Tangled Bank #112

Welcome, science readers, to Tangled Bank 112. It’s a privilege to host so much good science writing. Today’s entries are presented mainly with only the authors’ comments because it’s late and I want to get them published.

GrrlScientist leads off:

I don’t know about you, but when I was in school, I was taught that viruses could only infect other living cells, and further, I was taught that viruses are not living cells. So, logically, one could conclude that viruses cannot infect other viruses. But a new discovery by a group of scientists in France reveals otherwise. “Sputnik Challenges Our Current Definition of Life.” Read A Virophage Named Sputnik.

She has another virus up her tiny sleeve:

For more than 30 years, a mysterious disease, known as proventricular dilatation disease (PDD), has sent chills of terror down the spines of bird lovers because it has been killing captive parrots. In fact, the Little Blue (Spix’s) Macaw, Cyanopsitta spixii, one of the world’s rarest and most endangered bird species, may become extinct due to PDD. But fortunately for this species, and all other birds, it appears that the causative agent of PDD has finally been identified: a virus that is new to science: Mystery Parrot Disease Virus Identified.

Charlie at 10,000 Birds throws in some very nice pictures of least sandpipers in their subdued winter plumage: “Non-breeding least sandpipers.”

GrrlScientist counters with a new species of bird found in Gabon.

A gorgeous species of bird that was unknown to the scientific community until now has been discovered in Africa. Interestingly, this new species is part of a larger group of birds in southwest Gabon known as the Gamba Complex.

She adds the Escalating Coevolutionary Arms Race between Cuckoos and their Hosts.

The Horsfield’s bronze-cuckoo, Chalcites basalis, specializes in laying a single egg in the nests of fairy-wrens, but sometimes parasitizes nests of other species such as thornbills or robins. The cuckoo chick has a shorter incubation period than the hosts’ chicks, and after the cuckoo chick hatches, it pushes the host’s eggs out of the nest and imitates the begging calls of the host’s offspring — without having ever heard their begging calls! — thereby deceiving the parent birds into feeding and caring for the interloper. How does the cuckoo chick know what its hosts’ chicks sounds like?

I understand also that the parent cuckoo comes back to check up and if the host parents have detected and ejected the cuckoo chick, it destroys their nest and their true nestlings. It’s almost like selective breeding!

In another case of selective breeding, insects have been selecting hotter hot peppers for some time now. Andrew Bernardin at the Evolving Mind blog points out that “Mexican Food was Not Intelligently Designed.”

Speaking of death and destruction, Grrlscientist finishes off with Behold The Pale Horse: The Genetics of Color and Cancer:

White horses have pink skin and blue eyes. Gray horses are typically born black, bay or chestnut in color but rapidly lose all hair pigmentation as they age, ending up completely white by the time they are eight years old. Meanwhile, their skin remains black and their eyes are typically dark, giving a silvery or grey cast to their seeming snowy-whiteness. This popular coat color results from an autosomal dominant mutation to a gene that was just identified. Unfortunately, this coat color is also linked to an increased risk of developing a specific form of cancer: melanoma. Thus, this finding has important implications for human medical research.

I wonder if the same goes for people? I know someone who went grey at eighteen.

With genetic diversity on our minds, we can turn to Luigi Guarino’s article on the Agricultural Biodiversity blog. Intriguingly, it’s called “Underwater Sunflower.” Jeremy Cherfas adds a rant about agricultural diversity.

Jared at Mors dei gives a progress report on research into molecules that might keep a cancerous tumor from developing its own blood supply. The key word is 101-HB-19.

Tony Sidaway adds stem cells that are persuaded to produce Type O blood. Type O, you’ll remember is the universal donor in the ABO group because it has neither A nor B to trigger immune reactions in the body. Read “First viable, scalable, artificial red blood cells.”

Scott Sherrill-Mix sends something on DNA Sequencing using Pyrosequencing: “Can you sequence a bacterium’s entire genome overnight?

