Morsels for the mind – 7/6/2013

7 June 2013 by Malcolm Campbell, posted in Malcolm's linkfest

Every day we provide you with #SixIncredibleThingsBeforeBreakfast to nibble away at. Here you can fill your brain with the most intellectually stimulating “amuse bouches” from the past week – a veritable smorgasbord for the cranium. They’re all here for you to load up your plate – this week’s “Morsels for the mind”.  Enjoy!


Feather, fur & fin – birds, beasts, fishes, and the things they do

Reach out with your mind. With all eight appendages. Imagine being an octopus.

Paternal potluck. Female octopus makes a meal of mate’s sperm.

Getting a grip. How octopus suckers work.

There once was an extinct frog that was not. Extinct that is. Thought croaked, actually croaking.

All the right moves. And the left ones too. Where body asymmetry comes from.

Carrying a tune. How canaries stitch a song together.

Paws for thought. Interesting adventures tracking wild dogs in Africa.

Hunting for clues. Understanding why chimpanzees hunt. Because they don’t monkey around when catching monkeys.

A sucker born every minute? Maybe, but when it’s sucker-footed bats, their mothers are impossible to find.

Sign o’ the times. The signals conveyed by lizards flashing colours.

Living for the city. Urban life alters birds’ internal clocks, makes for longer days in comparison to country counterparts.

The only ones. Consider individuals who are the last of their species.

In the swim of things. Argonaut octopus is an amazing aquanaut.

They eyes have it. The totally tubular vision of the telescope octopus.

What’s fluorescent, pink, lives on a mountain, and leaves a slimy trail? A giant slug of course!

Only a flesh wound? Maybe you got it from a flesh-eating sponge. Yes, a sponge.

Cornucopia of colour. Gorgeous oceanic flatworms.

Size matters. It truly does when talking about guppy penises.

Truly fishy story. Interview with a zebrafish. Yes, really. And it’s awesome.

Fishing for clues. Non-twitching fish reveal gene involved in rare muscle disorder. Amazing story by the always spectacular Ed Yong.

Captivating ideas. The place of zoos in animal research. Compelling piece by Jason Goldman.

Whiz kids. Parasites that reside in the urinary bladder.

Dominant males? Yeah, not so much.

Wild, wildlife. Amazing life histories.

Behind blue eyes. Is conservation more compelling when it uses the image of a blue-eyed tiger cub? Yes. Yes it is.

Beware the siren’s call. Mermaids just cannot be. Because biology.

Wildest imaginings. Some creatures don’t exist, but we can dream.


Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight

Tardigrade Trekkies. Water bears could have saved the Enterprise. Make it so!

The cicadas are coming! They are primed to arrive. And if you study them, it will change your perspective on everything. Therefore, make sure to participate in the cicada citizen science project.

PLAY IT LOUD! How cicadas crank the volume to 11.

Grubbing for food. Adding insects to the menu. You are already eating them. So, get over insect aversion.

Big thing in a little package. Tiny louse has gigantic sperm.

Taking the sting out of malaria. Somehow mosquitoes attenuate the reactivity of malaria in humans.

Spinning an interesting idea. Silkworms create magical destination.

The hole story. The burrows of chimney bees.

Fight club. Wasps are decidedly not objective fighters.

Reinstating royalty. Reintroducing queens of extirpated bees.

Insect inspiration. Arthropods shape innovation.


Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants

The taller they are, the harder they…are to evolve? Yes, if they’re plants.

Dynamic desmids. Amazing, terrifically tiny plants.

“It’s not charity. It’s a gift.” One hundred so-called “orphan crops”, which feed 250M  people,  to have their genomes sequenced.

I’m looking over, a four-leaf clover? Um, maybe not.

Banking on it. Algae store nitrogen for coral hosts’ use in tough times.


Fossil finds – organisms of times past – dinosaurs and beyond

Picky eaters. Some dinosaurs consumed their meals with surgical precision.

How the turtle got its shell. For real. Fossil reveals evolutionary pathway to the carapace.

Walking with (bipedal) dinosaurs? Did big dinosaurs like diplodocus walk around on two legs?

Shaking the family tree. The uneasy perch of some creatures in the bird lineage.

Pterrific Pterosaurs. Everything you’ve always wanted to know about the ancient flyers.

Blast from the past? When it comes to the paleo diet, it’s more privilege than science.

Bad to the bone. Neanderthals had osteo tumors.

