Archive for November, 2011

Pony with Pangare markings

Ancient cave paintings, fact or fiction? Prehistoric Horse DNA Holds the Key

Pony with Pangare markings

Before the dawn of the written language, prehistoric humans began recording events from their daily lives and environment on the walls of their local caves.  Now many of these cave paintings are treasured, priceless works of ancient history and art.  Many different animals are represented in these paintings and about a third of them are horses. [1] 

There has been much speculation about exactly which horse breeds existed when the painting of cave walls began about 25,000 years ago.  Some of the types predicted included bays, grays and horses with dun colored coats with pangaré markings (tan coat with More >

Tiger Swallowtail

The Secrets of Butterflies

Butterflies are a timeless symbol of beauty and serenity, with their sweet graceful fluttering is enjoyed by people around the globe.  But to “non-people,” or hungry animals, they are more often a source of food.  Butterflies have almost no chance against birds and other faster predators. They tend to be slow flyers and many have vibrant colors that stand out in contrast to the flowers they choose to collect nectar from. 

So why have they not succumbed to the pressures of natural selection?  They are much tougher than they appear.  Butterflies have three dominant defense mechanisms that have kept them safe More >

Adapted from Xie, et al.

Designer Biology in the Fight against Cancer

As many of you know and I have discussed before, cancer therapies have to target cancer cells while minimizing damage to normal cells. This is very difficult, in part because cancer cells are, although altered, still human cells. Synthetic biology is a new field that engineers biological systems for different applications. One interesting area where synthetic biology is now being applied is to cancer therapies. One advantage is that it may be possible to engineer sensors that can differentiate normal cells from tumor cells.

Early approaches have used engineering to create bacteria that specifically invade tumor cells. In one approach, bacteria More >

How many species exist on Earth?

How many species exist on Earth? Well, no one really knows exactly, but there are some reasonable estimates. One figure, estimated by the Census of Marine Life Scientists, is posited to be at 8.7 million based on taxonomic methodology.  Of this 8.7 million, at least 85% of the species on land and in sea still have yet to be identified and cataloged. It is amazing to think that we only know about 15% of the life found on Earth.  There remains much to be discovered.

Recently, researchers at the Smithsonian used the method of DNA barcoding to identify 168 crab species  More >