A British Columbian monument is on the brink of extinction and it appears humans may be the catalyst for the acceleration of the evolutionary process yet again. According to researches from the University of Alberta, Dalhousie University and the Salmon Coast Field Station in Echo Bay, BC, infestations of the parasitic sea lice are contaminating salmon fish farms and proving fatal to wild stocks. It’s predicted wild pink salmon will be reduced to 99% of their present population in just four salmon generations or approx 8 years! The crustaceans attach themselves to the exterior of the salmon feeding on tissues, blood, and muscle; eventually resulting in death. Not surprisingly, juvenile populations are at most risk.
This bleak picture is a staggering realization of humans ever growing foot print. The bottle neck effect that these salmon farms could create will have devastating effects on the genetic diversity of local populations. And the most shocking angle of this study is it’s noted as an avoidable catastrophe.
Implementing legislation that will move farms from migration routes and replacing net pens with closed containment compounds will clean up the surrounding aquatic environment and ensure any parasitic threats are isolated from wild stocks. This, of course, comes at a price and owners are not keen on watching profits diminish and operating costs increase. It appears the moral line between profit, government and the environment continues to blur.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Posted by Kim Harrer at 11:20 PM
The need for medical professionals to study evolution
Evolution has a significant rule in human lives which makes it an important fact for medical professionals to understand evolution. The entire basis of evolution started “millions of years a go when life began spontaneously in a pond, and became more complex and it came to the point of the survival of the fittest”. Those who were less fit, injured or unable to adapt did not accompany evolution. Humans are the result of this process. Humans too adapt to certain environment and these days medical professionals are not really taught evolutionary explanations for “why our bodies are vulnerable to certain kinds of failures.” Existence of wisdom teeth, having genes that cause bipolar disease, and not knowing why appendix is still there?
There are lots of reasons where there is a need for understanding evolution in terms of medical field. Cancer is a good example of natural selection among cells in human body. Antibiotic resistance in today’s world also has brought up a lot of issues and concerns in medicine and showing evolution of microorganisms. Understanding spread of antibiotic resistance and its origin is another question of evolution. The more medical doctors and personals are aware of this issue there is a better chance to stop the abuse of antibiotics.
There are many reasons why it is hard to convince medical practitioners to embrace evolution in the nature of science. “Evolutionary hypotheses about human physiology are notoriously hard to investigate, given humans’ long generation times” thus giving a hard time to medial professionals.
I believe that every body especially doctors need to understand evolution to be able to help humans to stop antibiotic abuse, know the evolution process of other animals and how close we are related to other animals to find cures for diseases, evolution of our immune system is part of population genetics and natural selection.
This is a very broad topic with lots of other reasons that all needs to be reviewed and learned by our fellow medical precisionist for the hope of better care, cure and understanding human evolution.
Posted by Panteha at 11:02 PM
Posted by Unknown at 10:30 PM
Komodo island monitors are famous for being the world's largest lizard, they can reach three meters in length. This may seem like reason enough not to mess with them, but you shouldn't be afraid of the dragons, just their thousands of tiny little friends...
Posted by chicken at 10:04 PM
If you catch yourself nodding off in classes, on the bus, or anywhere else, you can probably think of a reason for your condition. Perhaps you stayed up late studying for an important test, or to watch a movie with your roommate, or spent the night drinking. But do you really know why your body is telling you to sleep? What is the true purpose of that irresistible urge to close your eyes and drift away? Why do we and almost all animals need to sleep?
The truth is, scientists still don't have a clear answer to this question. They know that sleep plays an important role in memory and that cells function better in a rested person than in an exhausted one, but scientists say that so far as they can tell, animals could have evolved mechanisms to accomplish these things in a waking state, so why sleep?
I became interested in this topic after listening to a one of WNYC's Radiolab podcasts, called simply Sleep. The podcast discussed different scientific ideas about why we sleep and what happens when we do and included some really interesting information on research currently being done to try to solve this puzzle. One researcher they spoke to, Stephen Lima, is looking at sleep from an evolutionary standpoint to try to understand why animals evolved the need to sleep. It may seem obvious that animals would evolve to sleep, rest must be good right? Well, not really. Sleep makes an animal incredibly vulnerable, it could be eaten while resting, its offspring could be threatened, anything could happen. There is something about sleep that almost all animals need, and we still don't understand what that is. According to Dr. Lima, "The fact that sleep is so dangerous is the best evidence that it is necessary, because if it weren't necessary, we wouldn't be doing it.".
