Mongolian Death Worm - do I need to say more?
Image taken from: http://karlshuker.blogspot.co.uk
I can’t believe I have lived this long without knowing about the Mongolian Death Worm (olgoi-khorkhoi). The Mongolian Death Worm, has never been officially described or seen but it is the cautionary tale of the Mongolian people. Apparently the Mongolian Death worm roams the Gobi desert looking for its victims - it’s reported to be bright red and up to 1.5 metres long - when you consider the length of an earthworm, 1.5 metres is freaking huge. What is the best thing about the Mongolian Death Worm (other than the name) is that it kills it’s victims by both spitting acid AND the disconcerting term “electric discharge”.
While not finding any traces of the Mongolian Death Worm, scientists have found two new species roaming the Gobi Desert. Eisenia nordenskioldi mongol and E. n. onon, live in an extreme temperature range from -30 to 40 degrees which makes them pretty cool but it’s no spitting acid death worm.
X-ray image of a Bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) with biencephaly (two heads)
Quick Science News - grunting cod, the bacterial war of the vagina and violently birthing dinosaurs
Image from: www.gizmag.com
Who could possibly think scientists are weird or dull when they are eavesdropping on cod having sex? Scientists have been listening in on marine animals such as whales and dolphins for decades but have only recently turned their attention to frisky fish. Both male and female cod emit a ‘grunting’ sound in everyday life, during spawning only the males make ‘grunting’ sounds (how do you tell the difference between a male grunt and a femal grunt). Also note, not all cod species grunt. Armed with this knowledge a group of scientists went about recording a spawning season. Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) are known to practice spawning site fidelity - they return to the same site to spawn year after year - so researchers were able to predict the spawning location. They recorded male grunting over this period and found it was most common during May and June and during daylight hours. They are now trying to determine whether the grunt data could be translated into population abundance data - sounds fancier than ‘listening to fish have sex’.
There is a bacterial war raging in your vagina and it’s as icky as it sounds. It is well known the vagina is the stage in which different colonies of bacteria wage war against each other for precious space. An article published in Applied Environmental Microbiology has found that certain Steptococci bacteria can cause toxic shock syndrome toxin, which can be deadly (yes your vagina can kill you), but it can also be neutralised depending on the other bacteria in the vagina. Researchers compared swabs from vaginas with a healthy status, intermediate status (what makes for a vagina of intermediate health?) and those with bacterial vaginosis. They found that the presence Lactobacillus bacterial species (like those in yoghurt, cheese and probiotics) actually reduced toxin production. And so the battle rages on….
American Society for Microbiology
This post has absolutely no common thread….
The dinosaurs were ushered into the Jurassic period with a bang, well actually many many volcanic bangs that wiped out most of the other animals but such is Mother Nature. After dating basaltic lava across the United States and Morocco (which were once a part of Pangaea) scientists have confirmed (in Science) what scientist already guessed, that the cause of the end-Triassic period and subsequent mass extinction was caused by massive volcanic eruptions along the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP). The volcanic eruptions would have released large amounts of CO2, sulfur and methane into the atmosphere causing an impressive global warming event that killed off 76% of the animals. On the upside, we got dinosaurs! DINOSAURS!
Quick Science News - shiny sharks and drunk 5 year olds
Imade taken from: www.seawater.no
Sharks get lit up! And this isn’t a lure and bait type luminescence, no, this is ‘I’m here bitches, what of it?’ (yep that’s the precise translation). New research from Scientific Reports has shown that the seductively named velvet belly lanternshark (Etmopterus spinax) has photophores running alongside its dorsal defensive spine which could be seen by potential predators, as warning (?). What makes this more interesting is the velvet belly lanternshark is not named velvet for nothing, its belly actually shimmers, which is called counterillumination. This is used as a form of camouflage for many deep sea animals as if you are below the animal look up then their shimmering underside just looks like more ocean.
So we have a shark that’s belly want to camouflage it from potential predators but its luminous spine is saying ‘Do you feel lucky punk, well do ya?’. Who knew one shark species could say so much? It’s one of the first times that two contradictory strategies are in one organism
Not only is standing on one leg a sign of sobriety for operating a motor vehicle it is also a sign of a child’s development (I would think a child that can drive sober is a remarkable sign of there development but then I mixing things up aren’t I?). Up until now there has been no standard measure for a child’s fine and gross motor skills under the age of 5. Tanja Kakebeeke and Oskar Jenni from University Children’s Hospital in Zurich have developed such a test. Apparently not many 3 year olds can stand on one leg for vey long but by the age of 5 they all could. So if your 5 year old cannot pass a simple roadside sobriety test I would be concerned.
