May 9th, 2008


Platypus genome decoded :D

And apparently platypi are genetically part bird, part reptile and part lactating mammal. AHA.

"The platypus genome is extremely important, because it is the missing link in our understanding of how we and other mammals first evolved," explained Oxford University's Chris Ponting, one of the study's architects.

"This is our ticket back in time to when all mammals laid eggs while suckling their young on milk."

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lithops: "the butt plant"

The lithops plant's name may mean "stone-like," but as a friend of mine who studies botany likes to insist, a better name for them might be the butt-plant:

The lithops is a succulent native to Africa, mainly in Namibia and South Africa. It is especially characteristic of the Karoo region at Africa's southern tip. The guy who named them was actually a botanist who picked one up off the ground, thinking it was an interesting pebble.

"There is no stem as such, but rather the taproot joins abruptly at the base of the leaves. The structure of the plant reveals to the imagination the harsh environment in which Lithops live: the scarcity of water demands that young plants limited to only two leaves and a root system, as more extravagant growth would only serve to waste water.

The leaves are thick to store enough water for the plants to survive for months without rain. The plants are small and keep a low profile to minimize the effect of the intense heat and light of their climate."

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main article on wiki

great gallery of other lithops
aye aye captain


Another post to dazzle your brain.

Down at the far end of the vertebrate family tree are all those animals that have a notochord, but no actual backbone yet. Some of them don't even have that, but are still our distant relatives. The biggest group of these are the tunicates - divided into four classes.

The Ascidians are known for their somewhat tadpole-like larvae, and tendency to glue their heads to a rock and digest their own brain when they want to grow up. At least one colonial species then engages in sex wars against their neighbours, invading each other's tissue and trying to take over their gonads.

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passion flower


The recent post on the genus Lithops and the comment about their morphology reminded me of something I had been thinking of posting. I figure now's a good time. The photo to the right is a member of the Lentibulariaceae, a family of carnivorous plants related to other members of the Lamiales like mints and snapdragons. This particular photo, an image of the bladder traps of Utricularia inflata is one of Barry Rice's many beautiful photos of carnivorous plants.

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I suppose that's all for now. This whole plant family is fun to play with and relatively easy to grow, depending on the species. I have a few that are considered weeds in carnivorous plant cultivation. Can't get rid of them! And of course, there's more interesting stuff about these plants, but this is all I could think of immediately. Sources are below.

  • All the Wikipedia pages I linked to, many of which I wrote.
  • Laakkonen, L., Jobson, R.W., and Albert, V.A. (2006). A new model for the evolution of carnivory in the bladderwort plant (Utricularia): Adaptive changes in cytochrome c oxidase (COX) provide respiratory power. Plant Biology, 8: 758-764.
  • Greilhuber, J., Borsch, T., Müller, K., Worberg, A., Porembski, S., and Barthlott, W. (2006). Smallest angiosperm genomes found in Lentibulariaceae, with chromosomes of bacterial size. Plant Biology, 8: 770-777.
  • Taylor, Peter. (1989). The genus Utricularia: A taxonomic monograph. Kew Bulletin Additional Series XIV: London.