The evolutionary approach to sleep research is a new one, Dr. Lima states that, "One of the reasons we don't understand sleep is that we haven't taken this evolutionary perspective on it". The idea is that if we can understand why sleep evolved, we can understand why it is necessary and what it really does. He and his team of researchers have been watching animals like iguanas, ducks and, yes, fruit flies sleep. An article published in the New York Times also focuses on Dr. Lima's sleep research, as well as other researchers'. One discovery they have made that is particularly interesting involves the sleeping habits of ducks. When ducks sleep in a row, on a log or wherever, the ducks on the ends of the line will sleep with one eye, the one facing away from the other ducks, open. Every so often they will stand up, turn around and sleep with the other eye open. Dr. Lima discovered that the reason for this is that the ducks on the ends are only allowing half of their brain, the half controlling the closed eye, to sleep at a time. The team is now doing research on iguanas to see if they share this strange behavior. If they do, it will tell scientists that this half-brained sleep probably evolved early in animal evolution, and that early mammals may have been able to do it also, but then lost this ability later in their evolution.
Another model for sleep research is the fruit fly. A study published in the journal Science in 2006 focused on the sleeping habits of Drosophila (click here for abstract). It found that the flies needed more sleep after social interaction and couldn't remember tasks taught to them if they were deprived of sleep for a certain period of time after they learned them.
This article from the Public Library of Science details a study done in 2006 on zebrafish sleep that found "both striking similarities to mammalian sleep and its regulation and intriguing differences.
This new evolutionary approach to understanding human behavior shows that there's more to phylogeny and systematics than endless debate over the seemingly trivial classification of obscure creatures most people have never heard of. Hopefully through more research scientists like Dr. Lima will be able to solve more intriguing mysteries about our past, and help us to understand what has made us what we are.
Jones R (2007) Let Sleeping Zebrafish Lie: A New Model for Sleep Studies. PLoS Biol 5(10): e281doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050281
Waking Experience Affects Sleep Need in Drosophila
Indrani Ganguly-Fitzgerald, Jeff Donlea, Paul J. Shaw http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/313/5794/1775?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&andorexacttitleabs=and&fulltext=drosophila+sleep&andorexactfulltext=and&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT
*This blog says it's by Chicken but it's actually by Liz, who had to sign in as Chicken because she couldn't post as herself... sorry*
Posted by chicken at 9:55 PM
In the fitness and selection topic of our course this semester we touched lightly on the Belgian blue and it’s lethal mutation of the gene that codes for myostatin (a protein that counteracts muscle growth). To sum it up this cow has no myostatin, which results in it building mass amounts of muscle and very little fat because the mutation also affects fat deposition.
If you’ve ever lived in Belgium it’s quite apparent that they love their cows. The meat is sold in the butcher section of the supermarkets, never laid out on display like ours, and the posters “Big, Blue, Belgian” are pretty much everywhere. I was actually quite shocked not to be able to find one on the Internet.
They just remind shoppers how good for you the meat is:
i.e. No hormones
Better taste (although I disagree with this because when it comes to a good steak it’s all about the marbling which the Belgian Blue has 17% less of than our normal heifers)
Blues also yield 5- 7% more sellable meat than our normal cows at 80% and their carcass is bigger. For some reason they also produce a higher yield of milk. Anyhow, the list goes on and on for the many reasons why these cows are “better.”
Why are they not common here?
Ignoring most of the English sites on the Internet the truth is that roughly around 80% of these cows cannot give birth to their calves depending on their age. The calves are just too big for their mother’s birth canals. Also the older the mother; the more muscle mass she’s put on, thus she will need caesareans every time she has a calf after being a possible first time successful at a natural birth mom, if she had been that lucky.
