Human Evolution 101

BEDA 2018

Hello and welcome to day 4 of BEDA!

So every Wednesday in BEDA we are going from Birth to life to death as humans (Human 101 if you will) but to start off the series we’re going to try and break human evolution down into simple stages.

Human evolution is basically the process that took us from being apelike creatures to the humans we see today. Scientific evidence shows that the physical and behavioral traits shared by all people originated from apelike ancestors and evolved over a period of approximately six million years. The process of evolution involves a series of natural changes that cause species to arise, adapt to the environment, and become extinct. All species or organisms have originated through the process of biological evolution.

Image result for human evolution timeline

One of the key features of humans evolving include bipedalism which is a fancy word for walking on two legs. This is unlike the apes that use all four limbs to get around. It is not truly known what first caused early humans to get up and walk like this but there are a few theories. These theories include that humans that walked on two feet could gather more food and were therefore more successful, others have suggested that this method of movement allowed early humans to use tools more successfully. However the truth is simply not known.

Other traits include the ability for humans to use tools, a large and complex brain and the ability to use language.

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The Skin – 6 in 60!

6in60, BEDA 2018

Hello and welcome to the first of four 6 in 60s for BEDA! I once did a month of organ related 6 in 60s which you can find here. So I’m back to bring you another four! Today we’re starting off with the largest organ the skin!

  1. There are two general types of skin, hairy and hairless (glabrous) skin. Glabrous skin can be found on your palms and the soles of your feet.
  2. The skin plays a vital role in protecting the body from pathogens, excessive water loss, insulation, production of vitamin D, temperature regulation and sensation. We wouldn’t be able to exist without it.
  3. The skin is built up of several different layers and components which each have a different task (see the picture below)
  4. Skin varies in thickness around the body, its thinnest on the eyelids and thickest on the palms, soles of your feet and bum!
  5. Skin pigmentation is controlled predominantly by genetics.
  6. Skin changes over time and is the biggest sign of aging. This includes the skin wrinkling which is cause by a loss of elasticity
Anatomy of the skin with melanocytes; drawing shows normal skin anatomy, including the epidermis, dermis, hair follicles, sweat glands, hair shafts, veins, arteries, fatty tissue, nerves, lymph vessels, oil glands, and subcutaneous tissue. The pullout shows a close-up of the squamous cell and basal cell layers of the epidermis above the dermis with blood vessels. Melanin is shown in the cells. A melanocyte is shown in the layer of basal cells at the deepest part of the epidermis.

Image Credit: National Cancer Institute

Hope you’ve enjoyed see you tomorrow!

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Weird Humans – Alice in Wonderland

BEDA 2018, Fairyology

Happy Monday! It’s a bank holiday today in the UK so I’m relaxing after having had far too much chocolate. So it felt like the perfect time to talk about a weird human condition.

There are many things that can go wrong with the human body many of which you’ll know about but here is one you might not. It’s called Alice in Wonderland Syndrome or otherwise known as Todds syndrome. The neurological syndrome presents as a migrane and causes the patients to have distorted vision. This can make things appear very big, small or far away. Just as Alice did when she drank the potions in the book. It can also cause hallucinations and cause the patients to have an inaccurate sense of time passing again just as in the book.

Photo credit: Lars Leetaru

This is one patients description of his symptoms caused by the syndrome:

“quite suddenly objects appear small and distant (teliopsia) or large and close (peliopsia). I feel as I am getting shorter and smaller ‘shrinking’ and also the size of persons are not longer than my index finger (a lilliputian proportion). Sometimes I see the blind in the window or the television getting up and down, or my leg or arm is swinging. I may hear the voices of people quite loud and close or faint and far. Occasionally, I experience attacks of migrainous headache associated with eye redness, flashes of lights and a feeling of giddiness. I am always conscious to the intangible changes in myself and my environment.”

The symptoms can occur several times a day and often before sleep. However the syndrome is not dangerous and it appears to fade over time.

If you’d like to read more on the syndrome have a read of this new york times article!

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Blogging Every Day in April 2018

BEDA 2018, Miscellaneous

Hello and welcome to BEDA!

If you don’t know what that is well I shall explain. I tried this out last year and was mostly successful but it is where I will be posting a new blog every single day on ThatBiologist! This month I’m going with the theme of Humans!

