Rich writes about fascinating creatures and biological issues that affect our everyday lives. Subscribe and get your free ebook at www.biology4everyone.com.
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Image by Aaron J. Bell, Science Source

You’re an alien on another planet and you walk into the local joint hoping that maybe you’ll meet someone to partner with. And you see 7 different genders and the only one you can’t successfully mate with is one that’s the same as you!

Nice! Lots of choices!

Next scenario.

You’re not an alien and you’re not walking into a bar. You’re a single-celled creature cavorting around in some pond water on planet Earth. And there’s 7 different genders and the only one you can’t successfully mate with is one that’s the same as you!

Nice! Lots of choices!

But then this question arises. …


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Medical tricorder image is taken from this site.

Of course, they’re not called tricorders but if you’ve ever seen a Star Trek episode, as soon as you see one of these, you’ll know that it’s just the first version and the real “one” is not far off.

And if he was stranded someplace in the Gamma quadrant with an alien life form without his tricorder, Dr. Julian Bashir would be happy to have one of these!

So what is all the hullabaloo about?

It’s a new open-source application called iGenomics that currently only runs on iPhones and unless you have a portable device that can sequence DNA, it won’t do anything on your iPhone. …


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Big Tracks, Little Tracks. Photo by Rich Sobel

Footloose and fancy-free interests and intrigue.


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This image was taken from the Wikipedia article about plastids and was photographed by Kristian Peters

What do you really know about how evolution produced creatures like the giant California Redwoods, or whales, elephants and humans?

What if I told you it all came about in no small part due to some tiny microscopic structures that are found inside one particular kind of cell?

And that these tiny structures are organelles called plastids.

All right, I can already hear you saying, why would I ever want to know about plastids?!

Simple. Without plastids, you probably wouldn’t be here to read this today.

Seriously. They’re. That. Important!

In this article, we’ll delve into how they came to be, where they’re found, what they do, how they evolved, how they are maintained and reproduced in cells, how they get passed to new cells and anything else about them we need to know! …


Using DNA to recover lost traits and maybe even whole animals is not out of the question anymore. But should we?

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Photo by Narciso Arellano on Unsplash

The very word — extinction —it means gone forever. Never to be seen again.

But is that really so anymore?

Modern DNA sequencing technology is able to resurrect genome sequences from ever-smaller amounts of DNA. So how lost are all of these creatures, really?

Think dinosaurs, passenger pigeons, woolly mammoths, the mountain hibiscus from Hawai’i and a host of other creatures. Wikipedia has extensive lists of extinct species both ancient and recent.

I recently read an article in Scientific American by Rowan Jacobsen where he talks about how scientists reclaimed genes from old dried up herbarium specimens. Then they used the genes to recreate plant aromas that haven’t been smelled in over a hundred years! …


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Taken from this article

Ok, we’re talking worms here. Not the kind you think about when you hear the word, worms!

Not the nightcrawlers you go looking for at night with a flashlight to use as bait to catch that monster fish you’ve been dreaming about.

And not the earthworms you find in your garden or your worm bin. Well, if you looked really really closely you probably could find them in your worm bin or compost pile.

And not those parasitic ones that get inside you and can make you pretty sick.

So what kind of worm is this?

It’s a very tiny little-known worm that lots of biological scientists study. …


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Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash

Have you ever heard about Nettie Stevens? Or Helen Redfield? Or Esther Lederberg and host of others? Probably not.

And why is that?

Because they are women scientists.

Very few women are mentioned and given the same status, even though the work they did was just as important, if not more so. The only female geneticist I remember being mentioned in my college genetic textbooks was Barbara McClintock.

That’s just not right.

So in 2020, the 100th anniversary of women obtaining the right to vote in the United States, I’d like to introduce you to and commemorate 22 remarkable women geneticists who are no longer with us. …


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This image was taken from here

Ok, let’s face it — you’re looking at that picture and you gotta admit, they’re waay cute! They often look like they’re smiling at you. What’s not to love about that ❤️

In Mexico they’re often called Mexican Walking Fish and known locally as water monsters. But the rest of the world knows them simply as Axolotls (pronounced ACK-suh-LAH-tuhl).

In spite of the name Walking Fish, they are actually salamanders with astounding regeneration abilities.

Their capacity to regrow damaged or amputated body parts is simply remarkable.

For example, Frankie, an axolotl under veterinarian Erika Servín Zamora’s care in Mexico City, was missing half his face. …


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Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Scientists studying people with rheumatoid arthritis have discovered a never-before-seen cell that may be playing a crucial role in rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups!

In an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, RNA Identification of PRIME Cells Predicting Rheumatoid Arthritis Flares, they describe how it was discovered and why they named it the PRIME cell.

When I first came across this report, I didn’t pay much attention to it but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was fascinated and wanted to know more!

I mean, when was the last time we actually discovered a completely new cell in our bodies? I sure couldn’t remember. …

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