In September 2001 I spent a year In Belgium on a Rotary youth exchange. I was lucky enough to have spent three months with a veterinarian. I had no idea at the time why he needed two pagers and a cell phone and thought he took his work far too seriously. He hardly ever made it through a full dinner without leaving unexpectedly and woke up multiple times throughout the nights, sometimes more than once.
About eight months into it I finally clued in and happened to be attending a function where he was when of course; he got a call. It took some begging and I had to chug the rest of the bottle of wine for his sheer amusement but he finally let me go with him. (Note: Belgian’s can drink more than you, despite what you may think. They still like to watch us suffer/ enjoy as much as they have)
Belgium, which is a tad smaller than Vancouver Island is set up a little differently than Canada. There are small towns everywhere, two big cities and the rest is all farmland. The Blues are EVERYWHERE; in the smaller towns they even sometimes get loose and just wander around the streets until found.
After a 10-minute drive at 160km/hr we walked directly into a farmers barn to find our cow. (They HAVE to be at a certain stage in labor before a caesarean can be performed safely.) Since he had been there earlier that morning to check the cow he went straight to work. The cow wasn’t tied down nor did it even seem to care. He gave about 10 needles straight down its left side by its hind leg and waited 10min. He tested to see if she was numb by poking her with his scalpel and seeing that she was, sliced her open. She didn’t bleed as much as I thought she would. Next he opened the sac the baby was in and pulled it out. After taking the crap off its face so it could breathe he sewed up mommy. What’s scary was the calf was almost as big as me. The mom just ate hay while I tried not to throw up; the whole procedure took about 20min. We were back at the function in no time and hardly missed anything, except more drinking.
This vet who shall remain nameless performs roughly one caesarean a day on average but more like none some days and up to four on others. He charges 50- 150 euros depending on the relationship with the farmers. And those calves are worth 500- 1000 euros each, so it’s worth it for the farmers.
Warning: the blood is just the amniotic fluid.
Here is a video of a Blue caesarean:
When I watched it live it didn’t need two people: note the time. Also take into account the retarded people whose comments imply that this is cruelty. Cruelty is letter the mothers body kill the baby when she can’t give birth; then the dead baby killing the mother.
The Dairy site:
Info. On the Blue:
Posted by chicken at 9:44 PM
Whether or not mass exstinction is just scientific paranoia remains to be seen, however many species of plants and animals are already finding it increasingly hard to adapt to their changing habitats. The Polar Regions and the flora and fauna that inhabit them are especially in danger. If a mass extinction is unavoidable, then we are heading towards a reset of Earth’s animal hierarchy, and like mammals after the dinosaurs, a new species may inherit the earth. It would be interesting to hypothesise who the new dominant species might be; my vote is for the genetically modified mice.
Posted by Alex at 9:40 PM
Studies indicate the sunlight that is reflected off the moon’s surface may indeed be romantic! Following a full moon, mass spawning of corals in the barrier reef occurs due to the cryptochromes, or photoreceptors of plants that detect the blue light. This is what tells the coral that it is the right hour of the right few nights to spawn during the spring.
Cryptochromes are believed to be the predecessors of eyes and exist not only in coral, but also insects, humans, and other mammals. Linked with a system which repairs damage done by ultraviolet radiation, cryptochromes may have evolved in eyeless beings that were incompatible with sunlight.
Brain monitoring of night-migrating birds demonstrate increased usage of cryptochrome-expressing neurons as well as forebrain region, suggesting that cryptochrome receptors may also have a role in birds’ directions, providing night-migratory birds with a magnetic compass of sorts, dependant on blue light.
If cryptochromes are vital to a coral’s spawning and in the migration of birds, what are the effects of moonlight on our cryptochromes? Does a full moon really make us wild? If they are still in our DNA, do we still have a use for them?
There is no doubt that cryptochromes do have a function in the circadian rhythms of organisms, which regulate metabolism, physiology, and behavior. However, up to this point, studies on how moonlight or a full moon may affect human behavior are inconclusive.
