Life-history traits are often shaped by a balance between somatic maintenance and reproductive investment. That is, an individual wants their own cells to be active, but also needs to invest in making offspring. This tension between natural and sexual selection can generate age-related physiological trajectories that differ between organisms, environments and populations. In simpler terms, how you age is as much an evolutionary response to your environment as it is to your reproductive success!
I’ve just registered (a whole two days ahead of the deadline!) for the 2014 Evolution meetings, which this year are hosted by NESCent at Raleigh, North Carolina. Up to now, my strongest association with Raleigh is from a childhood of watching The Andy Griffith Show, in which Raleigh is the big city from Mayberry’s point of view—particularly this episode where Andy and Barney drive up to town to apply for membership in a posh social club:
(Click here to go direct to the awkwardness.)
… actually, now that I re-watch this, Barney’s performance is a pretty good primer on how not to behave at scientific meetings, too. “Oh, you remember genotyping-by-sequencing, Andy! It’s genotyping. Done by, er, sequencing.”
Documenting butterfly life cycles through paintings, long before such things were done. Especially by women! (From CJ)
Whales eat a lot. So if there were a 100x more whales in the ocean than there are now, where did all their food come from? Turns out whales create a more fertile ocean using their own poop! (From Amy)
How can male academics better help and include their female counterparts? A new bi-weekly chat held by STEM women. (From Amy)
Never underestimate a salamander. Researchers in California have found that they may help combat the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. (From Noah).
Do you like charismatic megafauna? You’re not alone. Apparently the bigger the animal, the more publications. (From Jeremy)
One of the fastest changing ecosystems? The grasslands of the Dakotas. (From Jeremy)
WARNING! NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART! (These are both from Sarah)
First, a toad with a visible parasite in it’s eye.
Second, an intense botfly removal…
And a slightly less gross video about a rare oarfish sighting. (From CJ)
Sloths are weird critters. Cute, in a certain light, but mostly weird. They’re members—with armadillos and anteaters—in a superorder of mammals called the Xenarthra, which are united by a unique form of multi-jointed vertebrae. Their diet consists mostly of leaves, which are poor quality food, and hard to digest. Fortunately, they also have one of the slowest, lowest-energy lifestyles of any mammal, using heavily modified limbs to hang upside down from branches while they browse, their most recent meal fermenting in their guts.
David Attenborough got up close with a sloth—which he calls a “mobile compost heap”—in The Life of Mammals. He also observes one of the sloth’s weirdest behaviors: to answer the call of nature, it climbs all the way down to the ground.
Why do sloths go to all that trouble—and risk—just to poop? Well, according to a recent paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society, they do it to feed poop-eating moths that help cultivate nutritious algae in their fur. No, but really.
Well this is terrifying. Ebola outbreak in Guinea, that is both unexpected and spreading at an alarming rate. (From Sarah)
An eight year old girl tries to make the wooly mammoth the state fossil of South Carolina… and is blocked by state senators? (From Sarah)
APRIL FOOLS! Or not. A few science claims by people we wish were joking. (From Amy)
Just-so stories in science, dead-end explanations or a scientific horizon? In defense of a long held bias agains story telling. (From Jeremy)
Along the line of good stories, here we have a collection of images from the horror fiction genera featuring interesting organisms! (From Noah)
When I first heard about Twitter (several years before I actually understood what it was) – I remember thinking it sounded silly. Who cares what celebrities are thinking (Figure 1)? I dismissed everything Twitter-related as irrelevant and continued on my merry way. I think it was during Evolution 2011 that Jeremy (from this blog) suggested I join Twitter because you can follow interesting talks and remain engaged throughout conferences. It took a little while for me to work up a real affection for Twitter but the longer I’ve been a member (and perhaps the longer Science and scientists have had to assimilate it into our work world), the more useful I find it (Figure 2).
Regarding social media and scientists in general, Bik & Goldstein have written a great introduction. They discuss the pros and cons of several platforms (i.e., blogs, Facebook, Twitter) and how to choose amongst these depending on your interests. For example – are you most interested in communicating science to the “general public”? TO THE FLOW CHART! Perhaps creating your own content in the form of a blog is for you. Alternatively, are you more interested in compiling cool stuff you’ve found from across the world wide web? Consider Facebook.
Despite the ubiquity of social media in our world, many scientists are reluctant to embrace it. That’s somewhat understandable – “Why bother?” is an easy question to ask and get no answer to if you’re “unplugged”. Bik & Goldstein outline four major “research benefits from an online presence”.
Here at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense, we’re fascinated by all the weird, baroque ways that living things influence and coevolve with each other—so Ed Yong’s new TED talk about mind-controlling parasites is right up our alley. Just like his writing—currently on display at National Geographic‘s Phenomena, among many other venues—it’s a compendium of nifty natural history punctuated with highly educational gross-outs and the occasional black-belt level pun.