September 14, 2014

11:43 PM | Everything You Wanted to Know about the Lake Arrowhead Microbial Genomes meeting #LAMG14
The Lake Arrowhead Microbial Genomes meeting, which happens every other year, is starting tonight.  I love this meeting.  No bias here since I am now a co-organizer.  But I really love this meeting.  I am posting here some background information about the meeting for those interested.  We will be live tweeting the meeting using the hashtag #LAMG14.  This years program is here.Posts of mine about previous meetingsMarch 02, 2014: Save the dates / preliminary […]
10:18 PM | New POTW Posted
The title pretty much says it all. I have a new teaser for you, along with some discussion of palindromes that you might enjoy. The solution to last week’s problem has been posted as well. Let me know what you think!
7:42 PM | Brain Size in Autism: Some New Preliminary Reports
I attended a conference last week in La Ciotat, France, called the EMBO Conference on Brain Development and Disorders. While the title may suggest a width breadth of research, it […]
11:22 AM | Modern Humans Coexisted, Outlived Neanderthals: A Not-So-Neighborly Replacement
If modern humans replaced their archaic predecessors, when was this replacement, and did the two groups overlap?
1:15 AM | Mystery CT 13: Zounds, It’s Round!
Here’s an image that struck me as cool and possibly perplexing. And so we have another Mystery Anatomy post! Brought to you by some free time on my current trip to Gondwanaland. Stomach-Churning Rating: 1/10; simple CT scan slice… of something. Mystery Anatomy 2014: same rules as before; remember that the scoreboard has been reset. Identify the […]

September 13, 2014

1:50 PM | Murmuration over Otmoor
SUMMARY: Tens of thousands of starlings produce spectacular sky shows with their movements at sunset as they gather together every evening during autumn and winter. September has arrived, so you all know what that means: the beginnings of huge bird flocks in autumn and winter! Just as humans spend more time congregating in pubs in autumn and winter, starlings also gather together in large numbers at these times. Every evening as the sun sets, small groups of a dozen or... Read more
12:44 PM | From the shadows, they come.
Drawn by the scent of their hapless prey. Their victims are powerless to defend themselves… Sweet, delicate flesh is ripped and torn as attacks come from all sides… They shiver with feverish excitement… …as the attack turns into a frenzy of shredding, chewing maws… Some emerge from the writhing mass, their faces slick with gore… […]
12:42 PM | The future of taxonomy | video | @GrrlScientist
This lovely video describes important work of Kew Botanical Gardens to publicly share taxonomic information about the monocots online and in one place for the first time.Ever since the first human ancestors realised that some plants were safe to eat whilst others were not, and some promoted health or well-being or created desirable altered mental states, weve been interested in identifying plants. And of course, being human, our brains are particularly well-designed to function as […]

