May 2nd, 2008


IRL virgin birth

Little did we know when we were younger screaming from the horror of voracious velociraptors in Jurassic Park that art was imitating life, as the movie touched on a pretty crazy concept known as parthenogenesis (or was it that they magically turned male? I don't remember anymore).

Put simply, nature has figured out a way to continue going about makin' bacon when the males are in short supply. There are a ton of different kinds of this "virgin birth" in the insect and crustacean world, but I'll just touch on the one most commonly used in "higher" species. It basically works like this, with some variation:

The 15 species of whiptail are all female and reproduce exclusively through parthenogenesis, and often require "pseudocopulation" to get the process going:

Some species don't soley rely on this but use it as a survival mechanism, like sharks in captivity or komodo dragons in a dating crisis. This concerns scientists as such behaviors don't aid in increasing genetic diversity in the species.

I'm trying to find a citation now, but apparently parthenogenesis has also been observed in domestic turkey populations at alarming rates, making for quite a mess over at Butterball and other farms.

Makes you wonder though, if genetic diversity is beneficial to survival then why would these behaviors be possible, unless I guess it's just evolution hedging its bets as to whether genetic diversity doesn't do squat unless you have someone to mate with.

Eremetilla Mexicana

Rare Parasitic Plant Rediscovered

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A scientist with the Missouri Botanical Garden has rediscovered and identified a rare parasitic plant that hasn't been seen by botanists in more than 20 years.

A single specimen of the plant was found in Mexico in 1985, but the plant wasn't seen again until St. Louis botanist George Yatskievych and a colleague found it in a pine oak forest in Mexico's mountains.

The plant, which he is identifying and naming for the first time, is not a classic beauty. The odd, orange-brown, fleshy-stemmed plant — which will have the formal Latin name for the "little hermit of Mexico" — has a pine cone-shaped dense cluster of flowers and juicy celery-like stalks.

But to Yatskievych, it's "weird and wonderful."


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Longhorn Cowfish

The Pokemon comments reminded me of this little blighter. The Longhorn Cowfish:

I'm pretty sure this is him using "Leer".

It has a unique way of swimming- it lacks back fins and a pelvic skeleton to propel it through the water, so it slowly hovers around instead. To protect itself, it can secrete a powerful toxin from its skin. It's mostly a bottom feeder and can blow away sand particles to unearth invertebates to feed on. Its scales are fused together to form a box structure around its body, and it's known to "squeak" when caught. It does poorly in aquariums, but it doesn't stop people trying to keep them as pets anyway.