Friday Coffee Break

Every Friday at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! our contributors pass around links to new scientific results, or science-y news, or videos of adorable wildlife, that they’re most likely to bring up while waiting in line for a latte Turkish coffee.

Will the puma catch the monkey? Let the pictures tell the story. (From Noah)

What’s the connection between cycling success, birth control and attractiveness? Science. (From Amy)

Can’t get enough of the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate? We’ve got “the most powerful evidence for evolution that you can imagine” (from Jeremy). Also, and dependent on your blood pressure, the somewhat baffling list of 22 messages from Creationists after the debate.

Boobies are amazing. (I know you want to click this one because you have no idea what’s going to come up. Am I right? From Sarah)

Bee sting, bad. Bee portrait, oh so good. (From Noah)

Better than citations, enter the hypercitation. (From Sarah)

Friday Coffee Break


Here’s what we’ll be talking about while we wait in line for a latte:

The latest news in the human-neanderthal hybridization story: some neanderthal genes may have contributed to human adaptation during the expansion out of Africa. From Amy.

Anemones have been discovered living attached to antarctic sea ice. From Amy.

Rattlesnakes in the southwest have astoundingly variable venom. The variation confounds attempts at developing antivenoms and its adaptive significance is unknown. From Jeremy.

Did we learn nothing from Jurassic Park? The strain of Yersinia pestis that caused one of the worst plagues in human history has been extracted from a preserved tooth of one of its victims and had it’s genome sequenced. From Sarah.

A link containing a video of a flying snake. What more could you ask for? From Noah.

Think your tilapia-tomato aquaponic system is clever? Well the three-toed sloth has got you beat. It’s running an algae-moth system in its fur. From Noah.

Friday Coffee Break

Here’s what we’ll be talking about while we wait in line for a latte (and ^^^ is what we’ll be doing when we read the links):

A new amazonian river dolphin species discovered! From Noah.

Not biology, but… Yale student fight with their administration over use and display of course evaluation data. From Noah.

Everyone loves a nice juicy taxonomy fail. Don’t know what a salp is? Neither do a whole bunch of people writing stories about them on the internet. From CJ.

Mantis shrimp, best known for rapidly producing enormous amounts of force with their claws also have a unique and somewhat mysterious visual system. From CJ.

8 ways animals survive the winter. From Sarah.

Antibiotic resistance defined. From Sarah.

An absurd PLOS ONE paper presents the “quilt plot” which is really just a simple heatmap… but it spurs Lior Pachter to ask just what measures should go into a heatmap comparing gene expression data sets. From Noah.

Amateur ornithologists banding hummingbird (particularly in Louisiana!) have helped show that many species successfully winter year after year on the gulf coast. From Noah

Friday Coffee Break


Here’s what we’ll be talking about while we wait in line for a latte:

How to get ants to carry a sign for you. From Jeremy.

Amazonian builder of mysterious tiny picket fences sort of discovered. From Amy.

Scientific meetings feature more women speakers when women are included in the organizing committees. From Sarah.

PLOS ONE papers that made the news in 2013. From Sarah.

A personal account of growing up unvaccinated in the 1970s. From Jeremy.

Even tiny roads built through amazon rainforest disrupt canopy-dwelling frog communities. From Noah.

Friday Coffee Break! Jules-likes-the-links Edition.


Here’s what we’ll be talking about while we wait in line for a latte:

Are you unreasonably paranoid about germs? New proposals by the FDA  may add a lot of stress to your life. The rest of us, however, should be quite happy about them.

A discussion of the ecological “ghosts” of extinct birds in the ecosystems they inhabited.

A pair of videos about urgent environmental issues utilizing very effective visuals, one on road building and deforestation and a second on overfishing.

A NEW TAPIR species has been discovered. When a 100kg mammal flies under science’s radar for so long (local indigenous people knew it was different all along…) you know we have a terrible grasp of earth’s biodiversity.

This week in genetics/popular science controversies: DNA sequence motifs that regulate gene expression are found to overlap with sequences coding for proteins far more frequently than previously thought. This may explain some prominent and heretofore mysterious features of protein coding DNA. An unfortunate attempt at coining a new term (“duon”) and blundering PR campaign about the work inspire some stinging rebukes.

