Category Archives: Science

Whales’ Legs, Flies’ Eyes and Human Tails

German scientist Ernst Haeckel made many contributions to the sum of human knowledge. He described thousands of species, coined scientific terms such as ecology and stem cell and made one of the first serious attempts to construct a tree of … Continue reading

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The Immunology of Bats

A few years ago I suffered a needle-stick injury at work. The needle was attached to a syringe containing Nipah virus. I spent the next two weeks alone in a quarantine unit, watching DVDs and checking my temperature regularly. My … Continue reading

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Tree Lobsters and Other Lazarus Species

In 1918, the S.S. Makambo ran aground on Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea. It took nine days to repair and refloat the ship and when it sailed away, it left behind some of its non-paying passengers. Black rats … Continue reading

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The Windows to the Soul Part 2: Colour Vision

In 1844, the founder of modern chemistry John Dalton, died. By his own request, his eyes were removed at autopsy and the vitreous humour examined. Fifty years earlier, Dalton had provided one of the first accounts of colour blindness based … Continue reading

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The Windows to the Soul

The earliest fossil evidence of eyes comes from the Cambrian explosion, around 500 million years ago, their appearance probably driven by the rapidly escalating evolutionary arms race between predators and prey at that time. From simple eyespots, eyes have evolved … Continue reading

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The Devil in the Detail

In 1980, Japanese paleontologist Chonosuke Okamura published his ground-breaking treatise, Period of the Far-Eastern Minicreatures. While examining rocks under a microscope, he found the fossilised remains of a huge variety of animals and plants including gorillas, dogs and humans. The … Continue reading

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Sonic Hedgehog, Harry Potter and Scott of the Antarctic

The roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans is one of the workhorses of biological research. The 1mm long nematode, often found in compost heaps and rotting fruit, has been the model organism for a large body work in developmental and molecular biology since … Continue reading

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