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Stories by Jennifer Frazer

The Glowing Spider-Worms of New Zealand

Imagine you are a tiny caddisfly pupa. When you emerge from your pupal case, it is dark, but not pitch black, and high above you, you see the faint glow of a starry sky.

May 21, 2012 — Jennifer Frazer

Postcards from Rangitoto, Part 2

When we left the volcano Rangitoto two posts ago, I promised more Down Under fern excitement. For the six of you still here, here we go!Toward the beginning of my hike I saw signs pointing to a kidney fern glen or gully...

May 11, 2012 — Jennifer Frazer

Postcards from Rangitoto

A week and a half ago I stepped off a plane and into the Southern Hemisphere for the first time in my life. In spite of 12 hours of cramped legs and loud children heedless of fellow travelers' sleep needs, it was an exhilarating feeling...

April 29, 2012 — Jennifer Frazer

Mitochondria Are Related to Ocean Bacteria, But Not to the Ones We Thought

Your floor-model animal mitochondrion. Public domain. Click for link. Two billion years ago, around the time atmospheric oxygen levels were rising, one cell engulfed another, and instead of becoming lunch, the ingestee became an Earth-changer and, eventually, a vital part of you: mitochondria.These microscopic cell inhabitants/engines allowed their host cell to suddenly begin to burn oxygen when digesting their food, an energy source that vastly expanded the amount of energy they could harvest from a given morsel of food...

April 16, 2012 — Jennifer Frazer

Can Diseases Cross Oceans By Wind?

Aneurysms in the coronary arteries of a Kawasaki victim. Public domain; click for source. That's the question I examine in my first feature story for Nature , published today online and in the print magazine April 5...

April 4, 2012 — Jennifer Frazer

Planthoppers of Iran: Are You OK?

A planthopper, Siphanta acuta, but not a planthopper of Iran. Photos of them have proven elusive. Creative Commons Brocken Inaglory; click image for license and source.

March 28, 2012 — Jennifer Frazer

MegaGrass Discovered in Mediterranean Marine Meadows

  A lush, rhizomatous seagrass meadow in the Mediterranean. Creative Commons Arnaud-Haond et al. 2012, PLoS One. Click image for link. In the world of gigantic plant and fungus clones, there is no lack of contenders for the title Oldest, Heaviest, and Most Ginormous...

March 1, 2012 — Jennifer Frazer

Mystery of Alaskan "Goo" Rust Solved at Last

Light, sweet, orange goo crude. Last fall the small Alaskan coastal village of Kivalina was inundated by a mysterious orange "goo"(click for photo). Locals and others suspected a toxic algal bloom (see here for image), or perhaps some sort of chemical release, or millions of microscopic "crustacean eggs".Yet just a month later the mystery substance was identified as none other than a plant-parasitic fungus called a rust -- completely harmless to humans and aquatic life, and probably not bad plankton food...

February 29, 2012 — Jennifer Frazer

TGIF: Snails that Fly, or, the Potato Chips of the Ocean

On land, snails and slugs -- the Gastropods -- are confined to terrestrial prison, but in the ocean, they are free to shed their shells and fly. These are the sea angels, the sea butterflies, and the sea elephants -- and probably quite a few more I'm not aware of.For instance, this slinky and mysterious creature is a heteropod ("different foot"), or sea elephant: It's called a sea elephant because of that sausage-esque proboscis it holds aloft...

February 17, 2012 — Jennifer Frazer

The Wild Life of My Doorsill

When I was in North Carolina last month for the meet-and-greet-and-learn-exhausto-freneti-thon of ScienceOnline 2012, I procured for myself a sampling kit for a citizen science project being conducted by the lab of Rob Dunn, Sci Am Guest Blogger and author of the wonderful book The Wild Life of our Bodies.He's doing a new study called "The Wild Life of Our Homes", and for the low, low price of nothing*, I got a sampling kit with two neato dual-pronged sterile Q-tips, instructions, a questionnaire about the characteristics of my pad, and a mailing address to send it back to...

February 10, 2012 — Jennifer Frazer

Proteus: How Radiolarians Saved Ernst Haeckel

Ernst Haeckel around Christmas 1860, when he was 26, the year after he returned from Italy. Ernst Haeckel had spent an unhappy year practicing medicine when his parents finally consented to pay for a year of scientific study and travel in Italy...

January 31, 2012 — Jennifer Frazer

When You Think "Hydrothermal Vents", You Shouldn't Think "Tube Worms"

Riftia pachyptila, the weird, iconic giant of hydrothermal vents. Creative Commons Sabine Gollner et al.; click image for link and license. In 1977, scientists and the world were shocked to discover the first deep-sea hydrothermal vent community at the Galapagos Rift in the eastern Pacific (see a great story on this at NPR here)...

January 4, 2012 — Jennifer Frazer
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The Essential Guide to the Modern World

The Essential Guide to the Modern World