From what I have heard from working professionals who deal with people- a nurse and a policeman, I suspect that it’s not just a superstition that a full moon has an effect on people. They didn’t say that people were more violent or aggressive (a theory is that more people will be assaulted during a full moon due to increased aggression), however they both agree that people do seem to get a little crazier and their late shifts get a little busier than normal. I think that the area of cryptochromes needs to be explored further; it’s really fascinating that the photoreceptors may have so many different functions.
Here is my brat Parrot: Piper. About six years ago after my childhood Budgie had died and I had returned home from traveling I decided I needed another bird. I had worked a fair bit and saved some money so that I would be able to get pretty much any parrot I wanted, however, having worked in a bird store (for a short time when I was in middle school) I chose wisely:
African Gray’s and Amazon’s are too noisy; Lorri’s need special food; Cockatoo’s are destructive. It’s quite a tough decision if you’ve been around the different breeds.
Choosing a bird is like choosing a dog that is going to live for 40-80 years. I eventually narrowed it down to two breeds, which would fit my lifestyle: the eclectus and the pionus.
Piper is a white- capped pionus. I chose him because of the breeds versatility. They don’t normally travel in flocks, they don’t eat a lot of fruit (some birds need a lot of fruit to stay healthy), they don’t chirp like those annoying cockatiels, and they tend to mate for life. Translation: he can be left home alone while I work, he won’t scream to communicate with the outside birds, and he will bond nicely with people.
One thing I wasn’t expecting was the amount of people who didn’t think he was a parrot because he didn’t have pretty colours. He’s green and blue with a peach bum. The peach colour is on his underside though and isn’t visible if he isn’t flying above you.
I found it weird that my parrot was boring so I researched him. It turns out that birds can see better than us humans. For starters, they can see ultraviolet light, whereas our eyes are sensitive to it and we loose our colour perception (when white glows and everything becomes purple).
Birds also have four dimensions of colour, which means everything that we see, they see in more vibrant hues. So a boring black crow to a bird is actually quite colourful and attractive.
Birds also use florescent colours to attract each other. That’s why some species have weird reflective markings: like a budgies cheek, a crows feather tips, or a ringneck’s, ring of colour around his neck. Take a good look at Piper again at the top of the page. Those multicolour feathers on the back of his head going down his neck are his reflective markings. They extend down his back and make him a pretty flamboyant bird when viewed by other birds, so he’s only a boring green/ blue hue to us.
Birds have many other advantages with their eyes and head. It is the most important part of their features for survival. The positioning of their eyes gives them a broader view than humans and they can also rotate their neck at least 180 degrees, sometimes more depending on the species. This allows them to see food or enemies and navigate when flying.
Ever wonder why pet birds rarely return home?
The use of giant eyes have to be trained, it’s like returning vision to someone who was never able to see and then wondering why they can’t identify anything without touching it. Birds need to learn how to navigate or they won’t know how. If a pet bird gets loose, unless he was taught how to find home again, he might not come back. You just have to hope he can’t fly far enough to get completely lost. This is why it’s good to let birds have a little bit of flight inside the house every now and again before you clip their wings (they learn to navigate how to land, and when they start getting obnoxious you clip them; some don’t need to be kept clipped it depends on behavior).
It’s sad that some birds are kept in cages. If they are looked after properly and trained they can learn to do everything a dog can do (fetch, rollover, speak). It takes time and patience but with a 40-80 year lifespan it just might be worth it.
On the angle of birds eyes:
On the colours that birds can see:
Posted by chicken at 9:34 PM
These Octopi are found in the murky waters around the Indo-west Pacific Ocean and can grow up to two feet in length. They feed in many different ways. Firstly, it can catch prey with its arms and kill it with its beak. Second, it can suck up the insides of their prey after paralyzing them with a poison; third, it may dig into the holes of prey, taking up the food with its arms; and lastly, it can swirl small prey into its suckers, entrapping them. They are brown and white in color, but do have the ability to change in both color and texture. They have a large brain and great eyesight, but they are deaf.
The number of sea creatures that the octopus copycats is disputed somewhat as well as how they have come about this ability. Some think that over the years, only the good impersonator octopi have survived, leaving us the Mimic species; while other theories suggest that the mimicry is misinterpreted and is just part of their sexual selection.
