Paying the Price of Protecting Pandas

I don’t like pandas. This is not a secret, but I often get flack because they are so cute and so many people like the furry beasts.

Despite my dislike of pandas (it’s not because they are cute, or because they are endangered),
 is a really good description of the lengths that the Chinese government has gone through to save them (hint, also not because they are cute).

So get your panda hat on, and enough the black and white furry goodness over at National Geographic.


The elusive snail pollinator

Remember when I tried to start the twitter hashtag #pollinatorselfie last summer?

Well it’s not too late, and it turns out that snails, my beloved PhD system, can also be pollinators.

This is both promising for snails, and plants that need pollination everywhere!

Read about it over at AoBBlog.


You smell like bacteria… and that’s a good thing

Birds have a number of loud and showy ways to attach a mate. But they also have a subtle one: smell.

And it turns out that some of that smell are naturally made by bacteria in the preening gland.

So I’m not saying you should use “hey girl, you smell like the best bacteria” as a pick up line, but it might be worth trying!

(If you’re a bird. NiB is not responsible for this interaction going south)

Read all about the work by Danielle Whittaker over at Science News!

"Hey girl, you smell like the sexiest microbes"

“Hey girl, you smell like the sexiest microbes”


Measuring animal superlatives: How strong are gecko toe pads?

One thing I learned from doing the Planet Earth posts is that we are OBSESSED with superlatives. The world’s largest animal, smallest amphibian, fastest runner, highest jumper, we cannot stop looking for the best, worst, most in animals.

And along those lines, Dr. Travis Hagey set out to test how adhesive gecko toe pads are. Are they the most sticky surface in the animal kingdom? Find out here!gecko

Coevolution is cool

Arguably one of the best studied systems for coevolution resides in the mountains of Oregon: a very toxic newt and the very resistant snakes that eat them.

How did it become the best studied system for coevolution? The story starts when a young undergraduate student heard a story about three hunters who were found dead at their campsite, with no sign of theft, struggle or foul play. The only explanation of their mortality was a newt, that had accidentally been boiled in their coffee pots. Curious as to how a newt could take down three grown men, our undergraduate, Edmund Brodie Jr.

He dedicated years to studying these newts, while his son, Edmund Brodie III, focused on the snakes.

Read an excellent article from one of my favorite science writers (Ed Young) all about the decades long saga, and how cool these newts and snakes really are.


Fear the Octopus


Octopus are not aliens, but they can be vicious. Combine that with an incredible intelligence, and we should all be worried that cephalopods populations are increasing world wide.

As coral reefs are dying, cephalopods are booming (likely not a causative correlation). And not just octopus, but also cuttlefish, and 35 other species of genera, spanning all major ocean regions.

Why are they expanding in number? It’s unclear, but read about possible reasons over at Gizmodo.

I, for one, would like to extend a welcome to our new cephalopod overlords.




Seeing Red

Intense breeding since the 1300s has bread canaries of all colors of the rainbow. But until 1920, one color, red, remained elusive.

After crossing the canaries with the red siskin of Venezuela (and careful mating over subsequent generations, they managed to move the gene for “red” into the canaries! The canary is the first animal that was purposely genetically modified by moving genes from another species into it.

And finding the gene that caused this color shift proved equally difficult. Until now.

Read about it over at the Atlantic!

Close-up of a Red canary, Serinus canaria

Close-up of a Red canary, Serinus canaria