Showing posts from October, 2012

weekend links: astronomy

Faraway worldsA hot planet has been found at Centauri B! So close! And we become part of Cassiopeia as seen from there, what a glorious idea. A so-called diamond exoplanet is actually a superdense carbon crystal, so it may not look like much. Sorry. Planet found by amateurs is part of a four-star systemCloser to homePossible bacterial contamination of Mars due to lack of sterile technique. Way to go, guys. Beautiful geyser of water from Enceladus feeds one of Saturn's ringsOde to Voyager

Biograds in the news

Plants Are Cool, Too! Episode 2: Fossilized Forests features David Tank and Hannah Marx, both UW Biology alumni (former members of the Olmstead lab!) now at the University of Idaho. The exciting stuff that they're doing with the Clarkia fossil flora is showcased. They even got a mention in the Huffington Post! -- Pat Lu-Irving Former biograd Haldre Rogers' work in Guam shows what replaces birds in a drastically changed ecosystem: spiders. Former biograd and current postdoc Jevin West and the Bergstrom lab look at gender in academic publications Elusive current Ph.D. student Elli Theobald studies plant flowering and seed set on Mount Rainier.

weekend links: habitat

Species species of the Week week # 6 OR Goodyear Mollusks

Post previously published at Rah Rah Radula.Previously on Species species of the Week week: The tautonomical diet of the Blue Dragon! Up first on the Menu menu: Janthina janthina
Figure 1. The Violet or Purple Snail, a prey item of the non-tautonomical
Blue Dragon nudibranch. I propose the new common name: Baggins Snail If we accept the premise that snails are like Hobbits - you know, pretty much homebodies (insert rimshot here for the best snail pun ever!), and not overly predisposed to doing anything too hastily - Janthina janthina (Figure 1) is the Bilbo Baggins of snails. J. janthina is not content to trail unambitiously along the ground, or leaves, or rocks, or mud, or whatever. This snail FLIES! And it does this by making its own blimp (Figure 2). True, they do so underwater, but to a regular old humdrum sea snail confined to haul their shells across the substrate, this must look like magic. Figure 2. Witness: the Goodyear snail. J. janthina (Baggins Snail)
constructing its own…

Amazing pollinator

I'm in Japan this quarter, imaging plant embryonic development, and I'll have something to say about my actual work here pretty soon -- but today I solved a little mystery. A few times I've seen really fast insects zipping by and been a little alarmed by their orange-and-black coloration, since Japan has some enormous and nasty hornets. They never bothered me, though, and never hung around long enough for me to figure out what they might be. Tonight as I came out of the lab at sunset, I saw a bunch of these things flying around the fragrant Weigela hedge. They turn out to be hawkmoths! Probably the very cosmopolitan Macroglossum stellatarum, because they have some truly impressive speed and the coloration looks right. The only hawkmoth I'd seen before was lab-raised Manduca sexta, and that species is like the Spruce Goose compared to these little dynamos. These buzz just like hummingbirds, and almost all my photos are just blurs. So that was my sense of scienti…

Species sort-of of the Week week #5 OR On the benefits of a tautonomical diet

Post previously published at Rah Rah Radula. I'm sure you've heard the conspiracy theory that sea slugs are involved in a major trans-species arms smuggling operation. Well, your humble narrator has done some investigative journalism for which she is completely unqualified and can tell you, the rumors are true. That's why I'm cheating today, starting a Species species of the Week week with a nudibranch that's not even close to a tautonym (2). Here is the culprit: Blue Dragon
Glaucus atlanticus(1) Figure 1.Glaucus atlanticus - the Blue Dragon (nudibranch). Holy Daenerys Targaryen, Batman! Am I right?! This thing is crazy, and if your heart doesn't explode just a little bit when you see this and contemplate that you share the earth with this creature, well ... I can only sputter my disbelief. Ok, so it looks cool, fine. But why does it deserve the [ahem, rather distinguished] honor of being a Species species of the Week week (weak?) when it's not even a tauton…