After watching videos and seeing pictures, I can’t imagine how the imitations could not be done purposefully. I think the intelligence in the octopus is amazing. Imagine how much concentration it takes to dance and to be aware of where you are and how you are moving. This is what the mimic octopus can and must do (while swimming), and do a good enough job to fool predator and prey.
Volunteering in a poor government hospital in Africa provides an individual the opportunity to see many things that they haven't been exposed to before. I had always heard of hospitals using leeches and maggots in modern medicine, but I had never had the chance to actually witness it. One of the most common problems seen in African hospitals are the complications due to uncontrolled diabetes. Many individuals in Africa can not afford the cost of buying insulin to control their disease and so their blood sugars skyrocket and remain uncontrolled. Uncontrolled diabetes can have serious consequences. Over time, high blood glucose levels damage the nerves and blood vessels which can lead to a loss of feeling or sensation in the extremities; this is called neuropathy (1; 2). Diabetics suffering from neuropathy can develop minor cuts, scrapes, blisters, or pressure sores that they may not be aware of due to the insensitivity. If these minor injuries are left untreated, complications may result and lead to ulceration and possibly even amputation (3). Damage to the extremities, the feet, in particular, are a huge risk (2). Minor injuries, such as wearing a shoe too tight can create a small blister that can cause major damage. Since diabetes decreases the blood flow through blood vessels, the body's ability to heal is severely decreased which increases risk of infection. In diabetics, infections spread quickly (2).
Posted by nikks at 7:51 PM
The Corail seems to lack proper roots and it attaches itself to the roots of Facatifolium taxoides and presents a "vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhiza" sort of parasitism. In other words, although the foliage of the Corail contains a few chloroplasts it does not photosynthesize particularly well and instead transfers sugars from the host plant via a fungal middle-man. Although, it seems that the Corail can also form a direct connection with the xylem of the host plant and in this way it can scavenge nitrogen. The plant itself is extremely delicate and, apparently, even stepping on the new shoots can kill them. Also, before the Corail was discovered to be parasitic, any attempts to extract it lead to the death of the specimen. Full grown, the Corail is a woody shrub with red or dark purple scaled leaves and is, honestly, a rather bizarre looking plant.
I feel unique species like the Corail serve to emphasize just how amazing island communities really are. In complete isolation from the mainland, species are free to develop and many have worked themselves into some rather unusual niches. Even though New Caledonia is relatively small, there are five different plant families and one hundred and eight genera which are endemic. There are only a few other countries with more endemic (including Australia and South Africa) and they are considerably larger than New Caledonia.
3. http://www.parasiticplants.siu.edu/parasitaxus.html (photo & text credit)
Another example of super-mice involves Myostatin, a naturally occurring protein that inhibits the growth of muscles. By inhibiting the Myostatin gene, the lack of any Myostatin protein allows muscle growth to continue unchecked. In mice growth dramatically increases, one report stated muscle mass increased by 60% in two weeks. The equivalent human gene coding for Myostatin was found in 2004 when a boy was born with a mutation preventing the Myostatin protein from forming. Myostatin gene-therapy has the potential to treat degenerative muscle disease but will also probably be abused by Barry Bonds.
Posted by Alex at 5:53 PM
Achondroplasia is a autosomal dominanat genetic (inherited) disorder that causes abnormal bone growth that results in a type of dwarfism. Autosomal genetic disorders affect a single gene on an autosome while the other gene is usually normal. There are two different inheritance partterns that are called dominant or recessive, depending on which type of gene has been mutated. Achondroplasia has one normal gene, giving a person that has this disease a fifty percent chance on passing on the gene to their offspring. However, if there are two copies of the mutant genes in one parent, it could be very fatal to the offspring, giving it a twenty five percent chance of the child death (stillbirth) before or after birth. Two other syndromes with genetic disorders similar to achondroplasia are hypocondroplasia and thanatophorphic dysplasia.
The growth of the brain and the intellectual level is usually normal, but the growth of the body and the limbs are disproportionate throughout the whole body. Irregular growth of bones and muscles in the body can cause compression of the spinal cord or obstruction of the airway passage, which is the common cause of infancy death. Obesity is a major issue that arises from achondroplasia due to the short body satuture.
