Dracula: the largest flying dinosaur yet!

Good news! Jurassic World II comes out this summer. Which means that I’m going to be posting a lot about dinosaurs, because my nerdy evolution heart starts beating faster when we talk about the prehistoric.

For those who remember, pterosaurs were the first flying vertebrates, and ruled the skies. And in Romania’s Transylvania region scientists discovered the bones of a new pterosaur. They nicknamed their find “Dracula.” Using the fragments of bone as their guide, scientists reconstructed a model of the creature—which they say is the largest pterosaur found to date, reaching around 3.5 meters high with an estimated 12-meter wingspan.

The reconstruction is now on display as part of a new pterosaur exhibit at the Altmühltal Dinosaur Museum in Denkendorf, Germany. The exhibit also separately showcases the original specimen’s excavated bones.

Which I will be visiting this summer, because BOY THAT SOUNDS AWESOME!

Read more about it here.

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Utilizing Pink and Blue to denote gender in graphs

As a thorough data nerd (please see my new brunch site, in which I insist all my fellow brunch goers fill out a survey so I can skip home and tabulate the data), I spend a lot of time thinking about colors in charts. What are color blind friendly? What are the best colors to demonstrate the idea I’m interested in? Are they consistent throughout the presentation/report/paper/poster?

Which is why I found this medium post about gender and colors so interesting.

“So with the impact of the #MeToo movement and the widespread reporting of the gender pay gap, perhaps now is the time to uncouple pink and blue from their gender associations. The question is: are chartmakers ready to step up to the challenge?”

*Also, before I get emails: I know this isn’t a biology post. It’s a data nerd post. I can wear many hats, deal with it.

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Here’s what we really know about transgender genetics—so far

In an awesome piece over at the Genetic Literacy project, Ricki Lewis what is known (and what is largely overblown) about transgender genetics.

TL;DR: It’s a bit too soon to screen for transgender genes, beyond the usual genome wide association studies, and we really should be asking ourselves if, ethically, this is a road we want to go down.

Also, journalist can run with an abstract and things get out of hand quickly. But I’m fairly certain we all already knew that.

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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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Algae as people food?

When maintaining the delightful snails, Potamopyrgus antipodarum, in captivity (say in the lab, prior to infecting them with all sorts of trematodes), we feed them a micro algae called spirulina.

You might have heard of it. It has become popular in super food drinks and smoothies. If you see a green smoothy, it likely has this little micro algae. Additionally, many people have touted to me the great health benefits, and the anti-oxidants.

But I resisted. Because spirulina is not people food. It’s snail food.

But now, algae might infiltrate our food supply on a more permanent basis. 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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