Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Tangled Bank #7

Tangled Bank Blutton
Oh rats, it's time for another Tangled Bank post, and I feel Myered down by the 10,000 invasive influenza species that have my kidneys working overtime and my vision blurring. Or, maybe not.

Before we get to the links, though, let me first introduce myself. I'm Radagast, and you're at Rhosgobel, my home on the web. Welcome. I teach biology at a California community college, and while my writing tends to lean towards my vocation (organismal biology and teaching) I also write about a number of more personal topics, including trips that I've taken and remodeling our house and landscaping. I just got back from a three-week-long trip to Canada and the Pacific Northwest; while on the trip I took a picture every hour on the hour, no matter where I was, and I'm currently in the middle of posting these hourly pictures (which explains the large number of pictures for those who look around; there usually aren't this many).

But enough blabber, let's get to the meat. I received six submissions by the time of this writing, and have one of my own posts to add, so we have a grand total of seven posts today.
  • Ratty's "Slothy Dreams" post was the first submission of the week (let's all hear it for non-procrastinators!). Given that my SO and I have had more than 20 pet rats, Ratty immediately had my attention. The post is probably best described by the author: "It's not exactly what you'd call hard science, but it's got a giant Gambian pouched rat in it, some irritating stomach bacteria, and even some decidedly unscientific speculations about the dreams of sloths." About the only other thing you need know is that Stella is Ratty's giant Gambian pouched rat. As a side note for those curious about sloths, the U of Michigan Animal Diversity Web has good pages on both two-toed and three-toed sloths. I'll finish by seconding Valerie's motion (in the comments) that Ratty should illustrate this post.

  • Pharyngula stole my thunder on Sunday evening by submitting his post "MADS boxes, flower development, and evolution". I had already started drafting a glowing post about this article, but after Pharyngula's submission I decided to hold off. The post introduces some developmental pattern-forming genes in plants (a topic I'd read nothing about before), draws similarities between them and Hox genes (their animal equivalents, which I've read much about), and then looks at what these genes say about angiosperm (flowering plant) evolution. It's an excellent piece of work, and is especially relevant for me since I'll be teaching a new course this fall that introduces and draws parallels between the biology of all kingdoms of life. Content from Pharyngula's post will definitely be finding its way into my lectures.

  • In his post "10,000 + 1" Mike discusses how his team's goal of observing all 10,000 species of birds just became a little bit harder due to the discovery of a new species of owl, the Serendib Scops-Owl. Coming from the invertebrate side of zoology new species don't surprise me in the least (some folks argue that only 1-2% of all insect species have been formally identified to date), but new vertebrate species are relatively rare, so this is neat.

  • Reagan's article title, "Renal Regulation of Blood Pressure", pretty much sums up his post. In my zoology lecture I introduce just about every organ system with, "This system is the neatest of all the body's systems because it can do X, Y, and Z," but when I introduce the kidney I really mean it. The kidney is possibly the most amazing organ of the body (except maybe for the brain; oh, wait, there I go again); it receives approximately 1.5 liters of blood a minute (~25% of our blood flow), and in a given day creates about 180 liters of filtrate. Not bad for an organ that makes up just about 1% of human body mass. Reagan's e-mail (and post) said he would be using this post as a springboard for future posts on the genetics of hypertension. I'm definitely looking forward to more!

  • Jenn over at the Invasive Species weblog sounds like she's switching genres from biology to comic books with her post "Attack of the Killer Goldfish." The post neatly introduces one of the larger problems in conservation biology: how do you get rid of an invasive species without harming native ones? The post doesn't answer the question, and I'm not sure there is a good answer for all situations.

  • S. Y. Affolee discusses a new strain of avian flu in "Additional Cents on the Flu", including a section on why these sick birds could mean big trouble for us humans in the future (and no, it's not that the birds will use up all of our Kleenex). Of note is that, from what I can tell, S. Y. Affolee is another anonymous biology blogger! Anonymous bloggers unite!

  • And finally, some blogger named Radagast submitted the post "Carotenoids and vision" describing how the vitamins in carrots help us see and which carotenoids are common in free-range chicken eggs, among other things. Considering that this Radagast character didn't even bother to e-mail the link in, I hardly think it's worth my time to discuss the post further.

That wraps up this edition of the Tangled Bank. Thanks to all who submitted links, and especially to PZ Myers for organizing this whole endeavor.

If your post didn't make it into this week's edition, send your link to Reagan Kelly who will be hosting Tangled Bank #8 on July 28.

[Update: fixed link to S. Y. Affolee's post]

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