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July 2013 Archives

Back in 2007, I was the MC at a Cafe Scientifique focused on high-voltage power lines. Then, as now, there was concern that the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) around these high-voltage lines posed a health hazard, so I did quite a bit of reading around the subject (as always, we had experts along to lead the discussion, but I always like to be prepared!). And so it was that I was introduced to the topic of 'electromagnetic sensitivity', something I was reminded of this week when friends sent me the link to a website claiming that the smart meters currently being installed by many electricity suppliers are a health hazard due to the EMFs** they emit.

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 From Shark Bay Films on vimeo, via PZ, comes this awesome video - life and death on the sea bed. It opens with a species of polychaete worm (aka bobbit worms**) - what an amazing stealth predator! And surely one to give small children - and first-year biology students! - nightmares.

And there are ribbon eels, and cuttlefish, and crabs, a real glutton of the seas and, for sheer 'squee!' value, the orange frogfish: the larger female tootling along the sea bed on her modified pelvic & pectoral fins, with a couple of smaller males tagging along behind. (But I have to say that their eating habits are not squee-worthy at all.)

Another reminder of the diversity and, yes, flamboyance generated by evolutionary processes :)



** I was enchanted to find the bobbit worm featuring at #1 on "The 5 Most Nightmarish Worms on the Planet" - the post is well worth a read to find out who comes in at 2, 3, 4 & 5.

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 Another for the 'gosh, isn't this beautiful?!' files: the Himalayan Monal (the national bird of Nepal).

 (Image via Facebook: Tambako the Jaguar; Flickr — with Robin SubbaSarvesh Wangawad,Jeriko AngueRoberto DelapisaJonas MgrNeelesh SuryavanshiShashank Asai,Sushant Bhujel and Pabitra Lamichhane.)

This stunning bird (Lophophorus impejanus) is a type of pheasant, and like other pheasants the species is strongly sexually dimorphic: the males are dressed in gorgeous irisdescent plumage, while the females' plumage is dark brown apart for white patches on throat & rump, & the same bright blue circle round the eyes.

Such marked differences between the sexes are often due to intersexual selection, with females acting as the agents of selection & choosing their mates on the basis of physical appearance, or other attributes that give information on the male's quality. The monal is a stand-out example of the eventual outcome.

Strongly dimorphic species are often polygamous - more usually polygynous, with dominant males mating with several females during the breeding season; phalaropes, however, are polyandrous, with the more brightly-coloured female laying eggs in the nests of several males and leaving them to incubate alone. In species where there's little dimorphism, it's often associated with monogamous breeding patterns, & as a general rule the type of breeding pattern in a given species is linked to the species' ecology.


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Or maybe not.

The internet is a wondrous place: a source of information, of amusement, and - alarmingly often - of material that elicits a combination of 'say what?' and <head-desk>. And a hat-tip to PZ Myers for this particular example...

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I don't own much jewelry - probably because I'm not often inclined to wear it. And what I do have is mostly old, passed down from my mother & her mother before her. Old, but not anywhere near the age of the find reported in PLoS ONE by Marco Peresani and his colleagues (2013).

The authors begin by noting that 

Neandertal symbolic behaviour is a controversial issue that has attracted much debate over the last thirty years

and this has certainly being the case, with arguments ranging from the proposition that Homo neanderthalensis had no symbolic behaviour at all, to suggesting that the available evidence implied a number of such behaviours. Peresani et al. cite a range of sources in support of the latter view, including finds of grave goods in Neandertal burials, and the use not only of pigments such as ochre, but also of containers for those pigments and tools used in processing them.

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My blogging buddy Grant suggested an image competition as a way to lure me back into a blogging mindset **. And then, I saw this (courtesy of the FB page for the team at Amazing Earth): 

My first thought (following a passing glimpse) was, "embroidery". Followed, I'm sorry to say, by "mmmm, ravioli!" (In my defence, I missed breakfast this morning!) But no, they are newly hatched baby stingrays, and rather lovely babies they are too.

You're next, Grant :)



** and apologies for the hiatus. With a lot having happened at home it's been hard to get back into thinking about serious blogging.

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Recent Comments

  • Alison Campbell: And 6000-year-old arrows, so evidence of 6000-year-old string :) read more
  • Grant: Although not as old as what you’re after, the BBC read more
  • Alison Campbell: a cat may look at a cephalopod! read more
  • herr doktor bimler: Poaching on PZ's territory! read more
  • Stephen: Snap or is that Schnapps! I'm reading The Drunken Botanist read more
  • Alison Campbell: Perhaps you should be promoting 'liquid oxygen' enemas for maximum read more
  • herr doktor bimler: Sorry, that was supposed to be a comment on the read more
  • herr doktor bimler: I see a potential market here in selling Charles Atlas read more
  • herr doktor bimler: drinking a couple of spoonfuls of 'liquid oxygen' isn't going read more
  • herr doktor bimler: Speaking of fermentation: read more