The Woolly Mammoth’s Last Stand

Woolly mammoths once flourished from northern Europe to Siberia. As the last ice age drew to a close some 10,000 years ago, the mainland population perished, victims of climate change and human hunters.

However, a remote island population survived for 6000 years after the mainland had died off. And from a tooth of a male mammoth, geneticists have now deciphered the reason the population ultimately went extinct.

Read about it in the New York Times.

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Do you like Grizzly Bears in the Cascades?

One of my favorite online comics: The Oatmeal, put up a post to try to reestablish grizzly bears back into the Northern Cascades.

It only takes two things: 1) 25,000 dollars (already paid by the author of the Oatmeal and 2) 50,000 comments on the department on the interior website.

Interested? He even gives you specific examples if you’re not feeling particularly articulate this morning (like me). Check it out here.

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Also, check out the amazing story of the mantis shrimp, the awesome angler fish and my personal favorite, the flatworm parasite Captain Higgins.

Science photos as art

The finalists of the Wellcome Image Awards showcase the best science-related imagery from the past year.

The winners will be announced on March 15 in London, but here are some good ones.

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A bioluminescent Hawaiian bobtail squid. (Credit: Mark R Smith, Macroscopic Solutions)

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Vessels of a pig eye. Peter M Maloca, OCTlab at the University of Basel and Moorfields Eye Hospital, London; Christian Schwaller; Ruslan Hlushchuk, University of Bern; Sébastien Barré

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Surface of a Mouse Retina: Gabriel Luna, Neuroscience Research Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara

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Unravelled DNA in a Human Lung Cell: Ezequiel Miron, University of Oxford

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#breastcancer Twitter Connections: Eric Clarke, Richard Arnett and Jane Burns, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

 

Talking with whales

While captive in a Navy program, a beluga whale named Noc began to mimic human speech.

Since the early 1960s the United States had been deploying marine mammals, beginning with dolphins, for tasks including mine detection and recovery of test torpedoes. By the mid-1970s, the locus of the naval cold war had shifted to the Arctic, where the latest Soviet submarines were secreting themselves under the ice cap, an environment off-limits to animals including dolphins and sea lions used in the Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP). Experiments commenced on weaponry that could function in such extreme conditions. The Navy needed marine mammals with built-in sonar, capable of locating and retrieving sunken experimental torpedoes in the frigid waters and low visibility of the Arctic, and they landed on beluga whales.

Due to his close work with his trainers, Noc began to mimic human speech in an attempt to communicate, work that is presented in “Spontaneous Human Speech Mimicry by a Cetacean,” in the October 23, 2012, edition of the journal Current Biology. Or read about it over at the Smithsonian!

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Oldest fossil on earth?

The history of life on earth is fascinating, and largely one of the reasons I started studying evolutionary biology.

There is solid evidence of life dating back to 3.5 billion years, at which point the earth was a billion years old.

Last August, Dr. Van Kranendonk and his colleagues reported discovering fossils in Greenland that are 3.7 billion years old and were once mats of bacteria that grew in shallow coastal waters.

But then, a new study, published in the journal Nature, Mattew S.Dodd, Dominic Papineau and their colleagues at University College London studied rocks that are older.

They came from a remote geological formation in Canada called Nuvvuagittuq, which stretches across four square miles on the coast of Hudson Bay.Researchers have variously estimated its age at 3.77 billion years or 4.22 billion years — just 340 million years after the formation of the planet.

Want to read more? Check it out at the Washington post!

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Iron-rich chert, shown here in red, containing ancient fossils was formed near hydrothermal vents on an ancient seafloor, according to a new study. 

 

Ambitious plans to sequence every organism on earth, seeks funding

“When it comes to genome sequencing, visionaries like to throw around big numbers: There’s the UK Biobank, for example, which promises to decipher the genomes of 500,000 individuals, or Iceland’s effort to study the genomes of its entire human population. Yesterday, at a meeting here organized by the Smithsonian Initiative on Biodiversity Genomics and the Shenzhen, China–based sequencing powerhouse BGI, a small group of researchers upped the ante even more, announcing their intent to, eventually, sequence “all life on Earth.””

Interested? Read more over at Science. 

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