October 2010 Archives

Why the Leopard Got Its Spots

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I thought this article entitled Why the Leopard Got Its Spots was interesting because it closely related to our reading assignment for our classroom discussion this week; Chapter 9 "Paint it Black" in Sean B. Carroll's "Endless Forms Most Beautiful. The researchers also used mathematical modeling to formulate their results which was the topic of my essay test last week. Because of these coincidences, this article seemed fitting. The article explains that the cats that live in low light habitats due to canopy coverage are more likely to be spotted. This makes sense because the light is coming through the canopy in splotchy patterns similar to that of a spotted leopard. The same concept is explained in further detail in our readings by Sean B. Carroll, but even he quotes Rudyard Kipling's "How the zebra got its spots". The article explains that it is expected that in "closed" environments (lots of trees, less sunlight penetration) we would observe spotted cats whereas in "open" environments (such as a savannah grassland) we would see a solid coat pattern. However there are some exceptions to this. But there are exceptions to this, why? The answers to these exceptions are not explained in this article. In the case of the cheetah, could the lack of genetic diversity play a role in the retention of spots despite an open environment?

A Solar Salamander

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This week, while procrastinating with my homework and spending time on facebook I stumbled upon a link to a very interesting article. This article entitled A Solar Salamander. from nature news suggests that photosynthetic alga was found inside the cells of spotted salamander embryos. This alga (Oophila amblystomatis) was previously thought to have only a symbiotic relationship with the salamander embryos. The salamanders benefit from the increased oxygen content surrounding them that the alga releases and the alga benefiting from the nitrogen rich wastes that the embryo releases. It is thought that the alga might get into the salamander while they are expelling wastes. However, this alga has also been found in the cells of the reproductive organs of female salamanders suggesting that they might pass the alga onto their embryos through their eggs. Other close relationships between invertebrates and photosynthetic organisms have been seen before, but never in vertebrates. It is hypothesized that if researchers start looking for other examples like the spotted salamander, they will find many more examples.

This week I read the press release of The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2010: Robert G. Edwards. Robert G. Edwards won the award for his research and development of in vitro fertilization. He first envisioned in vitro fertilization and its useful applications in the 1950's but it wasn't until July 25th 1978 that the first successful birth of an in vitro fertilized baby was born. Though there has been controversy over the ethics of this method of fertilization, in vitro fertilization has produced over 4 million births of healthy babies since Louise Brown, the first test tube baby. The article states that about 10% of couples worldwide experience infertility issues. I think this is why Edwards was an excellent candidate to win this Nobel peace prize; because his work does not only contribute to the scientific community but also helps millions of families overcome their infertility issues. His work directly affects the lives of everyday people, not just people who follow scientific findings.

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