Archive for the 'Zoology' category

Bumble Porn

No, not photos of a former Lancs and England batsman in "interesting" poses. No, it's some photos I took in the car park on the Riedberg campus this morning.

Two bumble bees having sex in the car park

This is the money shot

Front view of a bumble pair at it

I'm not a bee expert, so if anyone can tell me the species (the location is Frankfurt, Germany) or anything else interesting, please do.

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Salmon, scent and going home again

Dead salmon in spawning season, Oregon state (U.S. Pacific Northwest).

Image: Pete Forsyth, 9 November 2007.
This image is licensed under a creative commons license.

This post was chosen as an Editor's Selection for ResearchBlogging.org

On a cool autumn afternoon, I stepped out of my friend's house and witnessed a phenomenon of nature I had never seen before. In a stream flowing through the back yard, I saw the bodies of spawning coho salmon, Oncorhynchus kisutch, gleaming blood-red in the bright sunlight. These fish battered themselves mercilessly against the stream bed, digging shallow nests in the gravel where they were depositing their eggs. Against enormous odds, they had survived the rigors of ocean life, and had returned to their birthplace to spawn.

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Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air

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We all have preconceived ideas about what hummingbirds' lives are like, but so much of their world is imperceptible to the human eye. Filmmaker Ann Prum describes the breakthrough science and latest technologies that allowed her and the crew to reveal incredible new insights about these aerial athletes.

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The Bull That Didn't Know the Rules

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Yesterday morning while I was in the gym, I saw this footage over and over and over again on the national news. Even with my language barrier, it's not difficult to figure out what was happening nor what the eventual outcome would be.
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Kitchen Science: Are Spiders Repelled by Conkers?

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This sweet video depicts a series of experiments conducted by a classroom of kids at Roselyon School in Cornwall. In short, they are testing an old wives' tale that suggests that placing conkers -- horse chestnuts -- along skirting boards or at the edges of doorways might deter spiders from entering a building. But does this actually work, and if so, how? The modern scientific brain might wonder whether some chemical odor released by the fruit of the horse chestnut tree or perhaps the waxy glossiness of the kids favorite autumnal twine-suspended weapon sends the arachnids scuttling back to whence they came.
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TEDTalks: Carl Safina: The Oil Spill's Unseen Culprits, Victims

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The Gulf oil spill dwarfs comprehension, but we know this much: it's bad. Carl Safina scrapes out the facts in this blood-boiling cross-examination, arguing that the consequences will stretch far beyond the Gulf -- and many so-called solutions are making the situation worse.

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Walk-Through of NYC's American Museum of Natural History

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This is a rather nice video with a home-made feel to it. It presents a quick view of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, starting on the subway platform (filled with lots of beautiful tile art, all of which I've photographed and shared on my blog). (I noticed that they seem to have finished refurbishing their Indians of the Pacific Northwet exhibit).

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Paul the Prognosticating Octopus Oracle Sez ...

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Paul the Prognosticating Octopus Oracle has disappointed his German fans by choosing Spain over Germany in tomorrow's World Cup Football match. Paul is a two-year-old English-born octopus of unknown species who has lived in the aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany since shortly after he was born.
Image: Mark Keppler / DAPD

This is a bummer for all those German fans who believe in tooth fairies and Santa Claus, because Paul the Prognosticating Octopus Oracle of Unknown Species (PPOOUS) has made another prediction for the outcome of tomorrow's World Cup football match of Germany versus Spain -- he chose SPAIN to win. (teh H0rr0rz!)

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Close Encounter with a Whale Shark in the Gulf of Mexico

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Whale Shark, Rhincodon typus, feeding in the Gulf of Mexico.
Image: Gulf Coast Research Laboratory Whale Shark Research.

Despite being the largest fish species in the world, measuring over 40 feet in length and 35 tons in weight, whale sharks are quite mysterious. We know they are plankton filter feeders, and we recently learned that we can identify individuals by the pattern of dots and bars on their bodies, but otherwise, we know very little about these animals. For example, in just 1996, we learned that these sharks are ovoviviparous (their young grow in egg sacs inside the body but are born live) after capturing a female pregnant with 300 pups. But we still know almost nothing about them, including their population size. So to learn more about them, researchers are attaching satellite tags to whale sharks and taking a tiny tissue sample for DNA work. This video shows this process as it occurred with one whale shark feeding at the surface of the water in the Gulf of Mexico.

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New Species of Giant Flightless Bird Described in NYC

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Years ago, when Zoologist Mike Dickison was in the early stages of his PhD, he gave a joke presentation at a graduate student conference on the taxonomy and evolution of a giant flightless bird. It was the sort of thing you'd see at any conference on avian evolution: a Latin name, reconstructed skeleton, possible place on the great evolutionary tree of birds. The tone was completely serious, despite the subject matter -- the sort of thing that might be found in the Journal of Irreproducible Results back when it was funny.
Then, in the storage cabinets of the Berlin Museum of Natural History one summer's day, Dickison opened a drawer and had a revelation -- an original scientific insight that he is now sharing with the world: he realised what kind of bird he was working with, and figured out something of its evolutionary history.
Dr Dickison's astonishing findings were presented and recorded at the Christchurch PechaKucha #8 in May, and now the audio and (more-or-less) synchronised slides have been uploaded. (A pecha-kucha is a talk in which 20 slides play for exactly 20 seconds each, and the speaker tries to keep up.) All the science is real, and no birds were harmed in the course of this research.

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