Showing posts from March, 2017

Lauren Vandepas: "Behold, comb jelly poo!"

Does everybody poop? That an animal poops may seem like a no-brainer – food goes in, gets digested, and whatever wasn’t digested comes out, right? There’s a mouth for food intake and a, you know, a butt, that lets out food waste. A lot of animals don’t have a set up as “complicated” at this; scattered throughout the animal kingdom, there are lineages that don’t have a secondary digestive opening (an anus, or a BUTT). In these animals, food is ingested through the mouth, processed by the gut, and whatever hasn’t been digested gets expelled back through the mouth. The anus may not seem like the end-all (ha!) innovation during animal evolution, but it’s actually a pretty big deal. Some evolutionary biologists consider the emergence of the through-gut (a digestive tract featuring a mouth and an anus) to be one of the drivers of animal body plan diversification – perhaps allowing for more efficient food processing, or providing a stable sort of scaffold to build on.

Bilateral symmetry, i.…

Eliza Heery's A Diary from Down Under Part 2

Eliza continues her Australian research adventure (see Part I) where we left off... 
A Diary from Down Under Part II
July 7, 2016: Hello again from down under! Henna Wilckens (intern) and I are deep into processing the sediment samples we collected last month from the bottom of Sydney Harbour. From our temporary work post at the University of New South Wales, we aim to sort through each of the millions of tiny sediment grains in our frozen samples to extract anything that once wriggled, crawled, filtered, or respired. The identity and number of creepy crawly critters in our samples will help us discern whether marine communities adjacent to man-made seawalls and pilings differ from those adjacent to natural rocky shorelines. All of this is part of a project I’m doing as an NSF EAPSI fellow with my Australian host, Dr. Emma Johnston, and post-doctoral researchers in her lab (link to earlier post). Surprising as it may be, we’ve thus far encountered a number of striking and beautiful orga…