Scuba Flies

In California’s Mono Lake—whose alkaline waters are deadly to most insects—these diving flies don’t just survive; they thrive.

To survive in this harsh environment, the flies perform a feat that Mark Twain described with great fascination in 1872. “You can hold them under water as long as you please—they do not mind it—they are only proud of it,” he wrote in a passage of his book Roughing It. “When you let them go, they pop up to the surface as dry as a patent office report.”

This is the best description ever, and makes me want to go into taxonomy.

Read more about these aberrations here!

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Hagfish Take Weeks to Recover from Sliming Someone

If you see a hagfish don’t anger it. Under attack, these bottom scavengers and hunters releases thick, clear slime in astonishing quantities. Potential predators back off quickly when presented with the slime, because it clogs their gills. The hagfish itself escape their own mucus that they tie their bodies into a knot and scrape it off (A highway in Oregon was harder to clean up after a truck full of hagfish crashed there last year.)

However, it turns out that this mucus is a precious resource for a hagfish. After sliming a predator, the fish can take nearly a month to refill its slime glands. So leave the poor slime monsters alone.

Read about it here.

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Blue foxes, and what can happen when new-comers infiltrate a small population

Arctic foxes are endangered in Sweden, Norway and Finland, scattered in isolated populations. And a group atop the highest mountain in southern Sweden, Helagsfjället, six white foxes settled in 2000s.

In 2010, a local ranger noticed his foxes had changed color, to “blue”. The influx of new foxes provides an interesting opportunity to study the importance of migrants in small and isolated populations.

And, importantly, it affords me the opportunity to talk about blue foxes, and at the end of the day, that’s also pretty awesome. Read about it here!

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A bear and its forebears

The spectacled (or Andean) bear – which turns out to be more common around Machu Picchu than previously believed – is the only South American bear, found in the ranges of the Andes from Venezuela in the north to Peru and Bolivia in the south.

But the species isn’t unique just for being the only bruin on a huge continent: it’s also the sole remaining representative of a bear family that once encompassed some of the all-out most formidable mammals ever to exist.

Want to read more? Check it out here.

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Blind Cavefish, and what they can teach us about getting less sleep

The Mexican cavefish have no eyes, little pigment, and require about two hours of sleep per night to survive.

Imagine what you could do with those extra hours! So we should ask cavefish, how do they do it?

Read more about that very research here.

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Wildlife is adjusting life in the big city

And I for one am wondering how the hell they do it! I just moved to a bigger city and I love it, but I’m finding my time a little stretched thin.

And I have opposable thumbs, and grocery stores. I can’t imagine how wildlife are doing it. Are they better at adulting than I am?

Read about how mountain lions are handling it here.

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Mammals from space: the blue whale

Blue whales are the most massive creature on earth. And yet it is surprisingly flexible and able to move about with remarkable ease. This allows for graceful and borderline romantic mating rituals.

They also have an alien-like tongue that can invert itself, allowing the entire area from the whale’s mouth to its belly button to expand.

This is completely different than all other whales, and all other mammals.

So while they aren’t actually from space, they look very alien.

Read more about it here!

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Mystery Parrot Disease Virus Identified

A disease that has terrified parrot breeders for the last few decades has been identified as a virus that is new to science. This discovery will allow scientists to find the source of this virus, to control its spread, develop a vaccine and to find a cure.

Want to know more? Read about it here!

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CRISPR as a way to eradicate invasive species? Tell me more…

The way to kill invasive species, and thereby protect endangered species are brutal—traps, long-range rifles, and poisons—deployable only on a small scale and wildly indiscriminate. To excise the rat, say, from an ecosystem requires a sledgehammer that falls on many species.

All this is why some conservation biologists such as Karl Campbell has begun pushing for research into a much more precise and effective tool—one you might not associate with nature-loving conservationists. Self-­perpetuating synthetic genetic machines called gene drives could someday alter not just one gene or one rat or even a population of rats but an entire species—of rats, mosquitoes, ticks, or any creature. And this biological technology promises to eliminate these destructive animals without shedding a drop of blood.

But the methods also contain the threat of unleashing another problem: They could change species, populations, and ecosystems in unintended and unstoppable ways.

Want to know more? Read about it here.

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CRISPR-Cas9 for an RNA world

CRISPR has the revolutionary potential to alter gene expression by cutting DNA.

Now NmeCas9 is a protein that cuts not just DNA, but RNA.

This has scary potential for viruses (made from RNA), but having read very little (and I don’t think very much is known yet), but I am interested to see how this progresses.

Read about it here, and keep checking on NiB. I see myself writing more about this in the future.

 

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