When it comes to genome size, a rare Japanese flower, called Paris japonica, is the current heavyweight champ, with 50 times more DNA than humans. It is a slow growing perennial that sports a rare, showy white star-like flower above a single whorl of about eight stem leaves. The exceptionally large genome of P. japonica is due to the fact that it's an octoploid, meaning it has four sets of chromosomes - on the contrary, humans are diploid (two sets). Its 40 chromosomes consist of 150 billion base pairs of DNA per cell, therefore making its genome the largest known genome of any living organism. In fact, the DNA from a single cell could theoretically stretch out to be longer than 300 feet (91 m). [ ... ]
Unlike most bees, which hibernate during colder months, honey bees remain active all winter long despite the freezing temperatures.
A honey bee colony’s ability to survive the winter depends on their food stores of honey. Once the colony begins to run out of honey, the worker bees force the useless drones from the hive, to maintain the food store.
As temperatures drop, the honey bee workers form a cluster around the queen and brood, keeping them warm. Bees on the inside of the cluster can feed on the stored honey. If surrounding temperatures rise, the bees on the outside of the group separate a bit, to allow more air flow. As temperatures fall, the cluster tightens, and the outer bees pull together.
As it gets colder, the worker bees actively [ ... ]
This week in Science, researchers led by genome sequencing pioneer Craig Venter report engineering a bacterium to have the smallest genome - and the fewest genes - of any freely living organism. Known as Syn 3.0, the new organism has a genome whittled down to the bare essentials needed to survive and reproduce, just 473 genes. However, the function of 149 of Syn 3.0's 473 genes remain unknown.
As Syn 3.0's name suggests, it’s not the first synthetic life made by Venter. In 2010, Venter's team reported that they had synthesized the sole chromosome of Mycoplasma mycoides - a bacterium with a relatively small genome - and transplanted it into a separate mycoplasma called M. capricolum, from which they had previously extracted the DNA. After s [ ... ]
Not one to be outdone by the dynamic trio of Alvin, Simon, and Theodore of Alvin and the Chipmunks, the least chipmunk (Eutamias Minimus) is the smallest of all chipmunk species (shown above). Least chipmunks range over most of western North America occupying the widest geographic and altitudinal range of any chipmunk. These tiny rodents possess a long, narrow but fairly bushy tail, and have soft, dense fur which is moulted twice a year - the summer coat being brighter in color than the more greyish winter coat. Like other chipmunks, this species has relatively short ears which are covered in short hairs and pouches inside the cheeks which are used to carry food. Interestingly, the female least chipmunk may be slightly larger than the male [ ... ]
A French photographer has conducted an interesting experiment in Gabon by installing mirrors in several locations in the wilds and observing the way the animals reacted to their own reflections. The result was most amusing, to say the least.
Oven a century ago, people were using technology to help them solve math problems. This 100-year-old calculator still works today, and it can calculate into the billions. While the machine may be mathematically accurate, it weighs approximately 70 pounds, significantly more than modern day calculators. That doesn’t sound very convenient. But then again, imagine how strong you would get carrying a 70-pound calculator around school
The creature you see above is a spider that can actually surf on top of waves and hunt for a wide variety of animals including not only insects but also fish and toads. Dubbed the Dolomedes briangreenei, this species of spider floats on top of water and senses vibrations below to detect potential prey. The spider can even submerge itself underwater for up to an hour to hunt down prey, which makes it doubly frightening for any creatures caught in its path. The largest animals that the spider has been known to eat are cane toads, which can measure up to nine inches in length. For comparison, the D. briangreenei is about the size of a human palm. [ ... ]
Before I begin telling you about this fascinating new glue (adhesive), there's a thing or two you need to know about the animal that inspired it all, the gecko. Geckos are small lizards that have the ability to run up walls and scurry across ceilings with the help of tiny rows of hairs on their feet known as setae. Setae generate a multitude of weak attractions (called Van der Waals forces) between molecules on the two surfaces that add up to a secure foothold. Unlike glue or tape, a gecko’s sticky feet attach and detach effortlessly, which made it a perfect case study for engineers to model.
