Students often get to look at hydras – tiny, fresh-water members of the group that includes sea anemones, jellyfish, corals, and the Portuguese man’o’war. All these cnidarians have a simple body-plan: two layers of true tissue with a jelly-like layer between them, a sac-like gut with a single opening that acts as both mouth and […]Continue reading
tomtits and robins
Tomtits and robins were the focus of the first question in the 2016 Schol Bio paper. Specifically, Chatham Island tomtits and robins, which are found only on the Chathams. While at one point they were common and widespread on the islands, the tomtit is classified as nationally endangered, while the black robin is nationally critical […]Continue reading
vegetarian spiders? what is the world coming to?
Like probably everyone reading this, I have always thought that spiders are carnivorous, sucking the precious bodily fluidsA from their prey. I mean, those fangs! And I was wrong, for it seems that some spiders eat some plant material alongside their liquid meals – and some are almost fully vegetarian. A just-published paper (Painting, Nicholson, […]Continue reading
possum peppering – still totally implausible, seven years on
"Kerikeri award entry turns possums into burning issue", proclaims a headline in the Northern Advocate. The story is about an entry in the WWF-NZ's Conservation Awards for 2017; I hope the judges have a good grasp of science & scientific method. From the article: The entry from Kerikeri promotes a new take on an old-world […]Continue reading
run! well, amble! the giant carnivorous snails are coming!
There’s a lovely, life-size bronze sculpture of a Powelliphanta land snail sitting on my china cabinet. I love it because a friend made it for us – and because snails in this genus are rather special, for they are all carnivorous. Now, I ‘knew’ this fact, but I’d never actually seen one feeding. Snails being normally rather […]Continue reading
they wander our faces at night – and procreate in our eyelashes
Demodex mites are tiny little creatures that live in mammals’ hair follicles. I first heard about them years ago, when I watched a documentary with my science class back at PN Girls’ High. It was about animals that are parasitic on humans, and after the segment on eyelash mites, I don’t know about the girls […]Continue reading
the bedbug genome and their bloody habits
Once upon a time, I wrote about traumatic insemination in bedbugs. (Those of my friends who are still traumatised by learning about the reproductive habits of various slug species may not wish to follow that link.) Now, two papers just published in Nature Communications describe the results of sequencing & examining the genome of the […]Continue reading
polyps + glowing proteins + hosts = disco snails!
By now many of you have probably seen images of green-glowing zebrafish, or pigs whose snout & trotters glow in the dark. In both cases the animals are genetically modified and are expressing a fluorescent protein originally sourced from a jellyfish. (The body form of a jellyfish is a medusa, while that of sea anemones & […]Continue reading
words and ecology, ecology and words
I love words (to the extent that I've been known to peruse dictionaries for pleasure). The Story of English was one of my favourite TV programs, back (long way back) in the day. So of course when I saw positive reviews for Robert Macfarlane's book, Landmarks, of course I had to get hold of a […]Continue reading
the speed of a chameleon’s tongue
In 2012 the world was introduced to some of the smallest-known vertebrates: tiny chameleons. My good friend Grant wrote about them at the time, & I set an essay assignment for my first-years on these tiny beasties. How tiny is tiny? The following images are from the original paper, published in PLoS one by Glaw, Kohler, […]Continue reading