Jumping Spider Male Breeding Behavior

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Hey guys! Still don't have much time for full posts. I'm applying for graduate school in the field of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (EEB).

But, here as I type with one hand and holding my leopard gecko in the other, I share this wild video with you of a male jumping spider advertising to a female cadaver. Sound is highly recommended.

Review - "The Emotional Lives of Animals" with Comments on Anecdotal Evidence

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Anecdotal evidence: oxymoron or label of necessity? Within the sciences, anecdotal evidence (i.e., untested claims and stories) is typically treated as only a beginning step in the means of answering a question or, more commonly, is disregarded as useless. The reasons for this mutual understanding begin at the roots of how modern science works: something is unknown, it is tested against an informed suggestion, then it is argued (usually by retesting or investigating a competing hypothesis) until accepted or rejected by the scientific community (news networks and public school systems attempt to have a say in the process, too). Furthermore, if an event happens and a human observer is around to witness or experience it, unless a convincing, systematic attempt at recording the event takes place, the event might as well have not happened. Many field biologists carry some sort of notebook with them wherever they go for this purpose - unless an observation is recorded convincingly, why should anyone believe him or her?


Anecdotes are treated quite differently when we remove ourselves from the world of science. Belief in stories and hearsay 'evidence' is more rooted in emotional impact and similarity of belief between the belief and the believer, regardless of the truth behind the mask. You probably don't have to stretch your imagination very far to grasp how the rest of the world interprets what science calls anecdotal evidence (e.g., religion, politics, and even fad diets!). Hundreds and thousands of books on conspiracy theories, self-help, and what you should- and should-not wear after Labor Day are published every year. Consumers buy these books for various reasons, but generally these people accept the power of anecdotal evidence to explain problems in people's lives.


Marc Bekoff's The Emotional Lives of Animals is a book from the respected scientist which compiles several anecdotal stories in making a case for the pervasiveness of human-like emotions in non-human animals. I read this book as one of several I could have picked for SU's Intro to Animal Behavior course, required of all Animal Behavior majors, and I must say if I had known the pace of this book before I read it, I would have never tried.


My position at the time was one of transitioning from a prospective freshman business major to the fascinating world of animal behavior. Even though I then knew close to nothing about the fundamentals of the field, I already had a place in my heart for the feelings of animals, whatever they may be. Anyone with a pet dog or cat probably feels the same way. This acknowledged, I already had no reason to read the book. The more I flipped through its widely-spaced letters, the less interested I became as a reader.


Upon reading about two-thirds of the book, I set it down and never finished the rest. I had just lost interest. Probably because a more appropriate title for the book would be "The Emotional Perceptions of Humans." The whole book, across all non-human species, was the same story over and over again - humans having some level of epiphany when confronted with the knowledge that their token non-human animal could have emotions strikingly similar in appearance to their own.


Without any ability to refute the claims made in the story, there is no opportunity for contribution to either the arguments for or against the presence of emotions in non-human animals. The saddening truth is that Dr. Bekoff seems to acknowledge the lack of scientific novelty for his argument in the Preface, before the book proper has even begun:
"It's bad biology to argue against the existence of animal emotions. Scientific research in evolutionary biology, cognitive ethology, and social neuroscience supports the view that numerous and diverse animals have rich and deep emotional lives."
As with the rest of the book, Bekoff omits references to any of this past work in favor of beaming reviews from friend Jane Goodall, Ingrid Newkirk (cofounder/president of PETA), and the Dalai Lama to name a few.


I recently had the opportunity to meet Dr. Beckoff. He has an engaging personality and even signed my copy of this book, but I will hold that the book's thesis was uninteresting from the start.


Overall: 2/5; Save your money unless you are totally unconvinced that non-human animals can feel emotions.


SU Fleming Lecture Spring 2010: L-R -- Marc Bekoff, Carol Adams, Paul Waldau

The Great Turtle-Egg Evacuation

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The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is a very, very sad story. No matter how you look at it, the whole thing is spelling disaster.

