Monthly Archives: September 2013

Fresh Bio News: Early Lizards, RNA Editing Sites, and More!

As you can probably, I really like Science Daily, but there are a ton of other awesome sites, too, like I fucking Love Science on Facebook.

Early Lizards


Songbird Syntax (yes, it’s a thing)


Beetle Builders


RNA Editing


Internal Tide Clocks (for some organisms)



Organism of the Day: Mixopterus

Today, I bring you the long extinct genus, Mixopterus. Because sometimes, Evolution dabbles with the fabric of Nightmares.


Click on it and play the music from Psycho for full effect!

This is the species Mixopterus kiaeri. Some of you may have questions like, “Is that thing a scorpion?”, “…is that monster is almost 2 feet long?”,  “Will this hell-spawn haunt my waking dreams?”, or “HOLY CRAP! IS THAT A MURDER SPIKE ON IT’S TAIL????”. The answer to all of these questions are, respectively, maybe, yes, most likely, and ohhhhhhhhhhh yes it is. Thankfully, no human has ever come in contact with a living Mixopterus. It is now my great pleasure to inform you that it is dead, and has been dead, for 354 million years, and we had no idea of it’s existence until we found some in the rocks (the above comes from Norway). These things are part of the Order Eurypterida, which were scorpion-looking arthropods who roamed the vast seas of the Late Silurian Period. For reference, plants had just begun to come up on land, but animals were unheard of. That is part of what makes eurypterids so special; Some believe that they may have made short trips on land at a time where essentially no animals were up there. The body plan is that of a versatile predator. It had powerful muscles, legs, and paddle-like structures, meaning that it could walk on the ocean floor or swim to cover more distance. It’s spike was probably used to attack prey (some speculation says it may have had poison in it). They had large pincers, with long sharp spines, that could hold a prey down. The prey? Trilobites, a common arthropod for hundreds of millions of years. It is possible that this may be the ancestor of scorpions, which in my opinion, are a lot less terrifying than this dude, and, to be honest, slightly less badass.


I don’t own these images

Organism of the Day: Halobacterium

Ok, I think these little guys are awesome.

These are Halobacterium!


Aren’t they adorable? No? Whatever. Not everything I put up here is adorable, damn it, but they can be freakin’ awesome. Halobacterium isn’t actually a species, it’s a genus, of the class Halobacteria (I know, truly confusing). AUTHOR’S NOTE:Also, I sense a theme that I keep giving you guys confusing organisms; I’ll try to stop that.

Halobacterium are of the domain Archaea. No, they are not, as their name suggests, bacteria. True, they are prokaryotes just like bacteria, however the way they replicate their DNA is actually more like a Eukaryote than a bacterium, and their cell walls have their own special composition (this applies to all Archaea). But, you have to be aware, we humans only found out that archaea weren’t bacteria very recently. So why are these guys so cool? They are part of a group called, in a rare case of Biology terms sounding awesome, Extremophiles. These are organisms that thrive in conditions that would kill almost any other organism. More specifically, they are Halophiles, “halo” meaning salt and “phile” meaning loving (Author’s Note: I freaking love salt). These guys live in extreme areas of hyper salinity, like the Dead Sea, the Great Salt Lake, and here in the salt ponds of the San Francisco Bay . They conduct photosynthesis, but not with chlorophyll, the compound used in plants and algae.  Theirs is called Bacteriorhodopsin, and it comes off as purple, leading to the trippy sights you see in places like the South San Francisco Bay, as seen below.

399px-Salt_ponds_SF_Bay_(dro!d)  Harvesting-Salt-South-San-Francisco-Bay

I don’t own these images

Source of Tannins Found!