To create their artificial gecko adhesive, a Stanford team of scientists started by making silicone micro-wedges, which imitated gecko hair. They asse [ ... ]
Here's what happens when you pour 1 984°F/1 085°C molten copper on a Big Mac. This demonstration has nothing to do with the fact that McDonald's uses persevatives in its ingredients. This is simply a demonstration of the Leidenfrost effect - a scientific principle explaining the phenomena that occurs when a liquid comes in near contact with a solid that is significantly hotter than its boiling point; the surface of the liquid comes to a nearly immediate boil, and creates a thin layer of protective steam. It's much the same effect as when one drops water onto a hot pan and the droplet is seen to dance across the surface. In this instance, the inherent moisture in the burger protects it for a few moments before the copper (at nearly 2 000 de [ ... ]
At some point in your life, you've probably played this game of logic known as the missing square puzzle, or Curry's paradox - named after its inventor Paul Curry. This optical illusion is commonly used in mathematics classes to help students reason about geometrical figures, or rather to teach them to not reason using figures, but only using the textual description thereof and the axioms of geometry. It depicts two arrangements made of similar shapes in slightly different configurations. Each apparently forms a 13×5 right-angled triangle, but one has a 1×1 hole in it.
As depicted in the animation, the illusion works because the diagonal of the two internal triangles is not a continuous slope from corner to corner. The overall connected shap [ ... ]
The little penguin (Eudyptula minor) is the smallest species of penguin. They grow to an average of 33 cm (13 in) in height and 43 cm (17 in) in length and usually weighs about 1.5 kilogram on average (3.3 pounds). They are mainly found on the coastlines of southern Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, they are often called fairy penguins. In New Zealand, they are more commonly known as little blue penguins or blue penguins owing to their slate-blue plumage. [ ... ]
These tiny water bears, called Tardigrades (meaning "slow stepper"), are water-dwelling, eight-legged, segmented micro-animals. They have been sighted from mountaintops to the deep sea, from tropical rain forests to the Antarctic.
Tardigrades are notable for being perhaps the most durable of known organisms; they are able to survive extreme conditions that would be rapidly fatal to nearly all other known life forms. They can withstand temperature ranges from 1 K (−458 °F; −272 °C) to about 420 K (300 °F; 150 °C), pressures about six times greater than those found in the deepest ocean trenches, ionizing radiation at doses hundreds of times higher than the lethal dose for a human, and the vacuum of outer space. They can go without foo [ ... ]
In December 2013, four captive chimpanzees in the state of New York became the first nonhuman primates in history to sue their human captors in an attempt to gain their freedom. The chimps' lawyers, members of a recently formed organization known as the Nonhuman Rights Project, were asking a judge to grant their clients the basic right to not be imprisoned illegally. The judges of the New York lawsuits ultimately dismissed them all on the grounds that the plaintiffs aren't people. The appeals are ongoing. [ ... ]
Nearly 11 kilometers deep, the ocean is still a noisy place, according to scientists that have eavesdropped on the deepest part of the world's ocean, and instead of finding a sea of silence, discovered a cacophony of sounds both natural and caused by humans.
For three weeks, a titanium-encased hydrophone recorded constant ambient noise from the ocean floor at a depth of more than 36,000 feet, or 7 miles, in the Challenger Deep trough in the Mariana Trench near Micronesia. The ambient sound field is dominated by the sound of earthquakes, both near and far, as well as distinct moans of baleen whales, and the clamor of a category 4 typhoon that just happened to pass overhead.
The hydrophone also picked up sound from ship propellers. Challenge [ ... ]
The crane fly is the world's most misunderstood insect that looks like a mosquito, but is actually a fly. Although it might look like the daddy longlegs of mosquitos, it is actually harmless and doesn't suck your blood. In fact, some sources suggest that this insect eats other bugs and mosquitoes larvae, acting as natural form of pest control.
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