The Opposing Thumb

An opinionated digit leafs through the biological literature
Media Roundup

The Monday Morning Smörgåsbord

‘I’ll start with the question I’m most often asked: “What can I do about the ants in my kitchen?” My response comes from the heart: Watch your step, be careful of little lives. Ants especially like honey, tuna and cookie crumbs. So put down bits of those on the floor, and watch as the first scout finds the bait and reports back to her colony by laying an odor trail. Then, as a little column follows her out to the food, you will see social behavior so strange it might be on another planet. Think of kitchen ants not as pests or bugs, but as your personal guest superorganism.’ Edward O. Wilson in Bloomberg warns us that ants are cool but teach us nothing.

Thunder lizards, tyrant kings, dreadnoughts- “What do you call a gigantic lizard no human will ever see?” Britt Peterson in the Boston Globe on the art of naming dinosaurs.

Sebastian Funk and Peter Piot at eLife on tracking animal reservoirs to predict Ebola outbreaks. “For example, an outbreak of Ebola in a chimpanzee community in Côte d’Ivoire killed 25% of its members in the 1990s (Formenty et al., 1999). Because of the high mortality rate, primates are deemed an unlikely reservoir for the virus in the wild. Fruit bats, on the other hand, do not appear to fall ill when infected with Ebola. As such, bats are considered the most likely candidates for the reservoir species in which the virus lingers between outbreaks in humans.”

Nature red in all sorts of appendages, some of which gave rise to tooth and claw: “However, had the conditions been right but life passive, we might not be alive today. As soon as moving animals with mouths, nerves, and guts formed, they began to eat other animals—and their prey reacted.” Brooke Burel in Nautilus on why the Cambrian exploded.

And speaking of things going boom! “about ten years ago, Michael Eisen embarked on a mission to blow up the academc establishment.” Alice Robb in the New Republic on the quest to fix (yes, there is a real problem) scientific publication.

Farmers, doctors and the rise of antibiotic resistance. Anne Buchanan at the Mermaid’s Tale asks is agricultural use of antibiotics in fact to blame for the problem, or is it overuse of antibiotics by the medical system?  Indeed, there’s less of a problem in, say, Scandinavian countries where for decades physicians have prescribed antibiotics at a much lower rate than they have done in the US. Do resistant bacteria really spread in considerable numbers from farm to city?”

 

‘“Auguste D–” was the name on the blue cardboard case file. Auguste Deter, admitted to the Hospital for the Mentally Ill and Epileptics in Frankfurt on 25 November 1901. Senior physician Dr Alois Alzheimer examined her the next day and over three days after that.’ A century after the good Doctor gave Auguste’s condition its name, Michael Regnier at Mosaic Science asks if we are any closer to understanding (and treating) it.

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