I write a lot about the environment and other areas of biology but this month will be dedicated to all things Human Biology. Alongside the blogs will be a new photo on instagram every single day so check me out over there!

Last year I had a theme each day which is mostly true of this year as well. So:

Mondays – Weird Humans!

Tuesdays – 6 in 60 – It’s back again 6 facts that’ll only take you a minute to read!

Wednesdays – Humans 101 – We’re going back to basics taking you from birth to death

Thursdays – Disease Day – I’ll be looking at a different disease every Thurday, this might get a little gross.

Fridays – Genetics  – What is it and why your genes are so important?!

Saturday – Scientist Saturday – A little profile about a human biology scientist!

Sunday – Random!

I hope you’ll really enjoy these blogs over the next month!

See you tomorrow!

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The Monthly Round Up: Hawking, Help and (Conservation) Heros

The Monthly Round Up

Hello! This month’s monthly round up is coming a little early as I’m taking a bit of a break from posting to give me some room for BEDA! Yes that’s right next month I will be blogging every day and about something a little different than normal. Anyway here is what I have been loving this month!

March

 

Favourite Science News Story Of The Month:

I guess it’s not really a favourite but it’s certainly an important thing to talk about. Sadly this month Stephen Hawking passed away. I wanted to try and find the right words to describe how much of an influence this man was to the scientific community as well as me personally but I just couldn’t find the right words. Luckily this piece by Jacob Aron from New Scientist has me covered and all I really want to say additionally is that Stephen Hawking is the perfect example that you can really do anything you want to. He was given two years to live and lived for over 50 at that point and gave the world so much more of an understanding about the place we all call home.

Favourite Blog I’ve read this Month:

This month I have definitely been slacking off on my blog reading, but one that I loved was from Biology Bex otherwise known as Rebecca who has been doing lots of school outreach recently and she gave her guide on how to run a session. I’d love one today to share my enthusiasm with the natural world with the younger generation so it was great to see how she prepares! You can read the blog that is truly helpful in lots of different scenarios here.

Favourite Social Media I’ve Followed This Month:

Instagram – Conservation Conversation!

This is a fantastic little instagram with some wonderful images of conservation around the world

Twitter – James Borrell

This man is a huge inspiration to my conservation work and his twitter has a wealth of knowledge on conservation and why it’s important. His blog is also amazing so go and check him out!

Books I’ve Been Reading:

Once again I’ve been reading fiction this month. Till the Dust Settles by Pat Young is my current read and I absolutely love it, it is such a page turner and completely different from what I normally read. Would highly recommend!

Podcasts I’ve Been Listening To:

As I’m writing this I am listening to easily my new favourite podcast which is called Speak Up For Blue. It’s a podcast all about marine conservation, the latest news in the marine world and opinion pieces hosted by Andrew Lewin. He explains complex issues in ocean conservation with simplicity and I couldn’t recommend it more!

I’d love to know your answers to these questions so please let me know in the comments or on twitter!

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The Poisons Collection Volume 2: Red Backed Beasts

The poisons collection

Hello, last time on my revamp of the poisons collection I spoke about blue frogs today we’re jumping to red spiders. This may not be the best blog for any arachnophobes  particularly if you’re Australian.

Today we’re going to be looking at the highly poisonous Redback Spider.

Latrodectus hasseltii close.jpg

Female Redback Spider. Photo Credit – Toby Hudson

Fact File

COMMON NAME: Redback Spider – red-striped spider – red-spot spider – jockey spider

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Latrodectus hasseltii

TYPE: Arachnid

DIET: Carnivore – main sources of prey are insects, small lizards and other spiders

GROUP NAME: cluster or clutter

AVERAGE LIFE SPAN IN THE WILD: 

HABITAT: Widespread across Australia,  particularly common in Brisbane, Perth and Alice Springs. Often found in outside urban areas and webs are often built in sheds, outhouses and even in tyres. Webs are often in dry, dark and sheltered places.

SIZE: Females usually have a body length of about 10 millimetres (0.4 in), while the male is much smaller, being only 3–4 mm (0.12–0.16 in) long.

Toxicity

I will start off by saying that not all redback spider bites are venomous, if there web is disturbed they might start off by giving you a warning bit. Nevertheless if you think you’ve been bitten by a redback it is definitely best to go and get checked out.