September 12, 2014

6:19 PM | Brief 3.8 million year history of plants
Here's the front and back covers of a brand, spanking new book about plant diversity. Armstrong writes OK and he knows his stuff pretty well, in my opinion. Most importantly this book wasn't written for botanists, it was written for everyone else who might be interested in learning more about the history of plants, about plant diversity, a subject that isn't known well outside of botanical circles. Plant diversity usually is presented in textbooks as a group by group plant menagerie […]
6:11 PM | How to Recycle an Ichthyosaur
Whales have very active afterlives. Once they settle on the ocean bottom, their bodies become both food and …
6:09 PM | Friday Fabulous Flower - paper art
Every now and again TPP likes to present you with a bit of culture in the form of botanical art.  This floral image is made of paper, the product of Yulia Brodskaya, a very talented artist. Your first impression is that these are small works of art, but actually some of them are the size of a wall.  Check out her webpage for more.  Enjoy.  HT to HuffPo for calling attention to this artist. 
5:06 PM | I am a botanist
Just a couple of days ago, TPP explained that he was a botanist. This was because the Botanical Society of America started a campaign for its members to loudly (?) proclaim themselves botanists. If you want to see some of the hundreds of responses from social media adept people who are botanists, click on over and have a look. These are TPP's colleagues and he's proud of them!  Here's a nice article at the Philadelphia Enquirer explaining what some of my colleagues are doing […]
2:28 PM | Fun read of the day: On whimsy, jokes, and beauty: can scientific writing be enjoyed?
This is such a fun paper: On whimsy, jokes, and beauty: can scientific writing be enjoyed? by Stephen Heard in Ideas in Ecology and Evolution 7: 64–72, 2014  I found out about it in an email from Heard, who sent it to me because he had earlier commented on a blog post I had written: The best writing in science papers part 1: Vladimir Nabokov in Notes on Neotropical Plebejinae (Lycaenidae, Lepidoptera).Anyway - enough about me - what about this paper?  It has so many nuggets […]
1:00 PM | Stuff online, disappearing shorelines and thoughtful fingertips edition
Nickel-and-dime misgovernment. How local governments, especially small ones, are way worse than the Feds—and how they’re shaking down their poorest citizens with court fees and traffic fines. If we’d just spend the money. There’s a system in place to mass-produce … Continue reading →
1:00 PM | What we’re reading: The phylogenomics of peanut allergens, saving the world with (and from) evolution, and how to make better figures
In the journals Ratnaparkhe MB, T-H Lee, X Tan, X Wang, J Li, C Kim, LK Rainville, C Lemke, RO Compton, J Robertson, M Gallo, DJ Bertioli, and AH Paterson. 2014. Comparative and evolutionary analysis of major peanut allergen gene … Continue reading →
9:33 AM | A week of links
Links this week: An excellent Econtalk podcast with Jonathan Haidt. Just don’t buy his lines about group selection – my reasons here. Steven Pinker’s amusing article on the Ivy League. Pinker also pointed out this oldie but goodie – Bell Curve Liberals. Greg Clark applies his work on social mobility to immigration. Reihan Salam comments. […]
5:53 AM | Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: The mysterious Paleozoic encrusters Ascodictyon and Allonema
  The above pair of fossils are small sclerobionts commonly found on hard substrates in shallow marine sediments through much of the Paleozoic, especially the Silurian and Devonian. Paul Taylor and I have been studying them for a few years now and our first paper on them was published this summer (Wilson and Taylor, 2014). […]

September 11, 2014

7:14 PM | The New Spinosaurus
Spinosaurus has changed dramatically since I was a kid. The model I used to terrorize my other toys …
6:25 PM | Ice Cream 101
Can any university claim to be a distinguished, quality institution of higher learning if they do not have decent ice cream in their student center/union?  Clearly an absurd question to which the answer is equally clear; no. A few universities of the ag/tech sort have dairy science departments where students in ice cream (DS 101) plus advanced studies where less common flavors as well as frozen chunks are explored, sell the products of this academic endeavor with excellent […]
2:32 PM | Kudos to Tedmed for the gender ratio of speakers for this year's event
Well done Tedmed.Here are the speaker pages below.  Notice anything?The gender ratio of speakers is actually well balanced.  Well done Tedmed.  Well done. -------- This is from the "Tree of Life Blog" of Jonathan Eisen, an evolutionary biologist and Open Access advocate at the University of California, Davis. For short updates, follow me on Twitter. --------
2:01 PM | Emily Who???
Hi, folks. This is just a quick update to let all my readers know that I’m getting married next week. More importantly for Science Over a Cuppa, my last name […]
12:00 PM | Diversity in STEM: it matters
Diversity in the sciences is a recurrent topic on this blog (and – well – basically everywhere). Scientific American has an excellent overview on what “diversity” is and why it matters to the STEM fields. So whether you think about these issues a lot or a little, I highly recommend reading “Diversity in STEM: What […]

September 10, 2014

9:17 PM | Soggy September weather
Usually September is a fairly dry, fairly nice weather month. August had above average rainfall, so things entering September were not too dry. TPP made the observation 3 days ago that some rain would be nice or a few things would need some watering.  Hoo boy!  With a total rainfall approaching 4" in the past 48 hours, everything is well watered now OK. Usually this time of year the lily pond needs some topping up, but now a couple of inches will have to be drained off. […]
2:39 PM | Bacteria Can Really Get Around
Biology concepts – motility, microbiology, bacteria, evolution, gliding, twitching, flagella, pilusThe Giant Devil Ray, or mobula ray (Mobula mobular) can reach 18 ft. (5.4 m) wide. It’s not so much that they fly or glide, they just breach the waves and look like they are trying to flap wings. They were almost fished to extinction in the 1970’s. Their meat was sold as scallops after they cut it out with a round cookie cutter!How many different ways can humans move about? Walk, […]

Balish MF (2014). Giant steps toward understanding a mycoplasma gliding motor., Trends in microbiology, 22 (8) 429-31. PMID:

Kinosita Y, Nakane D, Sugawa M, Masaike T, Mizutani K, Miyata M & Nishizaka T (2014). Unitary step of gliding machinery in Mycoplasma mobile., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111 (23) 8601-6. PMID:

Jin F, Conrad JC, Gibiansky ML & Wong GC (2011). Bacteria use type-IV pili to slingshot on surfaces., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108 (31) 12617-22. PMID:

Stocker R (2011). Reverse and flick: Hybrid locomotion in bacteria., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108 (7) 2635-6. PMID:

Editor's Pick
2:00 PM | Don’t Pet the Fuzzy Caterpillar
Keeping up my posting of interesting organisms, this little guy has been getting a ton of press lately. Adorable, looks like a tribble, and makes you want to cuddle them. But these little guys might be the most venomous insect in the US. So don’t pet the fuzzy caterpillar.    
9:43 AM | Footless urbanite pigeons
Foot deformities are ubiquitous in urban pigeons – why? As you’ll know if you’ve spent any time watching the pigeons of towns and cities, something like one in every ten (or more) has missing or... -- Read more on
9:12 AM | Nudging citizens to be risk savvy
I should start this review of Gerd Gigerenzer’s least satisfactory but still interesting book, Risk Savvy: How to Make Good Decisions, by saying that I am a huge Gigerenzer fan and that this book is still worth reading. But there was something about this book that grated at times, especially against the backdrop of his other fantastic work. […]

September 09, 2014

9:47 PM | MYScience: A newer faster cheaper easier BETTER open access journal
Tired of being rejected from PLoS ONE, PeerJ, and Arxiv?Don’t want to reformat for the next journal?Annoyed by referee and editor comments?Irked by suggestions that your paper is better suited for some other journal?Bothered by arguments to reduce text and transfer things to supplementary appendices?Wearied by having to select only a few relevant references?Irritated at having to submit your data to an online database?Chuffed to say what you want how you want as long and as often as you […]
7:16 PM | Biological research funding
This AM on public radio there was a story about the lack of research grant money and what a difficult time biomedical researchers had keeping their research labs going. Now here's the thing, these are biomedical researchers, and they've always had access to more research money than any other part of biology to the point that we like to say the human bio-medical tail wags the biology dog. The hunt for grant money shapes many hiring decisions at research […]
5:46 PM | International Symposium on Subsurface Microbiology - where men tell us about deep things
Just saw this Tweet: ISSM, a conference with no female plenary speakers. #fail cc @phylogenomics @pgirguis— Jen Biddle (@subsurface_life) September 9, 2014 This refers to this meeting: Call for Abstracts for 2014 Ninth International Symposium on Subsurface Microbiology, Pacific Grove CaliforniaThe plenary speakers for this meeting are all menPeter GirguisTerry HazenRainer MeckenstockLars NielsenAaron PackmanKarsten PedersenTimothy ScheibeJack SchijvenThe last […]
200 Results