A fin whale skeleton lies beneath the water of a lake in Svalbard, Norway.
In recent years, biologists have recognized that birds engage in play. Juvenile Common Ravens are among the most playful of bird species. They have been observed to slide down snowbanks, apparently purely for fun. They even engage in games with other species, such as playing catch-me-if-you-can with wolves, otters and dogs. Common Ravens are known for spectacular aerobatic displays, such as flying in loops or interlocking talons with each other in flight.
They are also one of only a few wild animals who make their own toys. They have been observed breaking off twigs to play with socially.
this is so precious omg
It’s really interesting that birds so commonly make their nests right up next to people’s houses. You’d think they’d be frightened to leave their children so close to humans. But if you think about it we typically leave their nests untouched and don’t prey on baby birds. It might be a form of symbiosis where most predators are scared to approach human homes and the babies are actually safer.
This hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m still feeling a little nauseous after this realization.
You look just like your father: split face portraits of family members
Ulric Collette is a photographer from Quebec. He studied art and graphic design at school and currently works as an art director for Collette, an advertising studio in Quebec City.
In this series, called Genetic Portraits, Ulric splices together portraits of family members to explore genetic similarities.
From parents and their children, to twins, siblings and cousins, the series is fascinating, and just a little bit spooky.
The project was shortlisted for a Cannes Lion.
Visit genetic.ulriccollette.com to see the entire collection.
How do animals change color?
the science of chromatophores
Animals like cuttlefish and chameleons are able to quickly change color in-order to blend in with their surroundings. They can do this due to a special type of cell called a chromatophore. Chromatophores work by moving vesicles that contain different color pigments into different forms by contracting and expanding them, so a different color comes to the “surface” when moved, giving the animal a different color. This can either be controlled by the animals nerves or happen hormonally.
A fairy ring is a naturally occurring ring of mushrooms. They are also known as pixie’s rings, faerie circles, or elf circles. The English believed that fairy rings were where fairies came to dance and celebrate, the mushrooms of the rings were used as stools for the fairies to recuperate during the evenings festivities.
When I was young I spent a lot of time in Ireland because my parents would always want to go back to their homes often. My mum used to tell me about faerie circles and she said that if you disturbed the ring by touching it, all the magic creatures would come and get you. I actually saw one of these rings for myself and was terrified the elves would come for me.
HANK HAS TO SCIENCE ON THIS
When the spore of some kinds of mushroom hits the ground to begin its life cycle, it will radiate out from the point of genesis with tiny little threads called mycelium which are actually the physical body of the fungus. The mycelium stretches throughout the soil, feeding by decomposing matter and, if there’s good food and consistent soil structure in every direction, it will radiate out in a nearly perfect circle. Eventually, when the center of the ring runs out of nutrients, the fungus goes into it’s spore production phase, and sends up “mushrooms” or the fruiting bodies of the fungus. These are all produced at the same time around the edge of the mycelium, taking all of the nutrients from the mycelium to produce these reproductive spore factories.
So each mushroom is not an individual organism, but rather the fruit of a sort of sub-surface fungal tree.
To me, this is even cooler than elves and fairies.
well let’s just keep them faerie circles because I’d like children to keep their fantasies and childhood memories
Agree to disagree…I would rather children revel in the excitement, beauty, wonder, and power of the real.
see I always think it’s more fun to combine them. like explain to your child “see that circle, those mushrooms are all part of one huge organism, like the roots of the tree, and those mushrooms are like fruit with spores instead of seeds. And some people think fairies gather in these circles when no one is looking ooooohh” and tell them the whole ‘fairy circle’ tale.
why not combine folklore with science? everyone likes a good story and fantasy, whimsy and magic are good for the soul and the imagination. but the story is more thrilling and amazing the more you know factually about it.
The silica shell of a marine diatom, seen with an electron microscope. Each pillar is about 1 micrometer tall.
Star Sand, found only on a few beaches in southern Japan, is made up entirely of the calcified shells of marine protozoa that once lived on the ocean floor.
Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in collaboration with researchers at the Salk Institute in California, have found for the first time that a specific protein is essential not only for maintaining a healthy retina in the eye, but also may have implications for understanding and possibly treating other conditions in the immune, reproductive, vascular and nervous systems, as well as in various cancers.
Their work, reported online in the journal Neuron, highlights the role of Protein S in the maintenance of a healthy retina through its involvement in the process of pruning photoreceptors, the light-sensitive neurons in the eye. (This process is also referred to as phagocytosis.) These photoreceptors keep growing and elongating from their inner end. In order to maintain a constant length, they must be pruned from their outer end by specialized cells called retinal pigment epithelial cells.
Without such pruning — which also clears away many free radicals and toxic by-products generated during visual biochemical reactions — photoreceptors would succumb to toxicity and degenerate, leading if unchecked to blindness. A receptor molecule called Mer is a key in photoreceptor pruning, and is therefore vital for retinal health. Mutations in the mouse, rat and human Mer genes cause retinal degeneration, which finally leads to blindness.
The Hebrew University study published in Neuron focuses on the molecules activating Mer in this pruning mechanism. Although two such molecules – Gas6 and Protein S — were identified previously, it was yet to be proven that they also play a role in a living organism. To show this, Dr. Tal Burstyn-Cohen of the Hebrew University Institute of Dental Sciences and colleagues at the Salk Institute in California found in their experiments on laboratory animals that both Gas6 and Protein S are needed to activate phagocytosis, or pruning, of retinal photoreceptors, and thus keep a healthy retina.
These findings could have practical implications, since Protein S also functions as a potent blood anticoagulant. People with Protein S deficiency are at risk for life threatening thrombosis (blood clots) and thromboembolism (a clot that breaks loose and is carried by the blood stream to plug another vessel).
These results further open new avenues of research into the role of Protein S in activating the receptors in other tissues where their function was shown to be important, such as in the immune, reproductive, vascular and nervous systems, as well as in various cancers where activation of receptors has been observed. For example, since Protein S is important for blood vessel formation, neutralizing Protein S in the blood vessels supplying blood to cancer growths could interfere with the cancerous blood supply.
(Image: Gemma Bou/Getty Images)