However, venomous bites from redbacks can result in pain, swelling and redness spreading up the limb from the bite site. However 1 in 3 humans bitten will develop further symptoms called latrodectism. Symptoms typically include nausea, vomiting, abdominal or chest pain, agitation, headache, generalised sweating and hypertension. These can lead to other complications but these are rare. Nearly all the bites that end with these symptoms are from a female redback.

The majority of reported spider bites in Australia are attributed to redbacks, which are responsible for around 2,000 hospitalised bite cases each year. However, not a single death due to redback venom has been reported for 50 years, since the introduction of redback antivenom.

Photo credit: Natalie Saez

Other Facts

Males and females look quite different from each other. Males will often be smaller and have different colouring. They are normally light brown with white markings, but lack the distinctive red stripe that the females have. The red backs mating system is also rather perculiar, Natalie Saez from lifehacker put it perfectly:

During mating, not only does the female eat the male, but the male actually assists her in this process by flipping his body towards her so that he is closer to her mouthparts. Because the cannibalistic process is so slow, mating continues until the male succumbs to his injuries.

Hope you enjoyed this episode, I once had friends in Australia with these suckers living under their house!

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That’s a lot of Calamari!

An Introduction To Giants

Firstly my apologies for being away for so long! I have been writing and getting ready for next month but unfortunately that has meant less posts as of late. However I am back with another massive beast, I bet you could guess what it is from the title so I’ll just tell you today I’m talking all about the giant squid!

Unlike the last episode of An Introduction To Giants, giant squid are very much alive and in this world today. They come from the genus Architeuthis and are a deep-ocean dwelling squid. When I say they are giant they really are, the estimated size for a giant squid is around 13 metres for a female and 10 for a male when measuring from the from the posterior fins to the tip of the two long tentacles. To put that into perspective a regular squid come in at 60 centimetres long. Giant squid also have the largest eyes of any living creature!

Giant squid have eight arms but use their two long feeding tentacles to seize prey.

Photo credit: Smithsonian

What do they eat?

File:A piece of sperm whale skin with Giant Squid sucker scars.JPG

Sucker rings on sperm whale skin. Photo credit: Nasa

Humans.

I joke of course although that does make for a cracking film. Studies have shown that giant squid feed on deep-sea fish and other squid species. They use their powerful tentacles and sucker rings (as shown in the picture) to target prey and they can snatch prey up to 33 feet (10 meters). They then pull the prey into their the powerful beak, and shred it with the radula (tongue with small, file-like teeth). They are believed to be solo hunters.

 

Where can you find a giant squid?

They live in the deepest oceans making them a particularly difficult species to find. It actually wasn’t until 2012 that a Japanese group of scientists were able to catch the giant squid on camera.

How can they grow so large?

There are many things that grow much larger in the deep sea than they would anywhere else. This concept is known as Deep-sea gigantism or abyssal gigantism. Although the reason for this is not truly known some explanations have been adaptations to scarcer food, greater pressure or the colder temperatures that come with the deep sea.

Is there anything bigger?!

In the squid world there is one bigger than the giant squid which is the colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni). The largest specimen of this species was caught in  2007 off the coast of New Zealand and it was 495kg and 4.5 metres long. However current estimates are that the colossal squid would measure around 12-14 metres.

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The 4 Ton Sloth

An Introduction To Giants

Hello and welcome to an Introduction to Giants! This is a new series where I’m going to be looking at ten of the biggest creatures that have ever walked, flown or swam this earth. Today I’m starting off with a personal fave of mine.

Sloths are amazing creatures, they spend large amounts of their day sleeping and the rest of the time eating. However they are tiny compared to their ancient cousins, the giant sloth!

THE GIANT SLOTH!

These beasts come from the genus Megatherium. They were elephant sized ground sloths that lived from the early Pilocene to the early Holocene or around 4 million years a go. They were endemic to the area we now know as South America and it would have been one of the largest animals around only beaten by mammoths and a few other species.

Megatherium americanum Skeleton NHM.JPG

Skeleton of Megatherium americanum at the Natural History Museum in London. Photo credit: Ballista

The giant sloth is thought to have weighed around 4 tonnes and was around 6 metres tall. It’s large skeleton and strong pelvis allowed the giant sloth to reach up to heights that other herbivores would have not been able to. It is also thought that this large animal would have walked on the sides of its feet like an anteater due to it’s long claws.

Photo credit: ДиБгд

The reason why we don’t have giant sloths roaming the earth today is that it is thought that somewhere around the mid-Holocene there was a change in the climate. This meant that the area of suitable habitat shrunk and although this wouldn’t have been the sole cause for extinction it would have been a major contributing factor.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this first episode of an introduction to giants! Let me know what your favourite giant is in the comments or on twitter!

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The Monthly Round Up: Svalbard Seeds, SophTalksScience and Stuff You Should Know

The Monthly Round Up

February is always a blink and you’ll miss it kinda month for me. This month was a busy one as I had a little holiday to Italy and came back with a cold which put me out of action writing wise. But I’ve also had two blogs come out on TheWoodlandTrust website which you can read here and here! Anyway here are what I’ve been loving in February!

img_4370

February

Favourite Science News Story Of The Month:

The Global Seed Bank now has just over 1 million packets of seeds! If you didn’t know about the global seed bank it is an initiative to collect as many seeds from as many plants as possible to stop plants becoming extinct. The vault is in Norway and keeps the seeds at an incredibly low temperature to preserve them. Read more about it here.

Favourite Blog I’ve read this Month:

The wonderful Sophie from Soph Talks Science has been absolutely killing it with her scicomm this month. I found it so difficult to pick a favourite of hers but I’ve landed on 10 Reasons why lab life is actually awesome. I miss being in a lab so much and all the fun times and this blog reminded me of that. It’s also a really uplifting blog if you’re feeling a little down about your life. Sophie is such a big inspiration for my own writing so please do go and check her out!

Favourite Scientific Fact I’ve Learnt This Month:

I think my favourite scientific fact I learnt about was all about how Bees get it on, you can read all about it in my Love in the Animal Kingdom blog!

Favourite Social Media I’ve Followed This Month:

Instagram – Ecoceanic

This is a brand that I absolutely love and their message of improving the worlds oceans is so inspirational! They have a fantastic instagram that you should really follow just for the posts about things you can do to improve the environment.

Twitter – TeaTime Science

This is a collection of phd students posting about their work which I absolutely love, their instagram is also fabulous!

Books I’ve Been Reading:

I took a little holiday to Rome this month and spent some time reading some cheery “chicklit” fiction books. This included  Some Kind of Wonderful by Giovanna Fletcher and now I’m reading The Beach Cafe by Lucy Diamond.

Podcasts I’ve Been Listening To:

Stuff You Should Know – HowStuffWorks

I’ve recently been listening to some of the extensive backlog of this podcast they have such a wide topic range but all of the podcasts are really well researched and have balanced arguments. I would really recommend the episode where they compare whether marijuana or alcohol is worse for you.

I’d love to know your answers to these questions so please let me know in the comments or on twitter!

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The Little Things – Bug Hotels

the little things

Hello!

Long time no write, I’ve been down with a cold for the last week but yesterday I ventured out into London for a walk with a friend. I was in the heart of London when I stumbled upon a bug hotel! I can’t tell you how happy I was to see them and they were so close to Regent’s park that I’m sure that they were getting plenty of use. Anyway it inspired me to tell you all about the wonders that are bug hotels!

img_4365

If you don’t know what a bug hotel is it’s a safe haven for lots of different wildlife. It’s a manmade structure built from natural materials that has lots of different sized holes that many different species can hide away from predators or the weather in. They can be hanging like the one I saw yesterday or they can be on the ground. The main theme is that they are made using lots of different materials to create lots of different styles of habitat in a small space.

Bug hotels can come in all different shapes and sizes. They have also been shown to be used by lots of different species. The main guests to a bug hotel are solitary bees and wasps that are sort of like the bachelors of the bee world as they don’t live in a hive with a queen. Butterflies that hibernate have also been seen to use bug hotels for the winter months.

So why is this in the little things series! It’s quite simple really, if you have a balcony, a front garden, a back garden, a window box, or even somewhere at work where you can fit in a bug hotel why not put one in. It’s probably one of the most simple little changes you can make to help the insects out. If you have children they can be excellent fun to make but if you haven’t got the time or space for a large hotel you can buy one’s the size of an average brick.

Then once you’ve got your hotel set up there’s nothing else you need to do other than to sit back, wait and see what guests might turn up at your hotel!

Want to know more about building your own bug hotel just click here for the RSPB guide! If you were looking to buy a small bug hotel here’s a link to one but they are all over the internet, even Waitrose sells them!

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