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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Evolutionary Biology: Recent Highlights

Sometimes I forget that Fresh Brainz is supposed to be some sort of science blog.

Truth be told, that part is easy to forget. It's tough to write anything fun about serious science since 99% of the original research that I read is about as exciting as watching mud dry.

In slow motion.

Luckily for humanity* there is still some cool science out there that must be highlighted in this blog!

Here are three of the finest findings in evolutionary biology so far this year:

1. Planet of the Apes. Now with Spears.

Human beings have been killing each other (and small defenseless animals) with evil, sharp implements for so long that we believed no other animal can do it.

Actually they just don't want to do it, being the nice, peaceful animals that they are.

They'd much rather puncture your juicy jugular with their amiable teeth and slash your abdomen open with their friendly claws.

However, a group of researchers have noticed that some chimpanzees in Senegal prefer to hunt their prey using sharpened sticks, just like early humans.

Scientists already know that chimpanzees can use tools for a number of years; the chief novelty of this study is the detailed observation of the tool sharpening process.

Which actually involve the use of teeth.

Now that chimpanzees have learnt how to use spears to hunt, we should all shudder in fear of ... "Death by Britney"!

Seriously, we've all had enough of that Spears.

Click here to read more.

2. Mice with Better Colour Vision than Some People.

The worst enemy of most people is some people. Some people rob. Some people kill. Some people like country music.

Some people write science blogs.

In addition, some people are red-green colour blind. Mice are also red-green colour blind because they lack a type of photo receptor that are found in the eyes of most people.

When researchers inserted the human gene for this receptor into mice, the genetically modified mice could now distinguish the difference between red and green much better than regular mice.

This demonstrates that the mammalian brain already has sufficient flexibility to adapt to modular changes in colour vision. You don't need to change a large number of genes and rewire the whole brain to allow the mice to benefit from this enhancement.

Just one gene will do.

Another nail in the coffin for Irreducible Complexity.

Check out more details here.

3. Do Dinosaurs Taste Like Chicken?

Why does everything taste like chicken?

Is existence merely a massive game of virtual reality where powerful supercomputers manipulate the lives of millions of innocent victims?

But enough complaining about taxes.

Scientists have successfully isolated protein fragments from the inside of a 68 million-year-old T. Rex bone uncovered in Montana, USA. They sequenced these fragments and found that it resembles a similar protein found in modern chickens.

Direct molecular evidence of the close evolutionary relationship between dinosaurs and birds.

The principal investigator of this study, Prof. John "Jack" Horner actually mentioned the project last year when he came to Singapore during a dinosaur exhibition. So I am happy to see that they have produced spectacular results in such a short time.

More stuff can be found here.

Would you like to know more?

About other forms of fun research:
- Boob Physics

*The term "humanity" includes all Fresh Brainz readers, most dolphins and some bonobos. It excludes most other human beings (especially Brad Pitt) and any talking cats.


Anonymous said...

everything, that doesnt taste like anything, tastes like chicken!!!! - jo

Lim Leng Hiong said...

Ha ha ha!

I still think 2-mercaptoethanol smells like fried chicken. :D