Category Archives: Biology

Ring-neck snake

Diadophis punctatus at Hawk Mtn

snakeportalfinal

Vulpes vulpes. Vulpes vulpes. Vulpes vulpes.

Hooray for animal babies!  Imagine my delight in spotting these three pals frolicking in the driveway.  Athos?  Porthos? Aramis?untitled030615025-23muskateers
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Endless Form: Chas. Darwin and the Visual Arts

If I could travel back in time, my first stop might be on board the HMS Beagle circa 1834, followed by a hop over to Cambridge, England in early 2009 to catch the Darwin Endless Forms exhibit at The Fitzwilliam Museum before it closed.

Fortunately, books can have the power to transport our minds, if not our bodies, to such magical places. This is certainly the case with the exhibit’s companion volume Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science, and the Visual Arts. The essays match the quality of the illustrations, making this book much more than your typical museum trophy / coffee table decoration.

Darwin
King of Beasts meets Endless Form, Pennsylvania 2014

This book provides rich visual context for thinking about Darwin as an individual, and the influences he experienced from painting, drawing, natural histories, geology and culture. Chapter four entitled ‘Art and the Entangled Bank: Colour and Beauty of of the War of Nature’ is one of my favorites. It opens with a quote from Darwins Origin of Species, a vision of of a lush, interconnected nature “with birds singing on the bushes … worms crawling through the damp earth.” Among the many gorgeous examples that illustrate this theme, I was struck by Joseph Mallord William Turner‘s painting of The Flood as a naturalistic landscape (especially since seeing Mr. Turner), and by a diorama (progenitor of the theoretical diorama?) from Biologiska museet in Stockholm.

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Winged Rabbit, Biologiska museet, Stockholm Sweden 2007

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Gape!

Although they look a little rubbery, I truly adore these nestlings of the Northern Mocking Bird (Mimus polyglottos), just two days old.  The little guy on the left appears to be hungry.

baby 2_edited-1
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Image

Linear progression

Egg babies …

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Memes

Elizabeth Evans, Freelance Science Writer and Editor
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Show notes from the archives of IT Conversations …

Memetics is an intellectually rich but controversial field which seeks to explain how our minds and cultures are designed by natural selection acting on replicating information, just as organisms evolve by natural selection acting on genes. Sue Blackmore, one of the field’s leading thinkers, skillfully unfolds the major arguments for a meme’s-eye view of the world, and explores the implications for humanity. Are our brains best seen as machines invented by and for propagation of selfish memes?

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Roles for Mismatch Repair Factors in Regulating Genetic Recombination

Elizabeth Evans, Freelance Science Writer and Editor
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Minireview …

Elizabeth Evans and Eric Alani
Mol. Cell. Biol. November 2000 vol. 20 no. 21 7839-7844

Mismatch repair (MMR) systems are evolutionarily conserved and play a primary role in mutation avoidance by removing base-base and small insertion-deletion mismatches that arise during DNA replication (31). In addition, MMR factors are required for the repair of mismatches in heteroduplex DNA (hDNA) that form as a result of sequence heterologies between recombining sequences (641,43). MMR also acts to inhibit recombination between moderately divergent (homeologous) sequences (1142). The roles of MMR during recombination are believed to reflect the interaction of MMR factors with mismatches that arise in hDNA or possibly with other structures such as Holliday junctions (233). The full range of effects that MMR can exert on mitotic and meiotic recombination have been discussed elsewhere (11) and will only be summarized briefly here. The purpose of this review is to highlight recent results that have furthered our understanding of interactions between MMR factors and mitotic recombination intermediates.

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