Watchful eyes, thoughtful mind

Earth and us ….. past, present and future ….. connected?

Big brother … REAL BIG!!! December 17, 2009

Filed under: animals,evolution,oceanography — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

Yeah, I know … try and close your mouth now. That picture above would have given you a pretty good idea of what’s coming. Science reporter Rebecca Morell of BBC News reports about the colossal sea monster, Pliosaur, whose fossilised skull has been unearthed along the UK‘s Jurassic Coast by a local collector. In the video on the webpage (which I could not embed here) Palaeontologist Richard Forrest explains why the T. rex was a kitten compared with this monster.

Richard Forrest, a plesiosaur expert, said: “Pliosaur skulls are very big, but not that robust, in general, and you tend to find them crushed flat – completely ‘pancaked’. “What is fantastic about this new skull, not only is it absolutely enormous, but it is pretty much in 3D and not much distorted.”

Pliosaur means ‘more like lizard’ and are characterised by having a short neck and an elongated head, in contrast to the long-necked plesiosaurs. Pliosaur fossils have been found before around Norway, Mexico etc. But this find in the UK is by far the largest specimen yet found. If the pictures above and the description has still not convinced you to click on the link in the first paragraph and go watch the video, may be this will.

“It could have taken a human in one gulp; in fact, something like a T. Rex would have been breakfast for a beast like this.”


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Meet the super cow October 29, 2009

Filed under: animals,evolution,genetics,human interference,nature — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

I’m not sure what my reaction about this video is. It is one more of those instances where humans have used their scientific know how to manipulate the nature to their advantage. Selective breeding is used to produce these hugely muscular cows and bulls, weighing sometimes up to 1 tonne (ton). There is no cruelty to the animals involved here but even so, I couldn’t help but cringe a bit looking at these bovines.

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‘Almost gone’ introduction October 24, 2009

Filed under: animals,endangered species,extinction — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

There is a very high number of species on this planet __ELE4that are about to go extinct in near future. As the scientists have indicated, we’re in the middle of the sixth mass extinction. However, this one is different from the earlier ones in that it is caused and accelerated by one of the numerous species themselves, homo sapiens. And therefore I believe it is our responsibility that we should acknowledge our role and try to salvage as many of them as possible. There is hope to be found.  Where?  It’s going to be the people that are inheriting this gorgeous blue planet, the children. It is important that our children learn about the importance of each of them in the ecosystem. Every species has a role to play on this planet. None, absolutely none, is here without a purpose. If our children understand their purpose they will understand their value. And only then there is a chance that the future homo sapiens will not make the same mistakes as their ancestors.

Few days back I came across Scott Bright (@Speciesguy) on Twitter who has a passion for teaching kids about various endangered species. About a year ago Scott saw some statistics online that said 16,928 species are endangered of extinction at this time. He was shocked to learn this and decided that he had to do something to make a difference! Since then Scott has been doing his best at writing for and about endangered species. His main focus is on sharing the information in a fun way for kids (and their parents) to discover why each species is unique, the value of each species and what roles they play in our biosphere. His website also provides a place where your child can write to a leader with your help. One of the ways Scott is making a difference is showing where people can adopt an animal on line.  Zoos and other places have become a safe haven for preserving endangered species, like Texas!

After I browsed through his two websites, links to which are at the end of this post, I got in touch with Scott and requested him if he would want to guest post on my blog. And Scott has graciously agreed to share, not one, but a number of posts with us. So we’re starting a new series called ‘Almost gone’ for every Saturday. Each post will focus on one species. He and I sincerely hope that you will share them with your kids. If Scott’s posts here pique your kids’ interest, head over to his website. There you’ll find a treasure trove of books, CDs, DVDs and more about endangered species to further stoke you child’s enthusiasm. And your purchase only helps promote awareness about endangered species.

