Tag Archives: biology

The Neanderthal in the karst: hapless skeleton dated at 150,000 years old

During the age of the mammoth, a hominin roaming southern Italy stumbled into a hole in the karst landscape. Out of reach of sun and predator, he starved to death, his body decaying and his bones slumping into a pile, mineral-rich waters ultimately calcifying and fusing them into the surrounding limestone. Locked in the limestone, his skeleton would remain there until 1993, when cave explorers found his face--upside down--staring back at them. Read more

Glaucus atlanticus: beautiful blue sea slug, or Pokemon?

Glaucus atlanticus (commonly known as the sea swallow, blue angel, and blue dragon) is a small, blue, pelagic sea slug. As I discussed in my post on why gastropods are awesome, this nudibranch can feed on cnidarians (like jellyfish) and harvest their nematocysts (stinging cells)—so this gorgeous slug not only looks like a Pokemon, but it can actually copy other creatures' moves!

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Amniotes of the Late Paleozoic & Mesozoic

Amniotes are tetrapods (four-limbed vertebrates) whose eggs contain amnions, an adaption that keeps them from drying out on land; they first appeared during the Carboniferous. There are two main groups, synapsids and sauropsids (anapsids, diapsids, and euryapsids), which differ in their evolutionary history and their skull morphologies (specifically, the types of fenestrae or "holes" in the skull). For a much more detailed look at the evolution and taxonomy of aminotes, check out Palaeofiles from the University of Bristol.

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Identifying frogs and toads in NC

Although I often miss the mountains, one of the benefits of living in North Carolina's Coastal Plain is the tree frogs. During my summer at Duke's Marine lab in Beaufort, we would often return to our apartment to find the building and our door absolutely covered in frogs; in the morning, they'd be all over the car, and we'd have to pull them out of the tires. They don't seem to be quite as prevalent in Greenville, but there are plenty (they seem to like sitting on the porch, where they can taunt the cat). During a trip to Washington, NC, we ran across this stunning green little guy, and I decided to find out what he was. Read more

Why Cnidarians (jellyfish, coral) are awesome

Everybody knows that coral are essential for marine biodiversity. Most people don't know, however, that they are also secretly brutal bad asses. As cnidarians, corals and anemones (anthozoans) are related to the feared jellyfish (medusazoans). The common thread that unites cnidarians is the presence of stinging cells. Read more

Huge green and purple moth: luna moth

I've lived in North Carolina for over ten years, but until today I had never seen or heard of a luna moth (Actias luna). I was pleasantly surprised to find a large gorgeous green moth waiting for me on the bricks of my apartment building. It had beautiful light green wings with purple trim, golden fern-like antennae, a fuzzy white body, four lovely eye spots, and long tails. Read more