NewsBits 01- Jellyfish evolve “backwards” and tardigrades carry alien DNA

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Check out Frontiers for Young Minds to see how scientists and young people are working together to create science articles.

Are some researchers redefining what is means to be an animal? Researchers at The University of Kansas have shown that jellyfish have evolved into microscopic parasites. Why is this significant? Click the link to learn more.

Should scientists practice to improve creative writing and storytelling skills? Find out by examining the life of Oliver Sacks.

There are examples of blue tarantulas scattered throughout the tarantula family tree. Why? Do tarantulas use this color to communicate? Is it simply a result of natural selection. Do they use the color to warn potential predators. No one seems to know.

How do we know how extinct animals fed? We look at their teeth, of course. This article examines tooth morphology and development in therapods, a suborder of dinosaurs that were ancestrally carnivorous.

If you have ever wondered what Einstein’s “General Relativity” was all about, check this out. General Relativity just turned 100.

Tardigrades, also known as water bears, recently won the award for having the most foreign DNA in their genome. Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have shown that about 17.5% of a tardigrade’s DNA is foreign. Is there a link between foreign DNA and organisms that have the ability to withstand harsh environments?

Is it the sequence and structure of chromatin that determines the shape of an organism or it is physiological networks such as bioelectrical systems that are responsible. This article highlights research in which biologists made a species of flatworm to grow heads and brains from a different species of flatworm without altering the genome.

John Marzluff, an expert on crow behavior and author of Gifts of the Crow, explains where Seattle’s crows go to roost at night. The behavior of these birds show their intelligence, but also leave us with unanswered questions.

Do mass extinctions actually help some species survive? If so, do the extinctions events cause a shift in morphological characteristics. Carl Zimmer writes about it here.

Finally, two new books by noted biologists are due out early next year. One Wild Bird at a Time by Bernd Heinrich highlights the “day-to-day observations of individual wild birds”. E.O. Wilson has a new book called Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life. Wilson argues that to effectively preserve the biodiversity of our planet, we must dedicate half of the Earth’s surface to nature.

 

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