Family ties. This week, the oldest fossil for a primate was described. It garnered lots and lots of attention.


Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses

It takes a thief. Virus steals genes from bacterial host to defend itself.

Enema of the state. The lowdown on government oversight of faecal transplants.

Quite a gut reaction. The change in gut microbes between chicks and adult birds.

Count on it. Microbes tally to determine quorum.


Molecular machinery – the toils of the macromolecules of life – nucleic acids and proteins (and others)

Picture this. Chemical reaction, including bond reorganisation imaged at atomic resolution. It’s truly amazing. Up and atom!

Sex on the brain. Mating changes voles’ minds about long term relationships. Literally. Epigenetic changes in the brain.

Not so identical. How epigenetics shapes monozygotic twins.

A long-lasting gut reaction. Mom’s gastric bypass affects unborn infants for life.

Questioned marks. That’s epigenetics. Great explainer.

Every protein tells a story. Seabird collagen tells one of over fishing.


Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography & the climate

Wild is the wind. Great explainer on the origins of wind by the always astounding Joe Hanson.

Earth shattering discoveries. Why geology is important. Great stuff from Jon Tennant.

Caustic curiosity. An amazing alkali lake is fabulously fraught.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

Just tagging along. An asteroid did a tour by Earth, with a teeny-tiny moon in tow. Who said astronomy can’t be cute?

Capping things off. The polar cap on Mars is incredible.

The dawn’s early light. Dawn of the universe that is.

Smashing news! Something smacked into the moon.

Phenomenal flare. Wow, the things our sun does!

The lowdown on the slowdown. Why a neutron star slowed.

Way out there. Actual picture of an exoplanet orbiting its star. Stellar!

The space between us. Implications of a multiverse.


Forces of nature – big ticket items – cosmology, ecology, evolution, physics, mathematics, chemistry

Taking the Bohr out of boring. The amazing atomic structure at 100 years of age.

Getting the low down. Why would fluffy plumage evolve before flight?

Nice head of hair! You may have a cowlick, but it’s not because of the hairy ball model.

Highly evolved thinking. When sci fi tackles evolution, things get really interesting.

Rules of attraction. They are all there in your cereal bowl.

Physics works in theory, not in practice? No, it works in practice too, and we must remember the experimentalists as a result.

Persistent paradox. In theoretical physics some things just won’t go away.


Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it

“Yes, this is good, but a face transplant would be better.” A stunning story of damage and recovery.

Barking up the wrong tree? Are we missing other animals’ languages? Undoubtedly.

Nothing to fear? Opioids suppress fearfulness induced by PTSD in mice.

Drawing on experience. When it comes to sketching neurons, the sketch is dependent on the degree of expertise – and it doesn’t get more complex with greater expertise. Amazing.

Rectum?! Darn near killed ‘em. Just what will people put where the sun doesn’t shine? Cement would appear to be an answer.

Thinking that oxytocin is the “love hormone”? Hmm. Think again.

When the mind plays tricks. “The man who needs to paralyse himself” and “Talking to a dead man.” Fascinating “Mindscapes” series by Helen Thomson.

Kinderschadenfreude? Kids experience schadenfreude by age 4. No kidding.

Child’s play? Is there an advantage to learning music as a kid? Maybe.

Looking for love in all the right places? Is the internet the place to go to find a spouse? Maybe.

In the blink of an eye. Or in the blink of 71 species of primates’ eyes. What does that tell us about social cues?

Sweating it out. Other men’s sweat makes males cooperative.

When fun times become deadly serious. When a drone was controlled directly from someone’s mind.


Behind the scenes – the workings of the museum – discovery and communication

Sometimes the commonplace can be uncommonly fascinating. Consider a bench, for example.

Want to save science? Think outreach. Share your passion. That’s key.

Curiousity? There’s an app for that.

The kids are alright. High school students participate in systems biology research.

Different strokes for different folks. Contrasting advice from the great and the good.

The hypothesis that never was. The silent fiction of the scientific literature. Excellent piece by Terry McGlynn.

Sound and vision. Converting music to beautiful images.

Less than zero? Actually, your funding agency might value the publication of negative results. Part of a great series by Matt Shipman on “negative” results. Must read.

140 character reference. How social media can bring attention to research publications.

“I never wanted to become a scientists. I became one because I had to.” Incredibly poignant, by a deceased scientist.

“We are creatures of time and chance. How wonderful is that?” Brian Switek’s beautiful ode to life.


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