What is surprising to me is how the event is being labeled as an ecological disaster by the mainstream media. Even though the explosion of the oil platform has left 11 dead (plus 2) and 17 injured, these facts have been essentially forgotten as the yet-contained oil continues to spew into the Gulf of Mexico and its surrounding shoreline. The focus is not unwarranted in most respects, as the consequences of this input of crude into the Gulf and associated cleanup efforts have and will have staggering effects on the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.


Unsurprisingly, an already-struggling effort for effective sea turtle conservation is being hit with very difficult decisions about what to do. Several species of adult sea turtles are running the risk of being cremated alive when caught inside oil slicks being burned. Additionally, as eggs hatch from nests on the beaches of the Gulf, juvenile turtles would face thousands of miles of oil-polluted water in the most vulnerable time of a sea turtle's life.

This last situation is why the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Florida Marine Fisheries Service have developed a plan to relocate an estimated 70,000 sea turtle eggs from almost 800 beaches along Alabama and Florida. Read more here: The Great Turtle-Egg Evacuation


The plan is very risky for turtles inside eggs. As the article states:
"[...] within 12–24 hours of the eggs being laid, embryos attach to an oxygen-supplying membrane. So any movement of the eggs could cause detachment and death [...]."
A former student from my university completed a series of research projects on sea turtle conservation in the last few years which illuminated my perception of the effectiveness of current conservation efforts. This last point about the eggs dying if moved at the wrong point in time is correct, and is a major concern in these operations.

This topic has been a hot one in many email listservs I am subscribed to (especially C-TURTLE), and the point most interesting to me in all of this is the question of how the relocated hatched juveniles will respond to being transported to beaches several hundred miles from where they were laid. The previously-linked article continues to talk about potential affects of this operation on the relocated turtle's behavior:
Moving the eggs is not generally viewed as problematic. "We have adequate data showing that eggs moved with competence at that age have no difference in survivorship to those not moved," said Mike Salmon, a biologist at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. 
But the release could be another matter. "What we don't know is what impact it might have on other aspects of behaviour," says Salmon. 
"The $64,000 question is, if you take hatchlings that would normally emerge in northwest Florida to the east coast," he said, "will they return there, or to the northwest, where they should go?" Because scientists don't know for sure whether imprinting occurs in the nest or after emergence, this remains a mystery.
This point is one where conservation, ecology, and ethology intersect. My favorite! I anticipate some interesting research will come out of this project, especially if local behavioral research-heavy universities (e.g., University of Florida) are asked to become involved. So much is known about sea turtle navigation and spatial perception, but I do not know of any test which has analyzed how moving recently hatched eggs 500 miles away affects the survival of individuals. Normally, this is not a practical situation which would not require testing (and thus, I see why there is a paucity of research on this specific topic).


Finally, it is worth noting that Heppell et al. (1996) found that the most effective contributors to sea turtle conservation were not efforts directed towards very young sea turtle (particularly 'headstarting', or catching recently hatched individuals and raising them for a year before release). Instead, turtle excluder devices (TEDs) attached to shrimp trawling nets offer the greatest positive effect on their survival. I wonder how meaningful this project to move ~70,000 eggs will be in light of these results.


Thank you for reading, I hope you are doing your part to support relief and clean-up efforts in the wake of this ecologically-disruptive event.

Addendum: I could insert lots of opinion on the oil spill, but I'll pass for two reasons: 1) I'm not a geologist, and 2) no one wants to read my whining (not even me). You can read more about sea turtle headstarting here.

Ecological Drinking Words (EDW)

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This is a fun one.

Last summer when I was at UNDERC, I came up with the concept of Ecological Drinking Words (EDW, for short). Like many drinking games before it, the concept simple: read an ecological or biological article and take a shot of your favorite drink (alcohol optional) every time you see one of these buzzwords. It works because many of these words are not seen anywhere outsite of ecology.

