Monday, November 18, 2013

Echolocaton MUSIC JAM!

I just stumbled upon this really cute video about echolocation.

Its from Bat Conservation International.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

- only need the light... when it's burning low... pretty song!

Here is a pretty song that seems to fit the mood today.  It is cold, grey and rainy here in Massachusetts today- but in a cozy way.  I'll be writing while listening to it. 

I hope it can similarly inspire you to do something cozy and productive.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

MAMMAS: Isabella Rossellini is awesome and yes...biology can be sexy!

'I am not a monster...' begins the dramatic plea of an exhausted and jailed hamster mother.

Why is the pitiful mother in jail?  
She has eaten one (or more) of her babies.  We learn that this behavior is somewhat commonplace among hamsters.

She goes on to explain her reasoning.  To raise more pups would have been impossible...  This is a case of limited resources being divided among competing processes (trade-offs).  If she had cared for all of the young perhaps she would have perished mid-way through lactation (prior to weaning her young) and all of the babies would have died.

Nature... red in tooth and claw- and overall a good (albeit cold-hearted) economist.

If you want to know more please watch the video below from the new Sundance Channel series 'MAMMAS'.

The story of a hamster mama is told by the lovely Isabella Rossellini.  Apparently when asked "if she drew inspiration from the relationship with her own mother (for the series), the Oscar-winning star of Casablanca, Rossellini is quick to respond. “No, it’s biology,” she firmly asserts. “I cannot write Mammas about a worm and think of Ingrid Bergman. It’s too far away.”
I love worms but I think I have to agree here... also- can you imagine having Ingrid Bergman as a mother!?  Crazy!
And no- despite a surely glamorous childhood and life as a model- Isabella is most certainly not just another pretty face...

Rossellini is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Animal Behavior!  

I guess that makes her a bio-nerd.... Kinda like Amy Farrah Fowler in The Big Bang Theory.  Amy Farrah Fowler is supposed to be a neurobiologist in the show.  I'll admit I love the show and I like Mayim Bialik as Amy.  Mayim by the way REALLY is a biologist... just like her character (she has a PhD I believe from UCLA in fact).  (*Just like Pauley Perrette has actually studied forensics)...

But lets be honest... her character in the BBT does not depict us lady biologists in quite the same light... 
 Do you see what I mean? 

    Dear Isabella, 
  Thanks for helping us biology ladies make a strong case that science can be smart AND sexy!  I   unfortunately am too busy with doing microscopy to actively pursue my modeling career but perhaps my career as a hand-model will be launched when someone... somewhere publishes an image of my hand changing magnifications and Rolex simply 'must know' who's hand that is (sigh)....

Surely one can dream- no?

Now back to the point:
Ah yes- check out MAMMAS - and while you are at it I also highly recommend the previous series 'Green Porno'.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Mammal milk! Comparative study blogged!

I am excited (dare I say thrilled) to report that a paper I was involved with got blogged about!
 *Forgive the self-enthusiasm.  This is a first for me!*

This paper examines lactation in 129 species and was published this year (2013) in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

The paper is titled: "The evolution of the nutrient composition of mammalian milks" 

Authors: Amy L. Skibiel, Lauren M. Downing, Teri J. Orr and Wendy R. Hood

Article Summary:  
"1. In mammals, nutrient allocation during lactation is a critical component of maternal care
as milk intake promotes juvenile growth and survival, and hence maternal and offspring
2. Milk composition varies widely across mammals and is hypothesized to have arisen via
selection pressures associated with environment, diet and life history. These hypotheses have
been proposed based on observations and/or cross-species comparisons that did not standardize
for stage of lactation and did not consider evolutionary history of the species in analyses.
3. We conducted the largest comparative analysis of milk composition to date accounting for
phylogenetic relationships among species in order to understand the selective advantage of
producing milk with specific nutritional profiles. We examined four milk constituents in association
with species ecology while incorporating phylogeny in analyses.
4. Phylogenetic signal was apparent for all milk constituents examined. After controlling for
phylogeny, diet and relative lactation length explained the greatest amount of variation in
milk composition. Several aspects of species’ ecologies, including adaptation to arid environments,
reproductive output and maternal body mass were not associated with milk composition
after accounting for phylogeny.
5. Our results suggest that milk composition is largely a function of evolutionary history,
maternal nutrient intake and duration of milk production. Arriving at these conclusions was
made possible by including the evolutionary relationships among species.

Read the blog entry by Katie Hinde here at:

This paper was part of Amy Skibiel's dissertation work under the direction of Wendy Hood.  I've written about these two lovely ladies before as they were instrumental for helping me get my bat milk work up and running during my dissertation!