Friday Coffee Break: You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me!?


Here’s what we’ll be talking about while we wait in line for a latte:

War. War never changes. Argentinian mockingbirds brutally attack brood parasitic cowbirds, but fail to stop them from laying eggs. -From Noah.


But Wait! There’s More! The jet-propulsion butt-hydraulic system also is a gill.” -From Jeremy, who tells me that Apple and Samsung are currently waging a high-stakes patent battle over the butt-hydraulics to be included in the next generation of smart phones. 

Finally, in keeping with the belligerent theme: David Dobbs writes an adversarial piece on the concept of the selfish gene and Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne rebuff it. Meanwhile, Michael Behe [link redacted] says something that makes everyone ask “Must creationist effluvia befoul every. single. google search I do for this blog?”

Friday Coffee Break: Just what is a Denisovan Anyway?

They’ll never believe you.

Here’s what we’ll be talking about while we wait in line for a latte.

From Sarah: Drug cartels and academia share similarly structured labor markets.

…and in that cynical vein, a statistical analysis using professors’ last names that shows nepotism is a significant force in Italian universities.

From Noah: A new record is set in ancient human DNA sequencing: 400 thousand year old hominid DNA has been successfully sequenced. The results suggest previously unknown complexity in human history, and that we don’t really know what, exactly, the Denisovans were. Or at least they suggest that Noah doesn’t know.

It’s an old reference, but it holds up: check out this ten year old David Foster Wallace essay, “Consider the Lobster“. For an article in a food magazine, it sure has a lot of interesting lobster biology in it.

We may be late to the party on this one, but there has been some interesting debate about the role the FDA should have in human genetic testing, particularly as it relates to the company 23andme’s direct-to-consumer model. Here is Michael Eisen’s take. Also, a blog post on the statistical issues associated with large scale screening for disease-associated genotypes has generated some interesting discussion (23andme genotypes are all wrong).

Meanwhile, 23andme has decided to stop offering health-related interpretation of the genotype data they provide.

Friday coffee break: Flightless Archaeopteryx, and life without antibiotics

Turkish Coffee

Here’s what we’ll be talking about while we wait in line for a latte.

From Sarah: Is is possible that Archaeopteryx was actually losing its ability to fly? Pink fairy armadillos are way cuter than the “regular” kind.

From CJ: Slowing cricket calls down to the frequency range of human voices makes for some trippy tones. And it looks like a virus that has been killing hundreds of dolphins off the U.S. east coast may be striking whales, too.

From Amy: DNA from the body of a boy who died during the last ice age includes markers linked to modern European and American Indian populations.

From Jeremy, a whole raft of stuff this week about antibiotic use and abuse: U.S. states with higher rates of antibiotic prescription have more obesity. The evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria could dramatically restrict modern medicine. Here’s what working physicians are doing to prevent that.

Friday coffee break: Blow your nose, and have some wine


Here’s what we’ll be talking about while we’re waiting in line for a latte. And maybe some pie?

From Jeremy: Is it time for science communicators to find a model besides Carl Sagan? And is human (adaptive) evolution to blame for allergies?

From CJ: Honeybee colonies may be collapsing because of chronic exposure to fungicides as well as insecticides.

And finally, via Robert Krulwich, here’s why there’s always a ring around your glass of wine.

Friday Coffee Break: Name that panda, cuddle that moth, and get those fossilized insects a room

Latte - Wellington

Here’s what we’ll be talking about while we’re waiting in line for a latte:

From Sarah: The National Zoo is taking a vote on what to call its new panda cub.

From CJ: How many ways are bats cool? Lots. How appropriately is the fuzzy bunny moth’s name? very. And, sadly, it looks like the western black rhino is extinct.

From Amy: Want to feel less bad about that experiment that just exploded? Wash you hands of that failure.

And from Jeremy: Behavior doesn’t fossilize, except when it does: The oldest-known fossils of insects in copula have just been unveiled.