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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Building a backup bee

The director of bee biology for the Wonderful Company, Gordon Wardell, is working on a magnificent experiment. He is trying, across a vast grove of pistachios, to develop an alternative insect pollinator.

With the decline of honey bee populations (due to many things, including (and likely prominently) because of viruses!), the need for an alternate has become critical. Not just for pistachios, but for almonds, which rely exclusively on honeybees for pollination.

Want to know more about this crazy idea (trust me, this one is a long shot)? Read about it 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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The promiscuous process driving antibiotic resistance

“While overuse of antibiotics has been fingered as the driver of resistance to these drugs, the contribution of bacterial sex plays an underappreciated role, one that could bedevil efforts to fight antimicrobial resistance.”

Want to hear more about this sexy and interesting outcome of bacteria doing it*?

Read more here!

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*I’m pretty sure that’s how the song goes:

Birds do it.

Bees do it.

Bacteria do it and it drives the evolution of resistance.

Pretty sure.