Lou, FCD says

I’ve decided to blog my Biology 111 class, which began Monday this past week. Here’s one of the better episodes: ” Blogging biology class.”

Here’s one from Neuroanthropology, where Greg Downey has posted a detailed “Human Evolution and Diversity” syllabus online, along with reflections on anthropology in relation to claims about race and the like. His university requires these detailed syllabi, so he thought he’d share it with the world.

A new reader wants to contribute and offers another look at Chimps with Spears.

Scicurious at Neurotic Physiology blogs on peer-reviewed research with I need my Sleep

Chris Patil at Ouroboros adds these articles about aging:

In the world of ideas, or at least notions, Submitted to a Candid World continues the never-ending task of rebutting creationism:

Please say it ain’t so!!!! The Discovery Institute has its legal interns working “hard” to create legal arguments for intelligent design. They’re bad. This is part one in at three part series rebutting them: Contra Anonymous DI Legal Intern: Common Misconceptions About Intelligent Design, Part 1

He also disagrees respectfully with PZ Myers on the plight of the poor teacher pussyfooting around evolution issues in high school: “Framing science in high school.”

Charles Siegal contribures an attempt at describing a relatively new and growing area of mathematics which is inspired by connections to phylogenetics and the modeling of phylogenetic trees and evolution .

Pohaninga Pete leaves us with a nice essay about science in the broad sense: “The Uselessness of Everything.” He says, “Don’t be put off by the title! It has photos, too.”

Finally, Nicholas Sly at Sly Bird has some a challenge for us: “Bone Quiz.”

Panda rips off man’s jacket

Look like the innocent flower… be the serpent under it!
Don’t trust animals just because they look cute. No one was injured in this incident, but I remember the man who decided to pet a leopard in Europe: it ripped off his arm.

Panda Rips Off Man’s Jacket

It’s never too late for Tangled Bank

Because there’s always another one…

—- in progress.

Trichoplax genome is sequenced

Over at Sandwalk, Larry Moran has reviewed the new information from this week’s publication of the Trichoplax genome. Trichoplax is a very simple metazoan. It is a very flat, slow-moving pancake. You’d probably think it was a mold colony or a splat of spilled glue. But it’s a multicelled creature with a definite top skin, bottom skin, and some tissue in between. Exactly where it fits in the base of the multicellular tree of life is debated. But go read about it: “Trichoplax genome.”

Tangled Bank is coming soon

I’m scheduling training for the new support group as well as helping to write the Support Group wiki, which I’m getting behind on. I worked until 9:00 p.m. last night (and it’s a day job) and took work home and read Pharyngula and did household chores, in that order. So I won’t be putting Tangled Bank together until tonight after Pilates class. Sorry, guys.

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Partially Clips: “A Web comic for grownups”

A few links to Partially Clips have been floating around. I rather like this one…. Lemurs. Two lemurs hiding from a panther discuss the power of prayer.

Dog bites and breeds

A propos of dog bites, I found this:

Banning pitbulls would be pointless“:

dangerous dogs exist among every breed and cross-breed: The Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP) studied 278 dog attacks requiring hospital admission, and found that they involved 50 different types of purebred dogs and 33 cross breeds. German shepherds were responsible for the most attacks, followed by Rottweilers and cocker spaniels.

That cocker spaniels had the dubious distinction of tying for second place shouldn’t really come as a surprise, since many small dogs can be aggressive. And while dogs that people call pit bulls can inflict more damage than small breeds, small, aggressive dogs such as dachshunds have killed people.

Suffice it say, then, that banning dogs based on how they look is hardly a rational or effective way to protect adults, children or other dogs. For these reasons, many organizations, including the Canadian Kennel Club, the American Kennel Club, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, the National Companion Animal Coalition, the Canadian Safety Council and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control all oppose breed bans.

I recall reading statistics for the U.S. some years ago. The most deaths by dog bite were caused by Golden Retrievers.

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