Remember, it’s the kids that are a powerful resource for saving endangered species.  And education is the fastest way getting the endangered species, like sharks, polar bears, wolves and rhinos to name a few, out of their current status. Looking forward to you and your kids’ company on here.

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TED Tuesday: Engineering and evolution October 6, 2009

Filed under: animals,evolution,nature,technology,TED — Radiance @ 9:00 AM
Insects and animals have evolved some amazing skills — but, as Robert Full notes, many animals are actually over-engineered. The trick is to copy only what’s necessary. He shows how human engineers can learn from animals’ tricks.


End of animal research? September 10, 2009

Filed under: animals,biology,computer,future,genetics — Radiance @ 10:00 AM
Before long, we will each have an alter ego to assess the medication we need. That’s the vision of Natalia Alexandrov, winner of the New Scientist/NC3Rs “Beyond animal research” essay competition.

Of midgets and giants July 16, 2009

Filed under: animals,biology,evolution,oceanography — Radiance @ 12:00 AM
I didn’t know that in island environments small mammals (e.g. rodents) tend to evolve to be larger (Island gigantism), and large mammals (e.g. elephants) tend to evolve to be smaller (Island dwarfism). This is not considered to be evolutionary trend by some due to the fact that different parameters apply in an isolated island environment. Wikipedia telle me that J. Bristol Foster published his work in 1964, now known as ‘Island rule‘, in which he suggested the simple explanation that smaller creatures get larger in the absence of the predators they had attracted on the mainland and larger creatures become smaller with the absence of food sources. An article in Science Daily suggests, however, that the original size of the species was said to be the key determining factor in these changes. And that the new research by a group in Imperial College London have shown that “bigger becoming smaller and vice versa” is not always the case and varies depending on each islan’s environment.

Interestingly, recent research in marine biology led by MBARI postdoctoral fellow Craig McClain suggests that a similar trend affects animals as they adapt to life in the deep sea. However, once again the trends are not uniform from species to species and the causes are not very clear either. So in general, it looks like we’ve still got quite a bit to learn about our fellow Earthlings in isolated environments.


Cicadas’ lifecycle: Mystery solved? June 18, 2009

Filed under: animals,ecology,mystery,nature — Radiance @ 12:00 AM
[Image source: Wired Science]
Here is one more of the nature’s fascinating acts of precision … the lifecycle of the cicada! The periodical cicada is one of the world’s longest-living insects, but nobody knows why it times its death with bizarre precision: It either lives for 13 years or 17 years, on the dot.

Now, as Wired Science reports, Japanese researchers have developed a model that may explain the animals’ mysteriously accurate biological clocks. Cicadas spend 99% of their lives underground, as juveniles. Once every 13 or 17 years, they emerge from the ground en-mass, feed on tree leaves, mate and leave behind the eggs that later fertilise and the parent cicadas die. However, this unique synchronisation of thousands of cicadas over long, prime number of years must have some strong reason behind it. A leading theory is that long, prime-numbered life cycles minimize the likelihood that the 13-year broods and 17-year broods will ever mate. Though this theory is mathematically sound, no one could say why the animals would need to minimize hybridization.
Jin Yoshimura at Shizuoka University has developed a mathematical model to explore the rationale. If 13-year and 17-year broods interbred, they might produce offspring with intermediate lifecycles. This could result in their emergence few years before or after the vast majority of their fellow cicadas. This is a problem because periodical cicadas find strength in numbers. They’re easy to catch and don’t bite or sting, so they easily become snacks for hungry predators. But by buzzing around with hundreds of thousands of other cicadas, the probability of any one being eaten is close to zero.
To read more about this exciting new theory that increases the awe about nature’s precision design, click on the link above in the post.
Citation: “Allee effect in the selection for prime-numbered cycles in periodical cicadas” by Yumi Tanaka, Jin Yoshimura, Chris Simon, John R. Cooley, and Kei-ichi Tainaka. PNAS, May 18 2009.