The description says: "Internal surface of the peridium of the rare myxomycete Tubifera dudkae is covered with folds resembling sea waves. Among them oval shaped reticulate spores occur."
In other words, the blue waves and brown beads are part of the same organism, a slime mold called Tubifera dudkae. It is a rare member of the Myxomycete class. I don't know if it occurs in North America but I do know it lives in Crimea (thanks to the photos from Wikimedia Commons) and in Tasmania, Australia (thanks to the Myxomycetes website by Sarah Lloyd, an expert in slime molds).
In the photo, the blue waves are the inner surface of the protective layer that holds the spores until they're ready to release. This layer is called the peridium.
The brown beads with squiggly lines on them (i.e. reticulated) are the spores.
Here's what this slime mold looks like from the outside at normal size, sitting in a matchbox.
And here's the amazing thing: Are slime molds plants or animals?
In their reproductive stage, slime molds release spores.
When the spores settle down they become one-celled organisms similar to amoebas that move around looking for food. They don't need to swim in water to do this.
At some point in their life cycle, the amoeba-like individuals are drawn to each other and meld into one big cell with millions of nuclei. Yes, there's only one cell wall. This cell is called a plasmodium and it's slimy.
The plasmodium can move! In fact it oozes across the forest looking for food: bacteria, fungi, other slime molds. Some slime molds can stretch 10 feet.
In a study published last summer in Geophysical Research Letters, geophysicists Rebecca Bendick and Roger Bilham examined a century of data on major earthquakes (7.0 and above) looking for patterns that might indicate what causes them. They found that there are indeed periods of increased seismic activity when there are up to 20 major earthquakes per year instead of 8 to 10.
They then looked for Earth attributes that fluctuate on a similar time scale. Nothing fit until they found a match with the periodic slowing of Earth's rotation.
Earth's rotation slows very slightly -- only a millisecond -- about every three decades. It's so slight that you need an atomic clock to notice it, but Earth's crust appears to notice as well. About five years after rotation enters a slow cycle, there are more frequent major earthquakes around the world.
2018 is five years after Earth entered a slow-rotation period so perhaps there will be more intense earthquakes next year. We'll have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, what does this finding have to do with the mild 4.1 earthquake at Bombay Hook yesterday? Maybe nothing. But I wonder about it because earthquakes are so rare in Delaware.
Feeling sleepy today? Did you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock?
I recently learned from a New Yorker article by Maria Konnikova that Snoozers Are In Fact Losers. When you hit the snooze button that 10-minute interval is just long enough to begin a new sleep cycle but it jolts you awake again at the worst moment -- the beginning of the cycle.
The interruptions make your brain think you had a lousy night's sleep even though the bad part was actually that last 10 minutes -- or more if you hit the button several times. The more you snooze the more you lose.
So what's the answer? Don't use the snooze button. Get up right away when the alarm goes off. (Oh no!)
But it's more complicated than that. Read Konnikova's December 2013 New Yorker article Snoozers Are In Fact Losers for more information on why ...
The best way to sleep-&-wake is by using our own internal clock (circadian rhythm) and external light cues (sunrise/sunset).
The majority of us suffer from social jetlag. Our bodies' preferred wake up time is an hour+ different than our social lives dictate (work, school, etc).
It's bad to wake up in the dark.
The brain doesn't really hit its stride until 2-4 hours after you wake up. Yikes!
We're the only animals on earth that jolt ourselves awake like this.
Egads, I want a nap!
(photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the image to see the original)
If successful, they'll release the new bird in the wild to repopulate eastern North America.
But a new study published this month in Science may throw a wrench in their plan.
Researchers gathered DNA from the toepads of passenger pigeon museum specimens and sequenced the full genomes of four birds. In doing so they discovered that passenger pigeons were extremely diverse at the ends of their chromosomes but had low diversity in the middle. Most animals, including the band-tailed pigeon, aren't like that. Most animals are diverse all the way through.
This trait may indicate that the passenger pigeon in its final form had evolved to live in enormous flocks.
So, why did this superspecies die out? Shapiro thinks it’s because the bird specifically evolved to live in mega-flocks, and developed adaptations that became costly when their numbers suddenly shrank at human hands. “Maybe they were simply not adapted to being in a small population, and didn’t have time to recover,” she says. Maybe they hit a tipping point when there were just too few of them to survive, regardless of whether they were being hunted.
Would a small population of passenger pigeons be possible in the wild? And could the birds survive in this century's altered and deforested landscape? Revive and Restore believes the answer is yes.
Can humans bring back the passenger pigeon? Should we try?
Thirty years ago Japanese trains had a problem. They could travel fast but they caused sonic booms.
The answer was the bullet train. How did Japanese engineers develop it? They learned from birds.
Watch this 6+ minute video from Vox + 99% Invisible to learn how birds showed the way and follow one woman's quest to teach engineers that Nature has the answers. Our world can benefit from biomimicry.
For best results, copy birds.
Thank you to Holly Hickling for sharing this. For more cool videos, follow Vox (news site) or 99% Invisible (city design updates) on Facebook.
Masked ducks (Nomonyx dominicus) are found at ponds and small lakes from Mexico to South America and in the Caribbean. These elusive birds are sometimes in south Texas where I missed my chance to see one.
Male common yellowthroats (Geothlypis trichas) are easy to identify by their masks but the females and juveniles don't wear one. The unmasked birds are so confusing.
In late October cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) are still here in Pittsburgh though in smaller numbers. Their faces are ready for the masquerade ball.
Can you think of other masked birds?
(photo credits: Masked boobies and masked duck from Wikimedia Commons; click on the images to see the originals. Laughing falcon by Bert Dudley. Common yellowthroat by Steve Gosser. Cedar waxwing by Cris Hamilton.)
Here's a surprising thing: The ancestors of whales were land-based walking animals that fell in love with water. In the ensuing 50 million years successive species spent more and more time at sea, eventually lost their legs, and now resemble fish. (No, they aren't fish. They just resemble them.)
How did they change from land to sea? To solve the mystery, paleontologists closely examined the fossil record looking for the one trait that only whales have: the unique bony structure of the whale's inner ear. A fossil found in 1981 provided the missing link.
Shown below are two of the whale's ancestral relatives. Not direct ancestors, the diagram shows where those two fit on the family tree. Whales are labelled #1. Animal #2 looks like a dog. #3 looks like a whale.
The change from species to species was incredibly slow.
If we could go back in time 50 million years to the Early Eocene we'd meet Pakicetus inachus (#2), below. First discovered in Pakistan in 1981, he looks like a long-headed dog but he has the whale's special inner ear. Scientists hypothesize that he lived on land but spent time up to his eyes in water hiding from predators.
Fast forward 10 million years to the Late Eocene to see Dorudon atrax (#3), an ancestral whale that spent his entire life in water. His body was fish-shaped, his tail had flukes, and since he never walked his hind legs were small, almost an afterthought.
From "the fish walked" to the walker that became fish-like, whales turn our misconceptions about evolution on their head. Evolution doesn't "make progress" from simple water-based organisms to us land-based humans at the pinnacle of development. It's just any change over time.