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Archive for January, 2009

A new plants blog. Edible. (HT Further Thoughts).

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In hard times, when monney dries out insane, budgets equilibria theory ends up threatening real positions. Universities are no exception. This is apparently what’s going to happen at the university of Leiden, where academic positions will eventually disappear soon. And guess what? All the threatened positions concern evolutionary biologists (and no molecular biologists for example). To the point that the evolutionary ecology classes will also dramatically regress  or disappear.

There’s a petition to sign, if you want to save evolutionary biology (from extinction) in the Netherlands:

http://evodevo.eu/petition/

Hopefully this will reverse the trend and ponder crisis effects globally among disciplines, not just this unfairly on a single one.

Quote:

The following evolutionary biologists will be fired or cannot continue their research: Jacques van Alphen, Tom Van Dooren, Frietson Galis, Sacha Gultyaev, Patsy Haccou, Ken Kraaijeveld, Femmie Kraaijeveld, Hans Metz (retired, but still very active) and Rino Zandee. This list contains a Marie Curie professor of Excellence (JVA), the president of the European Society for Evolutionary Developmental Biology (FG) and the executive vice-president of the European Society of Evolutionary Biology (PH).

Although evolutionary biology will be heavily cut, molecular biology will be spared. This is part of an alarming national trend. As a result in Utrecht, which has the largest biology teaching program, hardly any evolutionary biologist is left since Gerdien de Jong retired. As a result many biology students will lack the necessary basic training in biology. Most research into the effects of climate change and biodiversity losses will need to be carried out abroad.

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This time, seeds are really aside. You may read my latest shorty posted at  the wonderful Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog… Thanks to Jeremy and Luigi, taking notice on a seedy affair and asking for my grain of salt. Amazing, for this is happening only 17 km from home (and huh, 291 km from workplace).

When I “guest-blog”, I don’t do anything in here…  Jeremy edited my draft  for the best, because it was awfully unEnglishy and filled with quite baroque sentences, I’m not in a bloggy state these days.

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Vaviblog. All around Vavilov and plant genetic resources. Check out this one too, I guess another interesting thing to keep track of!

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An, interesting, sort, of, new, collective, blog about people & labs involved in Heliconius research. Heliconius is a very interesting Genus of South American butterflies that turned into a model to study the evolution of mimicry (many species are aposematic and unpalatable, and others are mimicking the poisonous ones (while the latter are or are not unpalatable themselves).

The blog is apparently tuned so that the different teams of researchers can contribute posts so there might be many interesting readings up coming… Go check and drift around, it At heliconius.org!

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Evolving specialized pollination, where you eventually develop a complete dependence to a single pollinator species, is both a risky bet and a win-win path to success. That is, dependence is critical to your reproduction, since you will only succeed to make seeds when your pollinating pet lives around. Mind you, this is not only tricky  because you need to adjust to its needs and way of life, it’s also that you’ll only be able to expand within its own ecological niche.

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It’s so hard to just say « no! », when you happen to be a pollinator.

Because, you know, nectar is not only food. It is not only highly sweet, nor just energetic like corn syrup. Because of its high sugar contents (many oses at many doses), nectar also happens to make the delight of microbes that made the trip to the flower via insect transportation. For this reason, nectar is often getting fermented.

In other words, don’t trust pollinators when then assure you it’s just « feeding » behaviour.  They constantly understate their actual need for nectar. It’s making little lights in their reward limbic system. They’re irremediably addicted, but they would never acknowledge it.

But would it be so true as to classify some pollinators as junkies?

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Have noticed the new addition to the blogroll? It’s Darwin Central, and its “corrupting the youth since 1859″ means it all. It’s actually not a recent blog (archives dig back into 2006), and I don’t know how is it I never crossed it before, but there it is. I especially like the recent “Explanatory filter: Rip” post. Go mind!

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Okay, that’s just the buzzing story today, even if it made it in the newspapers since a few weeks already, but just in case you didn’t know, a new unexplored forest area was discovered thanks to googlemaps some time ago, and Kew gardens had people going collect there and naturalists were back with species unknown to science. Amazing place, though finding unknown species can be expected from many places, be it already “discovered” and “explored” or not. Since it’s been unknown to man (understand western scientific establishment), or because it revives the reality of earthly unexplored strands (and this is not a lost paradise, there are still many many places like this on this planet), but because this is the first time it was done via its most realistic map, it’s there. Actually, it’s quite cool to see pictures about the story, and you can find some here

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Thats a classical stoma

That's a classical stoma

In plants,  stomata are wonderful pores, mostly dispatched on leaf epiderme but present on almost any other plant organ. They serve the crucial role of facilitating gaz exchanges between inside and outside.

Leaf cells within

Leaf cells within

Crucial, since plants are “breathing eaters“, essentially with multiple layers of cells, and they need to ease air transport deep into the most inner cells.

Mouths or lungs, but loose mungs… (because they are formed by two bean shaped cells who are physiologically opening or closing the door). But that is the basics about stomata. A well designed defined purpose, a very insightful function. Now this is so wonderfully simple and striking that it could not serve other function, would it?

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