Tadpoles swimming in Cedar Lake, Canada
From my favourite National Geographic
F- Yeah Zombie Ants
Images taken from: www.searchamelia.com
What is cooler than a fungus that turns ants into ‘zombies’ that do their bidding? Another fungus that control the original fungus - because parasitism is anyone’s game.
Everybody has heard the story of zombie ants (if not what is wrong with you? It’s Zombie freaking Ants!), where ants are infected with the Cordyceps fungus. The fungus feasts on non-vital ant organs, (because killing your host outright is not the way parasites roll) and when its time to reproduce it takes over the ant’s brain, taking it to an ideal reproduction location ie a cool moist plant and then kills the no longer useful ant by bursting out from their head with a tell tale stalk which spreads their little baby spores, which wait to be picked up by more ants.
Also this game of fungus ant zombie has been going on for 48 million years (give or take a couple of hundred thousands).
As if that wasn’t cool enough (well not for the ant) it has now been discovered that the fungus that parasitizes on the ants has it own fungus parasitizing it which is called a hyperparasite. This hyperparasite takes hold once the ant is dead and ‘stalked’ and cover the stalk and spores rendering the original fungus sterile. This might explain why the ant-fungus (and fungus) relationship has been going on for millions of years and why the ants have not evolved better defenses against the fungus and why the fungus has not wiped out all the ants because the hyperparasitic fungus is keeping them all in check.
I freaking love nature.
HIV may have jumped the shark/chimp way before the Fonz
Going on alot of plausible maybes; researchers from the University of Illinois have suggested that HIV jumped the species barrier earlier than we thought. HIV is believed to have derived from the chimpanzee version simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) between 1884 and 1924 however Alfred Roca thinks it may have jumped much earlier. This seems plausible as back them (pre 1884) there were predominantly rural isolated populations, couple that with a lack of modern medicine such as antibiotics and its conceivable that SIV jumped to humans who became HIV positive (unbeknowest to them) and they then quickly succumbed to diseases such as small pox etc. Isolated rural population would also mean that there was little chance for the HIV to take a grip within the population simply because they wasn’t enough of them and so conceivably SIV could have jumped to HIV a number of times throughout human history and just never really got a foot hold until 1900s.
To test this hypothesis, Roca studied the DNA of a west African population called the Biaka people who live in the forests where SIV chimpanzes are and are believed to be the source of HIV. They compared the Biaka DNA to cell lines of an AIDS patient from the 1980s. Looking at particular areas they found that the Biaka genes seem to have some genetic resistance to HIV which would imply that they have undergone selection - which would likely take longer that 100 years to develop.
At the moment this remains cautious speculation as more definitive (read repeated) results need to be established.
Quick Science News - snakes, koala pee and cancer (who doesn’t want to read this post?)
Image taken from: http://animal.discovery.com/mammals/koala/
Just when you thought you knew which sea snake was which, they go and be a completely different species on you. DNA tests have confirmed what we were all wondering, that the lethal beaked sea snake is actually two separate species, that look identical. How embarrassing that one sea snake turned up in exact same outfit the other sea snake was wearing. This is a really nifty case of convergent evolution, where two animals evolve similar characteristics because they share a similar niche habitat. Both species of identical looking lethal beaked sea snakes, are lethal (as the name suggests) but the antivenom developed from one of them seems to work sufficiently on the other species as well - perhaps if it didn’t we would have discovered the species decrepency earlier.
So it’s common knowledge that the koala population is plagued by widespread chlamydia - I like to throw that fact around when there’s a lull in the conversation but now I think I’m going to lead with it because YOU CAN CATCH CHLAMYDIA FROM A KOALA (no, not from having sex with a koala that’s wrong and illegal and logistically difficult). The koala population have two different strains of chlamydia; Chlamydia pecorum and Chlamydia pneumoniae, the latter of which can be transmitted to humans if say a koala pees on you. As a general rule in life though, don’t let a koala pee on you.
Got ovarian cancer and diabetes? Bummer right? Well yes actually cancer and diabetes are two terrible diseases but now they can hopefully made less sucky by the diabetic drug metformin. A study published in the journal Cancer has shown that women with ovarian cancer who were also taking metformin (and ergo also have diabetes) were 67% more likely to survive after five years than women not taking merformin.