Life with the most dangerous bird on the planet

“Imagine an ostrich as described by H.P. Lovecraft, or maybe a turkey fused with a velociraptor” excellent words to describe the Cassowary. Alternatively: six-foot-tall murdermachines.

These birds are glaringly representatives of their dinosaur heritage, and they couple stunning beauty with murderous intent. Read about taking care of these birds over at National Geographic.


Side note: I was at the Evolution meetings this summer, and spoke to a few biologist who have in the past studied birds. I asked them, given that we now know that birds and dinosaurs are the same group, should we change the names of ornithologists to neo-ornithologists and paleo-ornithologists. This sparked a discussion about what to call people who study the evolution of birds. The conclusion we came to? You call them “Evolutionary Biologists”.

Who will be first author? Flip a coin

Over at Dynamic Ecology Megan Duffy just did an awesome blog post about how to determine authorship. From alphabetical ordering to a coin flip, to the current status of the British Pound vs. American Dollar, and my personal favorite, authorship was determined by a twenty-five-game croquet series, things are not as straightforward as they may seem.

Read about it over at Dynamic Ecology!



Man vs. Rat

“Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist.” -The Princess Bride

While Wesley might have been on to something, he missed the mark a bit. Despite all the horrors we associate with rats that are blatantly untrue, “the rat problem” still represents a perfect nightmare.

They are intimately associated with humans (wherever we go, rats follow). And despite centuries of trying to eliminate our foe, we are losing this war, in a big way.

One of the big problem is rats fertility. A female rat can copulate dozens of times a day, and ovulates ever 4 days. Left alone, a male and female pair can produce 15,000 offspring in a year. So is it time to put rats on the pill? Scientists may have found one that works!

Read about the war, the disturbing war with rats, and the solutions (fingers crossed) over at the Guardian.


Creationism invades Europe

Like a novel pathogen, or a deadly infectious disease, creationism is spreading. After decades of being limited to a subset of american culture, it has gone global.

There is a long history here, of many different factions in different countries and how they are attacking evolution, both in education and policy.

Read about it over at Scientific American.



The Sound of Climate Change

Ecologist Lauren Oakes has been looking at effect of yellow-cedar decline on the Alexander Archipelago in Alaska.

During her work, she has glimpsed the future of the forest and wants to communicate what she has seen. Here at NiB we are all about finding new and inventive ways to communicate science, usually through blog posts.

But Lauren Oakes has collaborated with Nik Sawe, a Stanford Ph.D. student who is experimenting with “data sonification” or the translation of information into sound. What has resulted is the sound of climate change.

Read about it over at the Atlantic!


When talking about phylogenies, don’t use words like “basal”

Over at the blog “For the love of treesStacey Smith has recently posted an interesting (and somewhat twitter controversial) post about how to correctly talk about evolution and phylogenies.

For starters, don’t use the word basal. She states that by her estimation the term “basal” is misused ~90% of the time, and it perpetuates a number of misconceptions about how evolution works.

Intrigued? Go check out the post. Or enjoy this phylogeny of basil posted by Maggie Schedl (which is the most basal basil?!?)

The Basil-Lineage problem: which is the #mostprimitivebasil

The Basil-Lineage problem: which is the #mostprimitivebasil