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.

From Sarah: Yeti crabs deliberately cultivate bacteria on their claws.

The hairy claws of these crabs are covered with bacteria. With every swing of their arms, they mix up the water column and provide their homegrown bacteria with additional nutrients.

From Noah: Corn-feeding insects have evolved resistance to genetically-engineered Bt corn in the United States, and it’s because a lot of folks didn’t take basic population genetics into account.

… a scientific advisory panel urged the Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen the second line of defense against resistance, and demand large refuges on non-Bt corn. They proposed that farmers be allowed to plant Bt corn with this new gene on no more than half of their corn acres.

Monsanto argued that such a large refuge wasn’t necessary, and the EPA agreed. In 2003, the agency decided to allow farmers to plant this new product on 80 percent of their corn acres.

The scientists who called for caution now are saying “I told you so,” because there are signs that a new strain of resistant rootworms is emerging. [Links sic.]

From CJ: Close examination of ostrich penises clarifies the evolutionary history of birds.

“Our findings reveal that the evolution of a lymphatic erection mechanism likely occurred in the ancestor of all birds rather than within birds,” says Patricia Brennan, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and one of the authors of the study.

And, from Jeremy: New fossil collections reveal the ancient origin of high-resolution compound eyes.

Here we report 2–3-cm paired eyes from the early Cambrian (approximately 515 million years old) Emu Bay Shale of South Australia, assigned to the Cambrian apex predator Anomalocaris. Their preserved visual surfaces are composed of at least 16,000 hexagonally packed ommatidial lenses (in a single eye), rivalling the most acute compound eyes in modern arthropods.