Archives for posts with tag: animals

Giraffes have blue tongues, which may protect against sunburn, and the tongue is around 20 inches long

The smaller the animal, the slower it seems to see time pass – this could be why flies find it so easy to avoid our rolled up newspapers.

See the original research in Animal Behaviour.

French catfish have learned to kill birds – the fish, which are up to 1.5 metres long, beach themselves, lay in wait for pigeons, pounce, and then wriggle back into the river. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water

Messages in your DNA can give geographic clues to your family’s past, creating a ‘GPS’ for your genes. This uses software to locate single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs – changes in single letters in the DNA code) that have mutated in the past and have then been passed on to a population in a specific place. The researchers believe that this allows people’s origin to be placed on a map on the basis of their genetic information alone.

African spiny mice (very cute, sometimes kept as pets) can shed their skin, or at least patches of it, to get away from predators, and then grow it back pretty much as good as new. This could help researchers understand wound healing and regeneration.

See the paper in Nature.

Gibbons who inhale helium sing like sopranos. Researchers looked at the vocal cords of gibbons that had inhaled helium and saw that they could control their vocal tracts in the same way that soprano singers can – this was thought to to be unique to humans. See the original research in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Helium is a natural gas that cannot be synthesised, and it is vital for MRI scanners and radiation monitors. There is a helium shortage worldwide, and it could run out in 25-30 years. Because of a US law passed in 1996, according to Robert Richardson, professor of physics at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, helium became too cheap to recycle, and was no longer regarded as precious.  Professor Richardson believes that our reserves of helium have been “squandered”.

According to researchers from Tel Aviv and Los Angeles, they can work out where you originate from using software and your genes, creating a kind of genetic ‘GPS’.  The researchers have used a software tool called spatial ancestry analysis (SPA) to locate mutations from the past that can be linked with a specific geographic location, even down to finding your parents’ ancestry too.

CompassThis could be used to trace a change that leads to disease in a specific population, or track the historic movement of human and animal populations. Read the original research in Nature Genetics.

Dogs can shake 70% of the water out of their coat in four seconds – this is because their backbone can move around 30 degrees in either direction, and their skin is so loose that it can move three times faster than their backbone. Other mammals also do this, and the smaller they are the faster it is – mice shake at 30 times per second. This allows them to dry faster and keep warm.

Shaking dog

Source: Georgia Institute of Technology

There is a fantastic video in the article in The Atlantic, and lots more information on the laboratory website at Georgia Institute of Technology.

Source: Georgia Institute of Technology

Many animals can match and beat humans in track and field events. For example, the 5 cm hat thrower fungus can throw a spore capsule 2 m away.

Olympic Games 27 July – 12 August

Researchers in the US have created an artificial jellyfish from silicon and living cardiac muscle cells, and it can swim freely. The rat heart muscle tissue is stimulated electrically and this ‘beats’ to create the jellyfish’s propulsive force. This is called ‘Medusoid’ and could be a step towards synthetic life.
Medusoid an artificial jellyfish

Credit: Harvard University and Caltech

For more, read the paper in .

%d bloggers like this: