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September 16, 2011

Science tourism: transit of Venus

Venus doesn't pass between the Earth and the sun very often.
Transits in 1761 and 1769 -- they occur in widely-spaced pairs -- were used to make the first accurate estimates of the size of the solar system.

If you missed it in 2004, June 5 of 2012 is your last chance, unless you expect to be alive in 2117.
Here's some useful information, if you want to plan to see it.

Neanderthals, damselflies, jellyfish, birds, and oomycetes, oh my!

Strong reproductive isolation between humans and Neanderthals inferred from observed patterns of introgression

Frequency-dependent variation in mimetic fidelity in an intraspecific mimicry system "similarity between [damselfly] male-like females and males... was frequency-dependent in the direction predicted"

Faking Giants: The Evolution of High Prey Clearance Rates in Jellyfishes "Although larger bodies are less efficient for swimming, optimization analysis reveals that large collectors are advantageous if they move through the water sufficiently slowly. "

Mass extinction of birds at the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary

Horizontal gene transfer facilitated the evolution of plant parasitic mechanisms in the oomycetes

September 9, 2011

This week's picks

A Gene for an Extended Phenotype "The viral gene that manipulates climbing behavior of the [Gypsy moth] host was identified"

The Foot and Ankle of Australopithecus sediba [hominin fossil from 1.78 and 1.95 million years ago] "may have practiced a unique form of bipedalism and some degree of arboreality"

Assured fitness returns in a social wasp with no worker caste "experimentally orphaned brood... continue to be provisioned by surviving adults... no evidence that naturally orphaned offspring received less food than those that still had mothers in the nest."

The sudden emergence of pathogenicity in insect-fungus symbioses threatens naive forest ecosystems "symbioses between wood-boring insects and fungi... are shifting from non-pathogenic saprotrophy in native ranges to a prolific tree-killing in invaded ranges... when several factors coincide"

Ultra-fast underwater suction traps "this unique trapping mechanism conducts suction in less than a millisecond and therefore ranks among the fastest plant movements known"

The taming of an impossible child - a standardized all-in approach to the phylogeny of Hymenoptera using public database sequences "combines some well-established programs with numerous newly developed software tools"