Here is a short list of some of the terms we decided were up to snuff. These are all real words or terms (although my spell-checker doesn't think so):


Microhabitat/microclimate
Habitat Fragmentation
Herpetofauna
Riparian
Trophic Cascades
Microassays
Acid Mine Drainage (AMD)
Cryptobiosis
Ecolexicography
Limnology
Littoral
Montane
Macrophyte
Diurnal
Crepuscular
Paludification
Ambotrophic
Advintituous
Evapotranspiration
Oligotrophic
Thermocline
Allocthonous
Autocthonous
Lacustrine
Sessile
Mesic
Xeric

And a special appearance from astronomy:
Entelescopinate

Please suggest your own and tell me your favorites!

Photo credit

One Fifth of 2008's Research Papers Were/Are Open Access

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I recently found an interesting blog post and felt it was worth sharing.

The Great Beyond: One fifth of 2008's research papers now open access

According to this article and its associated primary literature article (find it here), roughly one in every five of 1837 sampled from a database of 1.2 million was open access somewhere on the internet. The article breaks down these numbers, but generally I believe this is a good direction for the transparency of science.

Reading primary literature is difficult enough, and without institutional access to online versions of journals, this task is made frustrating and (too often) off-putting.

Photo credit

Male Green Frogs in Suburban Habitats Sometimes Develop Eggs

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Interesting video of the now:


I hope you enjoyed that. I post it not only because of the interesting topic, but the simple manner by which a complex process is described. As I look into graduate school more and more, I'll probably be posting videos similar in feel to this one. This is simply because visiting research lab websites exposes me to, well, lab research.

Brown-Headed Cowbirds Exhibit Mafia Behavior

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Been a while since my last post. Perhaps I've taken some time off? Nope! School's out for sure, but I'm currently working full time (+ some) with Dr. Ben Pierce in SU's biology department. I spend most of my time in front of a computer, and after a long day of quality excel time, I'm usually just not in the mood to do blahg stuff.


But I'm here for you, right? Yeah.


So today's news isn't really news at all; however, I'm going to guess that the average person on the street has not heard of this problematic species and their interesting behaviors. I've been putting this one off for a while - there's a lot of information, but I think you will find it very intriguing!


Residing in the Southern USA & Mexico, brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater) are obligate brood parasites (some male BHCs pictured on the right in a trap described later). This terminology means that females BHCs do not (and cannot, I assume) construct nests and must lay their eggs in the nest of another species of bird in order to have a successful clutch. The cowbird eggs hatch earlier than the 'normal' eggs and yield large chicks with very big mouths to feed. Guess who's the bad guy here:



Yikes! The parental birds feed the biggest and most obvious beak - which will often be owned by cowbird chicks. This would be fine and dandy in the world of biology, if it weren't for a tiny detail. BHCs used to be restricted to what wildlife biologists call 'edge habitat', as illustrated in this figure:



Essentially, when one has a grouping of a certain type of habitat, the edges are susceptible to different pressures than the inner portion of that type of habitat. Cowbirds got their name because they were found following the wake of edge habitat created by cattle trails in the 1800s. Nowadays, cattle drives are rare, but suburbia and habitat fragmentation are everywhere:


For species that "live life on the edge" (sorry, I had to), life is good. For the affected species... not so much. Problems arise when this brood parasitism spells certain death for the nest fate (i.e., success) of, say, endangered species. Brown-headed cowbirds, which used to have a more limited range (and then restricted to edge habitats), must now be controlled in areas under management for endangered species of birds.


A classic example of this BHC control is performed on Fort Hood in central Texas. Fort Hood has been a leader in environmental protection and the protection of endangered species. Many an environmental/biological researcher has earned his or her Ph.D. working on their property - and with good reason. Specifically, Fort Hood is the largest remaining breeding ground for the endangered species of bird, the Black-Capped Vireo. Before controlling for BHC,  vireo nest fate was zilch - guaranteed zero percent nest success if parasitized by BHC. Now, the military facility invests a lot of time (and money) into maintaining brown-headed cowbird traps like this one (this is actually a photo I took out at Fort Hood this year):




The premise is simple. The birds can get in, but not out. A door allows someone to enter the cage and handle the birds as necessary. Food and water is provided. Generally, when one BHC is inside the cage (bait), other BHCs will fly over and into the cage to investigate, trapping themselves. Females are euthanized and males are released (only females lay eggs). This simple, if labor-intensive, control has had a hugely positive impact on restoring the black-capped vireo population. The numbers are a bit fuzzy, but I think in the late 80s, Fort Hood had around eighty nesting pairs, and at current they have around five thousand nesting pairs.


So what's new? If you're any sort of bird person, you've probably heard all of the above, if not for the details. The story here is a study released by the University of Florida in 2007 which gave evidence for mafia behavior in female brown-headed cowbirds. ScienceDaily reports on the article (found here). If all of the behavior described above wasn't enough to make you have a distaste for brood parasitism, this article may be the kicker for you. What the researchers, including primary author Jeff Hoover, found was that female brown-headed cowbirds would ransack the nests of birds who rejected the parasitic eggs laid in their nests. It's worth noting that female BHC lay eggs in a nest over a period of days (2-4?), and so they are involved in some parental care of their young - watching to ensure the nest isn't abandoned, checking to see that the eggs have not been pushed out of the nest, and even feeding the chicks after hatching.


Hoover et al. observed Prothonotary warbler nests (a truly beautiful bird which accept BHC eggs almost 100% of the time) and found several interesting things:
"Retaliatory mafia behavior in cowbirds makes hosts' acceptance of cowbird eggs a better proposition than ejection," Hoover said. "The accepting warblers in our study produced more of their own offspring, on average, than those where we ejected cowbird eggs."
The researchers also found what they called "farming behavior." This means that after a warbler rejected the female BHCs eggs, the BHC would force the female warbler to make a new nest, sync her egg laying with the warbler, and parasitize this new nest. This final step happened 85% of the time the farming behaviors were observed. A male prothonotary warbler is pictured on the right (photo credit).

I hope you learned something after reading this truly lengthy post. Thanks for sticking it to the end.

"Seduce Me" and "Green Porno" - The Art of The Birds and the Bees

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Every now and then, someone has a truly great idea about how to explain science to the general public. Sometimes the topic is animal mating behavior.

This is the setup for the Sundance Channel's two recent series: "Green Porno" and "Seduce Me." "Green Porno" explores wild and weird animal mating behaviors while "Seduce Me" acts out animal courtship - a whole other bag of worms.

You can view many of their videos here.

The star/director/mastermind behind the effort is Isabella Rossellini. Quite often, her acting performance will have you in stitches. The costumes and sets designed for both shows are often quite beautiful, regardless of topic.


Here are some samples, but remember many, many more are available on their website:



The Art of Karen Carr

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I'd like to direct your browsers to the online home page for international wildlife and natural history artist Karen Carr and Karen Carr Studio, Inc.

Here artwork is incredible and demonstrates a world-class level of care for her topics. I even read (but lost the source) that when she worked with traditional media and was attempting to portray a scene or organism underwater, she would snorkel and make sketches underwater (presumably with waterproof materials!). I had come across her art several times in my internetting, but never realized that it was all mostly from one woman!

Here website and online gallery are easy to navigate and contain a treasure trove of wonderful biodiversity - alive or extinct. She also posts directions on how she paints digitally, which is neat.

Her best known work and association is with The Field Museum in Chicago, IL, an incredible museum of natural history.

The following images are samples of her work (all copyright Karen Karr and are available on her website):





PS - if you find yourself interested in illustrating natural science (I know I am!), check out the website for the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators (GNSI).

Museum of Living Art (MOLA) - Now Open

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As summer approaches, I am getting mixed news about what I'll be doing for the next few months. I had applied to several internships, but none of them had positions open :/

One place that I am interested in is the Forth Worth Zoo. I had a post at the beginning of the year which described the zoo and a new exhibit - the Museum of Living Art (MOLA). This exhibit replaces their Herpetarium built in 1960.

Upon visiting the FW Zoo's website, I see that MOLA opened in March of this year!

Check out their over-the-top promotional videos here or here.

The size and scope of the exhibit are phenomenal. The 30,000 sq. ft. facility houses (at current) around 1,000 individuals representing a hundred different species of reptiles and amphibians.

I'm super-pumped! I'll report in when I have the chance to visit them next.

Update: When searching for images for this article, I spotted one of my pictures in the top results of a Google Search. Moving up the food chain. We also recently hit 1,000 pageviews. Hooray!:

Lots of Stuff - Videos, Snake Bites and More!

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Here's the setup.  Whenever I find something I think would make an interesting post on this blog, I bookmark it with intentions of writing an article at some point.  That happens for the things with some substance, but over time, I have accumulated all kinds of internet knick-knacks that I'd like to share in one large post.




  • Here's a neat one. On this website, you can view high-quality, color, streaming video of a nesting Red Tailed Hawk (tipoff from here). The nest is located in Philadelpha, PA at the Franklin Institute Building. Here's a screencap of what I saw when I visited :)
  • A study has found that denim denim may guard against rattlesnake bites. Read the fine print, as the study was just measuring the amount of venom that was injected into warm saline-solution filled gloves - not necessarily accounting for physical damage or psychological damage (I think you'd be a bit freaked out if you were bit by a poisonous snake!). Nonetheless, it's an interesting read (especially since I'm always wearing denim jeans).
  • A species of frog thought to be extinct in the wild for 30 years has been rediscovered on farmland in the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales state of Australia. The Yellow-Spotted Bell Frogs are quite adorable and the article notes optimism for similarly-"lost" species. Seven of Australia's 216 known species of frogs have disappeared in the last thirty years.

Hope that was enough for you! I'll continue updating throughout the week as I tactfully do not do homework before finals week.

Review - "How to Train Your Dragon"

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With much that I talk about on this blog being so seemingly obscure, perhaps you can take comfort in something much more mainstream. :)

I recently wrote a review of the DreamWorks Animation's most recent film "How to Train Your Dragon."

You can read the review here.

This movie has been all I've been thinking about for the past two weeks. I highly recommend it and, if you have the opportunity, see it in 3D.

Here's a trailer:

Lizards 'Shout' Against A Noisy Background

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One of my interests as an ethologist is animal communication. I can find almost infinite wonder in pondering how whales thousands of miles away can tell each other about their location for breeding, how bees communicate food locations, or how birds signal conspecifics for a predator alert.

This interest was one reason why I took pause at an article published via ScienceDaily a few years ago.

The researchers, Terry Ord, Richard A. Peters, and Barbara Clucas, recorded anoles in more and less visually "noisy" environments.  They found that lizards modify their visual displays in more visually busy environments.

But what are we talking about? If you've never seen lizard communication, it's pretty ethereal. Anoles do not exhibit all of reptile communication, but here are some videos of bearded dragon arm waving and head bobbing.





Visual displays are very important to mostly-mute squamates (snakes and lizards). For example, anolis lizards use colorful dewlaps while other lizards display colorful underbellies:



Article - Huge Monitor Lizard Species New to Science

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What a find!

Ethnobiologists in the Philippines recently discovered a whopper of a lizard. Now introducing the Northern Sierra Madre Forest Monitor Lizard (Varanus bitatawa)! This large (~10 kg) lizard is apparently one of only three known fruit-eating species in the world.

To learn more, check out this article from ScienceDaily.

According to this article, the fruit-eating lizard lives in the trees on the northern Philippines island of Luzon. The species was probably so difficult to find because the lizard has actually been hunted by humans (their main predator) for so long that the behavior of the species has become highly secretive and skittish.

Nowadays, discovering large vertebrate animal species is a fairly rare event (when one omits genetic testing, I suppose). That the lizard is fruit eating and quite brightly colored makes the find even more remarkable.

That's what you get for being observant :)


EDIT: Fixed broken link. Sorry for the confusion.

Free Online Ornithology Course

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This post is a short one. I'd just like to share with you an online ornithology course I found recently.

The free course is in the form of a blog and can be viewed here.

The blog is offered via the ornithologist and retired biology professor Dan Tallman, one of my favorite bloggers (view his blog here).

I have not read the whole blog, but a couple hours of flipping through it tell me that the course is appropriate for any level of bird enthusiast. If you have some free time this summer, give it a look-see.

Article - All-Female Lizard Species Crosses Its Own Chromosomes

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Today's article is an interesting one, even if it might require a bit of background in genetics.

From grade school, you probably know that in sexually-reproducing species (includes most animals), a combination of male and female DNA (in the form of compressed chromosomes) crosses and creates new combinations of genetic information. This process is very complex from an evolutionary standpoint, but has survived because of the genetic resistance to random change it affords.

Now read this interesting article published via Scientific American.

When it comes to the sexual behavior of lizards, things get weird, but this article describes an interesting scenario where female checkered whiptail lizards (Aspidoscelis tesselata) are capable of carrying two sets of chromosomes and crossing them over to create a new combination of genetic information - without a male individual! This is new research to the field of reproduction without sex (i.e., parthenogenesis). This research subtly suggests that in well-adapted species, parthenogenesis could be carried out for far longer than previously hypothesized.

Why would a species even adopt parthenogenesis as a strategy of life? First off, remember that evolution is blind and without a cause. Then postulate that in environments where finding mates is especially taxing on a species, individuals that are able to create their own offspring would have a significant advantage in passing along their genes. Often, it is the case that parthenogenesis involves female individuals asexually creating clones of herself and occasionally asexually producing male individuals to add genetic diversity to that population via sexual reproduction. Here is a visual representation of this cycle:


The break from this "normal" parthenogenesis is that now female checkered whiptails have been shown capable of crossing their own chromosomes - seemingly eliminating the need for males in a population. Another interesting note is that in some species exhibiting parthenogenesis, courting behaviors are still observed, even when no males are present. I will be researching this oddity at a later date, but I am gathering that these behaviors increase fecundity (reproductive success) by increasing circulating crucial sex-related hormones released during stimulations associated with courtship (e.g., mounting).

Article - Fire Ant Decapitating Flies

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Long time no see. It's busy season here at SU, but I have lots to share.

The topic of the day is like something out of a science-fiction story. Imagine an insect that lays its eggs inside an organism so that its larvae eats its hosts brain from the inside. Sound far-fetched?

Read this article from EcoTone.

Pretty insane, huh? These insects, phorid flies, apparently specifically target imported red fire ants for laying their eggs. They stalk fire ant mounds and oviposit one egg in an ant's thorax where the egg will hatch. The larva goes on to eat the ant-hosts brain causing the ant to wander aimlessly for hours until the larva causes the ant's head to fall off.

Creeeeeeepy.

Fire ants, as you may know, are not native to the USA, and are quite the stubborn pests. In fact, many scientists believe that their dominance over native harvester ants is partly responsible for the decline of the Texas horned lizard.


Who wants to see this cute face go? Certainly not me - although I believe that there's more to that story (for another post).

A similar article I recently read in the Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine described how the use of phorid flies as a biological control for fire ants is being taken to new heights.
Researchers have been experimenting with phorid flies since 1997, and in April 2009, AgriLife researchers released a species that was raised by a team at the University of Texas at Austin. Previously released species would attack only disturbed mounds, but the new species also targets undisturbed mounds and foraging ants. Other than a minimal amount of nectar consumption by adults, the phorid flies eat only fire ants, and each species of fly exclusively eats a certain species of ant.
That's incredible! These science-heavy phorid flies will now, according to this article, attack fire ants less judiciously and could push their invasive status down to a reasonable level.

Edit: I had uploaded a picture of a Desert Horned Lizard, not a Texas Horned Lizard. Whoops!

Bird-From-Dinosaur Theory of Evolution Challenged: Was It The Other Way Around?

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You remember being an inocent kid, right? You were told by mom and dad that dinosaurs are extinct and perhaps even that dinosaurs were reptiles. As a young adult, you might have learned that birds evolved from dinosaurs. It seems believable: feathers could be highly evolved scales, and dinosaurs (which could have been endotherms, rather than ectotherms). These topics of thermoregulation in dinosaurs and the question of whether or not birds evolved from dinosaurs have been topics of heated debates amongst paleontologists and scientists for at least the last three decades.


Pretty cool, huh? If you read it, you should consider the findings exciting! There is now more convincing evidence that birds did NOT evolve from theropods (i.e., dinosaurs). This has spurred some debate even among my close friends, and I would be interested in hearing what others have to say on the topic. Leave some comments below and subscribe to the comments to hear replies.


You can read more about feathered dinosaurs here and here.

Lizards Pull A Wheelie

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I've recently discovered an incredible website, Science Daily. The incredible thing about this website is that the cumbersome task of finding interesting science news is changed to being an explorable adventure with new information always just around the corner. This has led me to find a bevy of fascinating articles I will be sharing over many of my next few posts.

One such article, Lizards Pull A Wheelie, piqued my inner cravings for understanding reptilian locomotion (we all  get them once and a while, trust me). I'll be brief, as this article is already a summarization of the research paper "Why go bipedal? Locomotion and morphology in Australian agamid lizards." Essentially, several studies performed by Christofer Clemente indicate that bipedalism (locomoting/moving on two limbs, like humans) has taken shape in many dragon lizard species because they are essentially pulling a wheelie - going so fast that they rear up on their hind limbs (!!!). Their ruling out of other explanations (e.g., evolved behavior, efficient energetics) was impressive, which is what I found most interesting about this article. Go give it a read and let us know what you think.

"The Ethologist" Site Maintenance

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Trying out some new blog templates.

Should be up to speed shortly.

UPDATE:  Finished setting up the new look of the site.  Let me know if you encounter any dead links, weird errors, or poltergeists jumping out of your computer screen.

30 New Frog Species Found in Ecuador

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As a follower of Save the Frog's "Frog Blog," I get interesting articles about amphibian conservation and news from the field of herpetology. One recent post concerned a summary of several newly discovered species recently found in Ecuador, including thirty new species of frogs.

You can read the article HERE.

It continually amazes me that there are so many species yet unknown to science. Maybe more impressive than that is the number of vertebrate species still unknown. If this article interests you, read a couple of posts I've written about my opinions on biodiversity here and here, and also about new species discovery.

Watch Cosmos for Free

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More free stuff today. This isn't just any free stuff - it's Cosmos - the whole thing. You can watch it here on Hulu.

For those not in the know, if you were alive thirty years ago, Carl Sagan was a dinner-table celebrity. His narration of "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage" touched the hearts of millions. Hundreds of millions, that is. According to one website, "His television series 'Cosmos' became the most watched show in public television history. It was seen by more than 500 million people in 60 different countries."

It reached so many people because it was so good (and also timely in the cold war era). If you've never seen it, you should give at least one episode a watch. Try it out.

Free Download - "Handbook of Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vent Fauna"

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It's been a busy school week, but I've got a lot to share with you guys. I'll try to keep posts succinct to maintain your viewership.

Up today is free stuff. We all like that, right? Cued in from the awesome folks over at Deep-Sea News I came across a free-to-download book, "Handbook of Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vent Fauna." (fear not, although the website uses a hint of German, the book is entirely in English).

Why the heck should you care? Why shouldn't you? Perhaps this is the clenching proof in your life that you don't know everything and in fact, there are entire topics you know nothing about! I downloaded it just for a skim-read and to look at the beautiful pictures and illustrations, but I'd love to hear what other people would have to say about it.

Here are a couple of images blatantly copied from the book. You should download it if you want to see more incredible biodiversity:





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