Why These Fish Bully Other Fish–Into Breathing Air

[Two Clarias gariepinus catfish caught near Bogor, West Java in Indonesia. Image by W.A. Djatmiko via Wikimedia Commons and CC-BY-SA-3.0]  There’s one in every school. These aggressive individuals go around pushing and biting their neighbors, goading them into risky behaviors–like breathing. Several species of catfish, including the African sharptooth catfish (Clarias gariepinus), have both gills that take …

Dolphins (probably) can’t recognize each other’s voices

[Above: Two bottlenose dolphins swimming around. Image via Max Pixel and Creative Commons CC0 license.] Human speaking voices come in a dizzying array of tones. They can be raspy or reedy, lilting or monotone, chirpy or sonorous, nasal or throaty, breathy or booming, and that’s before we even start describing accents. Most mammals, including humans, …

Meet WTF4: A Gene So Selfish It Poisons All Its Offspring

[Image by Wokandapix via Pixabay and Creative Commons 2.0 License.]  Imagine you’ve been invited to a fancy dinner at a millionaire’s house. The table is set. The silverware gleams. The guests are chitchating about who does what for work and the season finale of Game of Thrones when the dinner host arrives and announces that …

Biology for Worldbuilding: Immutably Mutable Genetics of Octopuses

[Above: Drawing of Octopus vulgaris by  Comingio Merculiano (1845-1915) circa 1896, published in Jatta Giuseppe (1860-1903). Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.]  This post is the first in the series aimed at people who write speculative fiction–sci-fi, fantasy, horror, etc–and are looking for worldbuilding inspiration. In each post, we’ll take a look at a biological trait and explore …

Best Shortform Science Writing: January-March 2017

(A Highly Subjective Round-up of Standout Science News) [Above:  Header from an 1884 science magazine called Knowledge, led by British astronomer Richard Anthony Proctor. Its tagline reads: “A magazine of science: plainly worded – exactly described.”  Image via Wikimedia Commons & public domain.] Late January 2017 saw a shift in science journalism so subtle that …

10 Women of Color in Science History: Medicine

It’s Women’s History Month, and in the Science Twitterverse, that means it’s a time for collages, lists, and black-and-white photos of famous women from science history. Universities, non-profits, and journalists all love to honor the month by highlighting women’s contribution’s to science. This year it feels especially poignant due to the recent passing of Vera Rubin …

The (Mostly) Untold Story of the Oxygen Revolution

[Cyanobacteria–green, brown, and orange streaks–grow in hot spring at Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Harvey Barrison via Flickr & Creative Commons 2.0]  The troublemakers were hardly new to the neighborhood. For 300 million years, they had lived in the water column, floating in the sunlight near the surface, sending tiny plumes of toxic gas into …

Best Shortform Science Writing October-December 2016

Best Shortform Science Writing October-December 2016 (A Highly Subjective Round-up of Standout Science News) [Above: A fish-eyed view of a newsstand in Paris. Photo by Mark Mitchell via Flickr & Creative Commons 2.0 License]  Science writing at its best doesn’t just impart facts; it has the potential to change the way we think about issues …

Cachexia: How Cancer Sabotages Patients’ Metabolism

[A cancer patient rests in a hospital bed. Photo by Christine Gleason via Creative Commons 2.0 & Flickr]  Tumors are master manipulators. They have to be in order to escape human immune systems. Scientists have found evidence that tumors hide by wearing biochemical disguises and some tumors can even recruit turncoat immune cells to their cause. …