Monday, 4 June 2012

Biology stuff from the week 28/5 - 3/6/12

Come with me, 3 billion years into the past, where eukaroytes such as you or i are billions of years away into the future, and abiogenesis is just about getting under way.
Oxygen is sparse, and the precursor of DNA - RNA (ribonucleic acid) - is gradually transforming in the warm environments of the early Earth.
Here, as will be the case for billions of years into the future, chemical folding is an intrinsic element of what will later be called 'life'.
This folding process is now catalysed (accelerated) by iron, in our unoxygenated environment, but will be displaced by magnesium, as oxygen becomes more abundant.

"There is an ancient circuitry that appears to be involved in social behavior across all vertebrates.
On a basic level, this tells us something about where we came from. A lot of the neural circuits that our brain uses for social behavior are actually quite old."
"The biologists analyzed 12 regions of the brain responsible for social behavior and decision-making in 88 species of vertebrates including birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish."

This is an area of research that has not, as far as i'm aware, received the attention that laryngeal analysis has.
The process of speech, and of learning how to do it, is one that involves not just the larynx or the face in isolation - when human babies learn to speak, they have to learn how to co-ordinate their bodies, in order to form the sounds we recognise as language.
This involves use of the diaphragm, chest, larynx, tongue, jaw, and lips, as well as facial expressions and gesticulations, to aid communication.
Much like matching the phonemes and concepts behind the semantics of language itself, this process requires years of study, leading to an eventual blooming as the skills are brought together.
Humans are aided in their efforts to produce phonemes, by the position of the larynx in their throats:

A plant gene, called NRT2.4, becomes activated in severely nitrogen-depleted environments, and enables the plant to survive.
If this gene could be made to work in non-severe conditions, billions of tonnes of fertilizer could be saved, and, maybe more importantly, nitrate pollution could be prevented

As populations shrink, they become more and more fragile. Fishing is an example of an industry that could bring about its own doom, by culling fish to below a threshold of population size from which they can never recover.
" populations of yeast subject to increasingly stressful conditions, populations became less and less resilient to new disturbances until they reached a tipping point at which any small disruption could wipe out a population."

Wishbones give insight into prehistoric flight

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