Achondroplasia can be detected through clinical examinations. A prenatal ultrasound can be done before the birth of the child to test for the mutant genes in the DNA. The other ways in which this disorder can be detected is by the slow motor responses and movements as well as low muscle tone in the child.
There are no treatments present that are for achondroplasia today, however, there are surgical procedures that lengthen the limbs of the body. People with achondroplasia usually live life normally just like people who do not have this genetic disorder. Most people with achondroplasia do not hold back on physical acitivity or change their ways of living due to their height.
The history of treatment for sleeping sickness began with the introduction of an arsenic based compound called, Atoxyl, for the treatment of the disease (5). In 1920 a drug called, Suramin, was used to treat the first stage of the disease (3). By 1922, Suramin was generally combined with Tryparsamide, less toxic than Atoxyl, in the treatment of the second stage of the gambiense form (3;5). Suramin was used during the grand epidemic in West and Central Africa in millions of people and was the main form of therapy until 1969 (3). Pentamidine, another drug that was seen as highly effective in the first stage of the disease, began to be used in 1939. During the 1950's, it was widely used as a prophylactic agent in Western Africa, leading to a sharp decline in infection rates. At the time, it was thought that eradication of the disease was at hand......they were wrong (3;5). In 1932, 700 patients became blind after receiving the wrong dose of Atoxyl (5). In response to this disaster, a Swiss physician and chemist named, Professor Friedham, developed the drug Melarsporal, the bold concept of which was a single product containing a highly toxic arsenic-based molecule and its antidote (3;5). Melasporal was effective in controlling the disease; however, because it is arsenic-based, when injected it is extremely painful and burns the veins used for treatment (6). Additionally, 3-10% of patients injected have reactive encephalopathy and 10-70% of such cases result in death; also causing irreversible brain damage in those who survive the encephalopathy. Psychological effects from the drug are not uncommon and many patients have to be tied to their bed during treatment (6). Due to its effectiveness; however, Melasporal is still used today (3;6).
2) Bergeron, D. (2007). Biology 124: Evolution and Diversity, lecture Notes. Camosun College.
3) Wikipedia. 2007. Sleeping Sickness. Retrieved December 15, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleeping_sickness
4) Zambrano-Villa, S., Rosales-Borjas, D., Carrero, J. C., & Ortiz-Ortiz, L. (2002). How protozoan parasites evade the immune response. TRENDS in Parasitology, 18(6), 272 - 278.
5) MicrobiologyBytes. 2007. Trypanosomiasis. Retrieved December 12, 2007, from http://www.microbiologybytes.com/introduction/Trypano.html
6) Botting, H. (2005). Anthropology 324: Medical Anthropology, lecture notes. University of Victoria.
7) Jackson, N. (2002). Saving lives in the name of vanity. Medicines Sans Frontieres Article [Electronic Version]. Retrieved September 30, 2005 , from http://www.msf.org/
8) Reid, M., & Pearse, E. J. (2003). Whither the world health organization? The Medical Journal of Australia, 178(6), 9 - 12.
1) International Atomic Energy Agency. 2007. Retrieved December 15, 2007, from http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Features/Tsetse/index.shtml
2) University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Medical Technology. 2004. Retrieved December 15, 2007, from http://www.uwosh.edu/med_tech/teaching/microscopy.php
3) DFID Animal Health Programme: Controlling Tsetse-transmitted trypanosomiasis. 1997. Retrieved December 15, 2007, from http://www.dfid-ahp.org.uk/index.php?section=4&subsection=42
4) Todd and Brad Reed Photography. 2007. Retrieved December 15, 2007, from www.toddandbradreed.com/links
Posted by nikks at 4:07 PM
Friday, December 14, 2007
I will bet that many students will raise their glasses in celebration at the end of exams. Humans experience the intoxication of alcohol all thanks to Saccharomyces cerevisiae, otherwise known as brewers yeast. Brewers yeast is a single-celled fungus that plays an important role in the lives of humans from our distant past through to today.
Posted by Karah Goshinmon at 9:55 PM