When HIV jumped from chimpanzees to humans sometime in the early 1900′s, it crossed a gulf spanning several million years of evolution.
This past year, I made a pilgrimage that every natural history lover should, if possible, make. I visited the Natural History Museum in London, the house that Richard Owen built, the home of the first dinosaur bones ever discovered, the first Archaeopteryx fossil, and a first-edition copy of “On the Origin of Species”...
When you take a sip of red wine or black tea, you’re swallowing a stiff swig of tannins. These astringent plant chemicals give the beverages their characteristic pucker.
This is the sixth post in the “Wonderful Things” series. The next time you feel like a fish out of water, think of the Pacific leaping blenny.
The bacteria that cause syphilis and Lyme Disease have something extraordinary in common: they manage to propel themselves through their environment in spite of the fact their tails are located inside their bodies...
I have just a quick update today as I’m working on a long blog post for this weekend. Last week I gave an interview for the Southern California Public Radio show “Take Two” on my feature story in this month’s issue of Scientific American on the outbreak of the yeast Cryptococcus gattii among people living [...]..
This is the fifth post in the Wonderful Things series. This creature is not an insect, nor something you need to worry about exploding from your chest.
A strange fungal disease in Canada and the U.S. heralds a new threat to human health
Last year, a hard year by monarch butterfly migration standards, 60 million monarchs showed up at their misty wintering grounds in Mexico. This year, so far, a mere 3 million have straggled in — and late, too, according to a disturbing must-read piece (“The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear”) published last Friday in the New [...]..
Cryptococcal fungi have evolved mechanisms for eluding their protist predators, giving them an inadvertent advantage over look-alike immune cells in humans, porpoises and other mammals
Healthy humans are strangely impervious to fatal fungi. It usually takes something like a shot in the spine with a contaminated drug to give fungi the necessary upper hand.
In many fungi, the DNA storage compartments called nuclei are not prisoners of the cells they reside in, the way they are in animals and plants.
A few months ago, scientists revealed that some plucky mosses in Canada managed to do something long thought impossible: survive a 400-year close encounter with the business end of a glacier, and live to sprout another day...
Oxygen-poor zones are not just found off the coast of South America, as we saw last time. “Oxygen minimum zones” may occur throughout the world’s ocean’s at mid-water depths where food consumption is high but supplies of oxygen are low...
Off the coast of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula lies a dark, still, deep place. It is called the Soledad Basin, and in it lies a garden of bacteria so large you can see them with your own eyes...
Last winter I wrote a post called “Darwin’s Neon Golf Balls” about a fungus called Cyttaria that Darwin collected during his journey on the Beagle.
Botanists have long puzzled over a peculiarity of ancient plants called cycads: they have huge, bright, fleshy seeds displayed in enormous cones.
Artistic, black and white photos of plankton — as we saw last time — are fabulous. But what if one hungers for HD? The Plankton Chronicles have got you covered.
If you’re like me, you’ve pondered from time to time the goings-on of life in the deep. What’s happening down there this very moment?
Yesterday morning as I was tucking into my first cup of tea, I received the startling news that I’ve won the American Meteorological Society’s Award for Distinguished Science Journalism in the Atmospheric and Related Sciences...