Saturday, June 16, 2007

Chinese Bird Dinosaur-Lauren

I found this article in the Science section of the New York Times. A fossil has been discovered in Inner Mongolia (northern China) that seems to have been a 25 foot long, 3000 pound birdlike dinosaur. This fossil is surprising because the widely held theory is that dinosaurs became smaller as they became more birdlike, and this fossil contradicts that. Researchers think it is a completely different genus and species from all other known dinosaur species, giving it the name Gigantoraptor erlianensis. It shows how little we really know about dinosaur diversity.

The photograph shows a model of Gigantoraptor's head.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Downe House and UNESCO - from Josh

Hey guys,
I found the following article on the BBC. It is about bids for UNESCO World Heritage status, but it also mentions in passing the fact that Downe House has been taken off of the UK's nomination roster because of questions about its "oustanding universal value." The UK government said that it was going to resubmit Downe House in 2009 because the UNESCO council fails to recognise (yes, British spelling) the site's significance. On a brighter note, they are going to do something about the increased tourism and thus environmental impact on the Galapagos.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Canine eugenics

"In Age of DNA, the Dog Becomes a Guinea Pig"
by Amy Harmon
New York Times

Interesting excerpt:

A mutation similar to the one that makes some whippets faster also exists in humans: a sliver of genetic code that regulates muscle development, is missing.

“It would be extremely interesting to do tests on the track finalists at the Olympics,” said Elaine Ostrander, the scientist at the National Institutes of Health who discovered that the fastest whippets had a single defective copy of the myostatin gene, while “bullies” had two.

“But we wouldn’t know what to do with the information,” Ms. Ostrander said. “Are we going to segregate the athletes who have the mutation to run separately?” For the moment, it is whippet owners who find themselves on the edge of that particular bioethical frontier.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

"Chimps Spread the News"

While taking a study break, I came across this article:

"Chimps Spread the News"
by Nikhil Swaminathan
Scientific American, June 7, 2007

A new study has been done that shows that chimps teach new customs to fellow chimps. A group of primatologists (cool word) trained eight chimps from different communities to use novel devices to obtain fruit. When these chimps were returned to their original communities and had access to the devices, they taught their fellow chimps the skill. The study also observed that chimps from neighboring communities would watch the chimps using the device and then pick up on the skill as well. As stated in the article, "These observations show 'that chimpanzees can sustain cultures that are made up of several traditions'." This is pretty neat because before this study, there was no evidence that chimps, our closest relatives, could spread learned behavior. Okay, back to studying!