Hey Everyone! Tannins are a compound vital to wine making. It’s what gives body to red wines (white wines usually don’t have tannins because they’re not fermented on their skins and/or the white grape varieties weren’t bred to have many tannins).  But until now, we have had no idea where they originated in the cell. I thought this was a nice interest piece for here in Napa.–The-Tannosome/

Fresh News: Restoring Acid-Rain Damaged Forests, Insight into Explosion of Animal Life, and Dinosaur/Bird Wind Tunnel Tests

Acid-Rain Restoration:

Animal Evolution Explosion

Dinosaur/Bird Flight

Organism of the Day: Monkey Puzzle Tree

Behold, the Monkey Puzzle Tree!


The Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria aracana) grows in central and southern Chile, and a little bit of western Argentina. It has several different names, but Monkey Puzzle is the most common. It is so called due to a comment by an Englishman when he first saw it, observing that even a monkey would be puzzled climbing this tree. The tree branches sort of haphazardly, and the branches (below) are covered in spike-like leaves a few centimeters long in a whorl pattern. The leaves can live for 10-15 years. The tree produces male and female cones on separate plants (dioecious), and can grow to be over 100 feet tall (one grew 150 feet). They have scale like bark, leaving some with the impression of reptile skin. It is SUPER old, evolutionarily speaking (although they can live to be 800 years old). It is a living fossil, and we start to see it appear 300-250 MILLION years ago (for the record, dinosaurs didn’t even exist yet), and is relatively unchanged since then. Some botanists consider it the oldest conifer alive. Being so unique and special, it is the National Tree of Chile.

monkey-puzzle-tree-fibanacciI don’t own these images

Organism(s) of the Day: Californian Legless Lizards

Handout of a Bakersfield Legless Lizard

Recently, 4 species of legless lizards have been discovered in California. They belong to the Anniella genus, and their species names are as follows: A. grinnelli (shown), A. stebbinsi, A. alexanderae, and A. campi. These, contrary to what most people tend to immediately say when they see them, are not snakes. They are lizards, and unlike snakes, they have eyelids. Their unusual form is used to bury in soft earth, with one species preferring the soft earth beneath a little place called LAX.

Handout of a Bakersfield Legless Lizard

I do not own these images

The Effect of Environment Diversity on Biodiversity

New research into how much diversity in the environment is needed to promote good biodiversity.

Organism of the Day: The Panda Ant

Behold, the Panda Ant (Euspinolia militaris)!

ImageThis little guy certainly is strange. Surprisingly, it is not an ant at all, but still a member of the same Order (Hymenoptera). Actually, it’s a wasp. The family Mutillidae is the family of velvet ants, which are furry, wingless wasps. Or rather, wingless female wasps. These little guys can pack a punch; Their sting hurts so much that it’s also called the “Cow Killer”. They live in the Andes in Chile, so don’t expect to see one around here.

ImageNote, I don’t own these images.

Welcome to the Study of Life

Hi everyone! Aaron here. It has occurred to me that, no matter how many times I close my eyes and wish really, really hard, I cannot teleport, be in several places at once, fly on command, or shoot lasers out of my eyes. With the realization that I am, unfortunately, a mortal, I see now that I cannot help all of you at any time of the day. However, fear not! For I have found the solution (ish), and you’re looking right at it. This website will be a depository for many things. Practice tests and their answer keys, useful and informative images, explanations of things seen in class, links to the latest Biology News, a message board to contact me, and possibly even video responses/explanations. To those who cannot make the SI meetings, for whatever reason, I certainly hope this helps, and if you do make them, I hope this acts as a fair supplement…to the supplement. Life on this planet is wondrous, stretching billions of years in time and adopting lifestyles and forms so spectacular that they don’t cease to amaze even after they are long gone. And even then, something new and astounding arises; a new protein, a new body form, and sometimes, a brand new world. It is something that makes this little rock in a vast cosmos unique, and adds a complex layer of existence which, in my own opinion, is inherently special in this universe. My hope is that you eventually, if you haven’t already, find a love for the the study of Life, or at the least, an appreciation and understanding of it.

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

-Charles Darwin, 

Final Paragraph of  On the Origin of Species