Stripes are common in our lives. It’s a pretty basic pattern, and easy to take for granted. As an applied mathematician who studies how patterns form in nature, though, I am wowed by the striped patterns the zebrafish wears across its body and fins.
As a graduate student in the 1970s, microbiologist Richard Blakemore probably wasn’t expecting to discover a new bacterial species with a never-before-seen ability. While studying bacteria that live in muddy swamps, he observed that some tended to swim reliably toward the same geographical direction. Even when he rotated the microscope, they persisted in wiggling toward one direction. After confirming that their swimming behaviors were unaffected by light, Blakemore suspected they might be responding to the weak magnetic fields naturally present on Earth.
Whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved. So wrote Charles Darwin, in his On the Origin of Species. The origin and evolution of animals is one of the most fascinating questions in modern biology.
The whale shark is the largest fish in the world, but much of its life cycle remains shrouded in mystery. These gentle giants gather in just a handful of places around the globe – something which has long baffled scientists – but our new research has started to explain why. Better understanding of whale shark movements could help prevent further population loss in a species that has already experienced a 63% population decline over the past 75 years.
For their first 100 million years on planet Earth, our mammal ancestors relied on the cover of darkness to escape their dinosaur predators and competitors. Only after the meteor-induced mass extinction of dinosaurs66 million years ago could these nocturnal mammals explore the many wondrous opportunities available in the light of day.
This summer, the fifth installment of the Jurassic Park franchise will be on the big screen, reinforcing a love of dinosaurs that has been with many of us since childhood. There is something awe inspiring about the biggest, fiercest, and “deadest” creatures that have ever walked the planet. But the films have had an additional benefit – they have sparked an interest in dinosaur DNA.
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