Showing posts from November, 2011

Mushroom bodies

This is a picture of a stained slice out of the middle of a paper wasp brain. This specimen is from the Neotropical genus Leipomeles that was collected from Tiputini, Ecuador. She is a queen. My favorite thing about this slice is the nice resolution of the mushroom bodies, the insect neural centers of higher function (aka the nested rods at the top of the picture). Mushroom bodies are really cool!! Hymenoptera, the insect order that contains wasps and ants, have particularly big, elaborate ones and are particularly good, relative to many other insects, at tasks that require learning, memory, and sensory integration. All in those rods!! These have evolved similarly (ie, folding/elaboration and increase in size in both insect MBs and frontal lobe in vertebrates) but independently to centers of higher cognition in vertebrates. - Marie Clifford

Thanksgiving weekend links

Weekend links

Adorable plush nucleotide dolls (Kickstarter project)

"Rotate Your Owl" (I cannot explain)

Lovely liverwort

This is a pore in the epidermis of the liverwort Marchantia. The plant grows along the ground as what's called a thallus, no stems or leaves or roots, and it's divided into photosynthetic sectors with one pore each to allow carbon dioxide in and oxygen out during photosynthesis. Liverworts are very basal plants and the only ones not to have stomata, though all other land plant groups do gas exchange through those instead. I knew about the pores, but I didn't know they were gorgeous! Before I put a cover slip on, the pore stood up like a volcano over the air chamber. - KMP

Survival of the weakest – when doing poorly does best

Post previously published at Beacon Researchers at Work.

"Survival of the fittest" is a phrase coined by Herbert Spencer upon his reading of Darwin's On the Origin of Species to describe the process of natural selection. In common parlance, the fittest member of a population is the strongest, fastest, biggest and, in general, the best. However, the word "fitness," as used by biologists, is not identical to its lay usage. A small, unarmored fish may be more fit than more armored ones in the absence of predators. Pairs of wild turkey brothers who cooperate in wooing mates are more fit than aggressive loners. Fitness is a description of how many descendants an organism will leave, be it through strength, resistance to disease, ability to acquire resources or some other mechanism. Here, I will describe some work I've participated in where these two definitions of fitness disagree.

First, I should introduce myself. My name is Joshua Nahum, and I am a graduate st…


This blog is intended to house posts by biograds on basically any science-related topic.  We're not picky about format: a photo and caption is just as good as a long essay on a paper that just got published.  Interesting multimedia efforts are encouraged.

Currently we are not officially affiliated with our university, but the blog has been suggested as a way to bring grad-generated content onto the department web site to help with recruitment of new grads and faculty.  The department is willing to link us and possibly feature our posts if:

(1) we want that to happen

(2) we sustain a productive community for some unspecified period of time

(3) we abide by common-sense policies of not using words inappropriate to network TV and not badmouthing the university/department

Everything about this blog is open to discussion, so if you have suggestions please post them in comments.  For now, my goal is to see if we can generate enough posts for a blog to make sense in the long term.  I have…