Category: Biology

The Life of a Bee

The following video shows the 21 day transformation of the honeybee from larvae to nature’s greatest pollinator in a 60-second timelapse. The video was produced in a partnership between Anand Varma and the Bee Lab at the University of California, Davis. And here is his commentary, from a TED talk: Like most advanced insects, bees go through a complete metamorphosis during their development. The young and the adult look very different, and the diet of the young and the adults differ so much that there is no competition for food between parents and their offspring. The life stages are egg, larva, pupa and adult....

Vanishing Butterflies and Dying Bees

The European Environment Agency just published a study about butterflies in Europe. It shows that from 1990 to today, over a period of 20 years, the butterfly population was reduced by 50%. The reasons for this disappearance are increased agriculture, and the overall reduction of wild meadows. Mono-cultures, intensification of farming, and lack of sustainable practices leads to a dramatic loss of grassland biodiversity. Butterflies are a  major contributor to biodiversity.  They feed primarily on nectar from flowers, and they get nourishment from pollen, tree sap, rotting fruit, dung, and decaying flesh. They have a crucial ecological function for plants,...

Darwin: The marvels of a riverbank

At the end of the “Origin of the Species” (1859) Darwin writes about a riverbank: It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability...

Chimpanzee Memory

Chimpanzees split from the human branch of evolution about four to six million years ago; they are our closest relatives in the animal world. They use tools like spears, they have limited language capability, and they are sophisticated group hunters. They can be deceptive in their behavior, and they are capable of planning for future events. They can mourn, and they can be altruistic within their groups. Our human sense of being fundamentally different from all other animals needs to be reexamined; it is probably the deepest hypocrisy we carry.

The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness

The field of Consciousness research is rapidly evolving. Abundant new techniques and strategies for human and non-human animal research have been developed. Consequently, more data is becoming readily available, and this calls for a periodic reevaluation of previously held preconceptions in this field. Studies of non-human animals have shown that homologous brain circuits correlated with conscious experience and perception can be selectively facilitated and disrupted to assess whether they are in fact necessary for those experiences

Animals

Most animals are multicellular, they breathe, and they can move spontaneously and independently.  We humans emerged from the animal world, but there is no balance in the relationship between humans and animals. They are food for us, they are pets, they work for us, and they are the face of nature. They represent wilderness, and they seem to have emotions.  Darwin wrote a whole book about this subject: in 1872 he published “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals“. The pictures below are either from the public domain, or taken by me. Some of these photos were taken...

Plants

Plants are living organisms that obtain most of their energy from sunlight, via photosynthesis. The chloroplasts necessary for this give them their green color. Seaweed (which is a form of algae) , fungi, and bacteria are not plants.  In traditional forms of classification, however, all living things fall into one of two categories: plants or animals.  There are about 300.000-315.000 species of plants.

Emergence

We are currently experiencing a paradigm shift in scientific thinking and explanation, away from reductionist and constructivist approaches. This shift is the result of the introduction of computers and the internet. Scientific researchers are now capable of collecting and processing much more information than ever before, and advanced modeling techniques allow them to develop and test scientific theories in ways that were simply not possible 20 or even 10 years ago. Traditionally, physics operated with a reductionist approach: it breaks down complex phenomena into simpler parts that can be studied independently. Once the basic laws were understood, scientists thought they...