepect to the Amphioxus  but they are very simple creatures. They have no respiratory organs like gills (instead they breathe through their skin). They have no heart and no blood …

Video: Woodland Wildlife

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Unpopular Science’s Jack Croxall and his chocolate Labrador Archie take a stroll around a springtime forest in search of woodland critters. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeuc4bOCIzI FYI The common toad can live for an astounding 40 years. For information on how you can help protect Britain’s amphibians, check out the Frog Life website. Check out Jack Croxall’s YouTube channel here or website here. Have you found any fascinating wildlife this spring? Let us know in the comments section below.

Victory Is Bitter Sweet

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They are often cited as the one creature likely to survive in the event of all out-nuclear war. But it seems that the lowly cockroach has now found a brand new way to survive. American scientists have discovered that a strain of European cockroach has managed to completely reorganize its sense of ‘taste’. Instead of being attracted to the ‘sweet’ glucose used in traps around the continent, these intrepid little bugs perceive the bait as bitter. The phenomenon was first noted over two decades ago, when pest controllers reported a failure to eradicate the roaches because the insects were stubbornly refusing to eat the bait. Subsequent scientific studies have confirmed these anecdotal observations. When offered a choice between sweet jam or the more savoury peanut butter, hungry cockroaches from the mutant strain showed a much greater aversion to the glucose rich jam, physically jumping back when contact was established. The neural mechanism behind the response was identified using tiny electrodes to …

Shark Teeth Weapons

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Natural History Museum collections have been used for a novel study: the past biodiversity of a remote collection of Pacific coral islands. Joshua Drew from Columbia University and colleagues have just published a paper (see below) reporting on their identification of shark teeth used in weapons made by Kiribati people from the Gilbert Islands over a hundred years ago and now in the collection of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. Having no metal, but a tradition of hunting the plentiful sharks, the I-Kiribati people used shark teeth to edge coconut wood weapons, both swords and fierce-looking tridents. While the team found plenty of teeth from species of sharks that still roam the local coral reefs, like tiger sharks, two species were represented that no longer exist around the Gilbert Islands, dusky and spottail sharks. The team were excited that museum collections could be used to shed light on past ecosystems, and to highlight changes in those ecosystems over time. …

How Darwin predicted the genetic link

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Just over a century and a half ago, Charles Darwin finally published On the Origin of Species, explaining how all life had been shaped by natural selection. Before he explained this blind mechanism though, he softened up his readers by showing how we humans had shaped some species through artificial selection. His audience of educated Victorian gentlemen would have been more or less familiar with breeding cabbages, cows and dogs for various characteristics, but Darwin also explained the breeding of fancy pigeons. It seems fanciful to us, but scholars used to believe that different breeds of sheep or cattle had each been domesticated from a separate wild variety, instead of from just one. Darwin decided to study one species in detail to explore this notion, and hit upon fancy pigeons. According to John Ross [pictured] –  an historian of Darwin’s pigeons (www.darwinspigeons.com) and a pigeon fancier himself – it was all down to a chance sighting on a trip to London: …

Australia’s Moo-st Wanted

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A guilty TV pleasure of mine, much to my housemates’ dismay, are those documentaries focussing on the exciting* world of border security and customs control. Border Security: Australia’s Front Line, Passport Patrol – you name it, give me a Sunday afternoon and I’ll watch hour after hour of disgruntled international travellers being separated from their dried meat delicacies and Kiwis climbing into the hulls of luxury yachts to seek out illegal immigrants hiding below deck. However, wild plants and animals tend to roam much more freely between destinations rather than spending their time queuing at airports. That’s why the DAISIE database exists. Set up to prevent the invasion of alien species, it aims to limit the damage caused to native fauna by invading species. These unwanted immigrants have the ability to displace species from their natural environment, steal their food and disrupt entire ecosystems. DAISIE – Delivering Alien Invasive Species In Europe – was funded by the sixth framework programme …

Myths, Misconceptions and Misunderstandings

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In late 2012, applied mathematician Samuel Arbesman released an intriguing little book called ‘The Half-Life of Facts’ in which he seeks to explain why a lot of the information that we all thought we knew is continually being disproven. It’s an interesting read, but the central premise should really come as no surprise. After all, science is based upon a continued quest for the refinement of knowledge, in which no theory, no matter how precious, is allowed to become immune to refutation. Still, there remains a stalwart group of pseudo scientific ‘facts’ that possess the peculiar ability to survive intact, even in the face of new contradictory evidence. So in the spirit of public service, and with the hope of helping to cleanup mankind’s collective meme pool, here’s a list of some of science’s most common misconceptions.   5) Bulls are enraged by the colour red This myth is so prevalent it’s even become the basis for a common British …

Why Beethoven could not have been a reptile (or why you can’t swallow a cantaloupe for breakfast)

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This is the story of three little bones.They’re called the ossicles (literally little bones in Latin), and they’re in your ear. Unless, that is, you happen to be a reptile reading this, in which case you’ll only have one in each ear with the other two (or rather four) distributed symmetrically in your jaw. It’s a curious bit of evolutionary history, and nicely illustrates an aspect of evolution which called exaptation, the re-purposing of an existing structure. The presence of the ossicles in the reptilian jaw is one of the factors which allows some reptiles (particularly snakes) to swallow things significantly bigger than their own heads (think of a python swallowing a deer, and you’ll get the idea).In mammals on the other hand, these ossicles migrated the short distance from the tip where the jaw meets the skull into the zone known as the middle ear, where they joined the single bone of the reptilian ear which connects the ear-drum …

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