Guppies and the fruits of orange

21 05 2012

Why does a lure work? What makes prey move towards a predator?  How does a predator know what would make a good lure?  All these questions were answered for one circle of life in the streams of Trinidad.  An Australian Research team found prawns with orange dots at the center point of their pincers, and found them lying in wait rather than moving as they usually would. The researchers also found the prey of these prawns, Trinidadian guppies, to be coloured with specks and splashes of the same orange colouring. Female guppies mated on a regular basis with the most orange guppies, and less as the orange diminished. Guppies were also found to be less afraid of those prawns with orange pincers. What created this obvious bias for the colour orange? Read the rest of this entry »


The Dolphin Alliance

6 05 2012

Humans may be the smartest animals on the land, but who claims that title for the sea? Bottlenose Dolphins have been working together for centuries, hunting, raising young, and playing. The question then becomes can they interact with humans?

A group of fishermen in Laguna, Brazil have been fishing in their local bays for years, and so have bottlenose dolphins. The water in the shallow areas is murky, making fishing a slow daunting process for the fishers. On the other hand, murky water has no effect on the echolocation of the dolphins, but the mullet fish are fast and confusing in their schools. Over many years an alliance has formed between these two groups benefiting both parties.  The dolphins herd the mullet close to the fishermen, and then signal to the men to cast their nets. The fishermen catch for more fish, and those that were not captured are without the protection of their school.

It is hard to tell to what extent the dolphins understand what it is they are doing; do they know what the humans are doing? Or do they associate signalling with a slap of the tail or head, with making a net fall out of the sky and a good meal? The dolphin’s signaling, though, shows which direction the fish are traveling, and where the net should be thrown. This indicates the possibility of a higher understanding than previously thought.

The fishermen have been working alongside the dolphins for years, and have individually named each one. Interestingly though, only half of the dolphins in the area participate in the fishing with the humans. For the Brazilians, dolphins may be man’s new best friend.

Hello there, neighbour!

3 05 2012

Birds are usually depicted as competitors, challenging each other for a female, or a nest site. This is not the case, however, for a European bird the Great Tits create a neighbourhood around them, and nests work together for different situations creating a better environment for reproduction.

If you were a predator approaching a nest of a bird, would you feel threatened by a single angry bird dive-bombing you? Make sure that you are thinking in terms of yourself as either the size of a weasel or the bird the size of a flying terrier. Now think of five or six of these animals mobbing you. As the old saying goes, there is safety in numbers.

These birds do not have automatic friendships, but only start helping each other after about one year of being neighbors. This works well for the species of bird, because they are not migratory birds, and nest in the same place year after year. When a group of birds first nest, they tend to stick to themselves, until they trust each other and work together. Some birds desert their nests if they do not like the neighbouring birds. Because of this joining of forces, younger birds building nests for the first time are not as successful at reproduction as the older more settled birds.

I chose to write about the Great Tits because many people think of humans as the only animals who have what we call acquaintances. These birds occasionally change nesting areas, but the neighbouring birds do not follow.

Divide and Conquer

21 04 2012

Written by Damian

Breast cancer has been a problem for years, but soon, we may be able to fight this destructive disease in a way that does not always take all your hair out, and works close to 100% of the time. This is because the general belief was that cancer is one disease that you treat in every way you can and hope one method works. Scientists now are finding that there are multiple versions of cancers each with different effects, strengths and weaknesses that can be diagnosed and treated separately. Read the rest of this entry »

First Fire

10 04 2012

Written by Damian

Fire. The energy of life has been part of human life for a very long time, and I for one cannot imagine life without it. I was curious about how long ago humans began to use fire, and I found some recent discoveries concerning this point. Read the rest of this entry »

World’s smallest puppy and other interesting records.

31 03 2012

As I scroll through countless pages on the internet, there are rarely images or articles that simply make me stop everything and say “ Aweeee”. Today I came upon a short article that did just that. Three weeks ago California’s Grace Foundation rescued a dog that gave birth to what is now said to be the world’s smallest puppy. The 28.3 gram creature was stillborn, but was administered CPR and saved. The tiny dog is a mix of a Dachshund, a Miniature Pinscher and a Chihuahua. The puppy was named Beyonce, after her song “Survivor” and now awaits to turn 1, so that she can be considered for the Guinness World Records. I imagine that having such a small size will make the puppy’s life more dangerous, because she will be harder to spot and probably has a weaker body. But with the right care and treatment, she can become a true dog celebrity.


After reading this article and “awing” I decided to check out some other cool Guinness World Records. Here are some that I found interesting:

  • Loudest Purr by a Domestic Cat: The purr was measured at 86.3+ decibils from one meter away, which is similar to the sound of city traffic from inside a car. Though it may not be super loud, if my cat purred that loud, I know she would be spending a lot less time in my room and more in my backyard.
  • Most Big Macs consumed: A USA citizen has consumed 23 000 Big Macs over the last 37 years. It may sound cool but that must be extremely unhealthy. To be honest I am surprised he is still not hospitalized.

In general many of the records I saw were pretty random and not that interesting, but there is always an exception when you see something and have an unexpected reaction. One day it would be nice to see a record like “most scientific discoveries made by one scientist” or “most patients cured by one doctor”….and who knows, maybe the person will be me (one can always hope ).


Visit to UBC School of Dentistry

21 03 2012

As someone who one might call a keener and a “living in the future” type person, I tend to always plan ahead and want to see what things will be like in the future. Today I had a chance to look into what my future might (hopefully *will* but you never know) look like. Catherine our FSL leader, has kindly let Megan ( a fellow FSL student) and I, accompany her to one of her UBC classes. Both of us were really excited and did not really know what to expect and I was hoping if this experience could show me weather I see myself in that position or not.

I can definitely say that I see myself in a similar classroom 5-6 years from now. I can usually tell if something will interest/please me, and this was certainly my type of place. The class consisted of 8 students who seemed to be more or less friendly with each other and who shared their knowledge and collaborated on answering questions from their previous class, and on trying to diagnose a woman from a case study. The class began with them taking turns answering questions ( and writing the answers on the board) as well imputing their own knowledge into other peoples answers. A few examples of questions were ” What is coughing? ” and ” What is Wheezing?”. Another interesting question was one where they had to compose a chart that contrasts characteristics of 5 pulmonary diseases ( all of which are really similar, so it’s pretty hard to differentiate between). It was nice to see that students took initiative in answering the questions and that they imputed their own thoughts to help each other. Afterwards students were given a case study where they had to look at a elderly smoker woman’s test results, symptoms and characteristics and develop a diagnosis for her. After going through diagrams, discussing possible diseases, answering questions, they diagnosed her with Emphysema ( which is apparently a tabooed term, so people use the term COPD).

For me, listening to their critical thinking and out loud problem solving was very interesting. I have just finished the respiratory system in Bio 12, so I had somewhat an idea of what they were talking about. It was also nice to hear explanations from some of the students, because there were a few that stood out with their speaking skills, general background knowledge, and ability to ask good questions. When their class was over, they also talked a little about why they chose Dentistry, and many said that it happened later in their education. This led me to question weather I actually will go to Med School, or if I will slightly/drastically change my career path in the future.

In summary, I really did enjoy the class, and could definitely see myself studying in that type of environment. That being said, there is so much that can happen in the next six years, so instead of concerning myself with the future, I think I will stay focused on the present and go enjoy my spring break by watching Dexter 🙂