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    [–] If you have ever wondered what a squirrel sounds like... tea_and_biology 1 points ago in Awwducational

    Hey /u/gamecocks1991,

    I'm afraid your submission has been removed as you didn't include a fact in your title along with a verifiable source in the comments (Rules #2 and #3). Feel free to take a peek at the guidelines in the sidebar, or check out 'verified' posts in the subreddit, for an idea of what sort of content and format we cater for here.

    Thanks for your time!

    T&B

    [–] Although they mostly eat bugs, meerkats will also happily devour snake eggs, birds and venomous scorpions, which they have learned to catch and eat without getting stung. tea_and_biology 1 points ago * (lasted edited 11 days ago) in Awwducational

    Wikipedia source here, along with a NewScientist article on how young meerkats learn to tackle scorpions here, for those who want more details!

    u/capycapybarabara, if you would include a verifiable source with your next submission (Rule #3) it'd be appreciated. Thanks!

    [–] Things to do with a sweet old lady tea_and_biology 12 points ago * (lasted edited 18 days ago) in oxford

    Ooh, I was about to add, although the usual college/city tours are fairly lengthy, with you up on your feet the entire time, depending on timings, you'd be welcome to visit Brasenose College for a wee tour courtesy of myself if you were interested? You can, of course, visit pretty much almost any college for a self-guided visit, but without someone to show you around, I expect one would miss much of the history and interesting tidbits which make the colleges worth a visit beyond a spot of nice architecture. Anywho, open offer - just send me a DM!

    [–] Things to do with a sweet old lady tea_and_biology 11 points ago * (lasted edited 18 days ago) in oxford

    If it's a pleasant day, perhaps one of those open-top city bus tours? I've never been on one so can't say if it'll be any good, but apparently you'll get a commentary on some of the historic bits of the city from the comfort of a seat, plus I think an additional short walking tour around Radcliffe Square if you're feeling up to it (20-30 mins).

    There's also a dozen or more concerts pretty much every lunchtime and evening in various colleges n' churches in the city centre. If you fancy an hour or so of some classical, choir or jazz in an old Oxford college, might be quite nice? They're often free too! Have a look through the Oxford Daily Info for some listings - or check out the various hoardings scattered around town.

    Otherwise, the museums (Ashmolean, Natural History etc.; although less so Pitt Rivers) have plenty of seating areas and nice cafés, allowing you to leisurely wander around at your own pace, taking a couple of breaks here n' there.

    Hope you have a good time!

    [–] Calafornia has started a headstart program for desert tortoises. Only about 2% of tortoises survive the hatchling period, so they keep them during that time then when they're older and bigger they release them into the wild. tea_and_biology 3 points ago in Awwducational

    Non-news link to the San Diego Zoo press release here, along with some success stories from the ongoing headstart program led by collaborators at the Combat Center’s Tortoise Research and Captive Rearing Site here - for those interested. I've been unable to verify the 2% statistic from anything but the Cadiz Inc. (another joint collaborator) press release and associated news stories - I'm inclined to believe 'em, but feel free to take that with a pinch of salt y'all.

    Anywho, approved n' verified - thanks!

    [–] Which cells in your body are the last to die when you die? tea_and_biology 33 points ago * (lasted edited a month ago) in askscience

    Okay, let's say you died. Whoops! Nasty way to go. Commiserations to your family n' all. I hope they can salvage enough for the casket. Anywho, as soon as the oxygen supply via the circulatory system is removed, cells begin to enter their stress responses and unsurprisingly some are better at coping than others.

    Oxygen slurping cells like your neurons require a constant fix; they're amongst the first to go, on the order of minutes. Likewise most vital organs expire pretty quickly. Taking a peek at warm ischemia time data - that is, the length of time tissue can remain at body temperature after death (still 'alive' and viable) and a useful timer by which to harvest organs from an recent ex-person for transplantation - indicates that your heart and lungs become irrecoverable almost immediately, your liver is done for after half an hour, and your kidneys n' pancreas join them after an hour or so.

    Other bits of your body are better able to cope however, like much of your structural tissue. Your corneas, for example, can be successfully harvested up to 6 hours after death (often longer too, up to a day, though beyond 6 and the epithelia start sloughing off too much); ditto some of your skin, bone, connective tissue etc.

    Beyond that, it's getting a little tricky. Sperm cells show motility for up to 36 hours after death. Indeed, there have been a fair number of cases where live sperm has successfully been extracted for use by wives of dead husbands a few days after death (there's an interesting RadioLab episode on the subject, well worth a listen, here!)

    As far as the record goes however, it's difficult to determine. One study (Dokgöza et al., 2001) suggests that lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, can last as long as 72 hours; though it's worth noting much of that time is them spent preparing for apoptosis, or cell suicide - they only remain fully functional and 'active' up until around the 24-36 hour mark, similar to sperm.

    Turns out it's around this time that protein degradation kicks in and pretty much all of your feeble human cells can't cope with that and decide to self-destruct. So basically if hypoxia doesn't kill you, seppuku will. There are however cells in your body that will last much, much longer! They are, of course, your bacterial microbiome - the wee organisms that live in your gut, digesting your food amongst other things. They'll be around for a long while after you stop feeding them, many feasting on, well, you, as it happens.


    Sources:

    Bernat, J.L., D'Alessandro, A.M., Port, F.K. et al. (2006) Report of a National Conference on Donation after Cardiac Death. American Journal of Transplantation. 6 (2), 281-291

    Dokgöza, H., Arican, N., Elmas, I., & Fincanci, S.K. (2001) Comparison of morphological changes in white blood cells after death and in vitro storage of blood for the estimation of postmortem interval. Forensic Science International. 124 (1), 25-31

    Pozhitkov, A.E., Neme, R., Domazet-Lošo, T., et al. (2016) Tracing the dynamics of gene transcripts after organismal death. Open Biology. 7(1)

    [–] Does Confuse Ray affect Normal Type Pokémon? Or 'mons already with a status condition (sleep via Rest)? tea_and_biology 1 points ago in PokemonQuest

    Whoops! Meant to say buffer (I'm not so down with the terminology, eek!) - It's a tank Slowbro with Withdraw, until my Machamp learns the damn move I want it to!

    [–] Does Confuse Ray affect Normal Type Pokémon? Or 'mons already with a status condition (sleep via Rest)? tea_and_biology 2 points ago in PokemonQuest

    Thanks for confirming!

    Also, stop wasting your time if your strat against it is just "inflicting Snorlax w/stauts so it can't sleep".

    It's more, "Snorlax comes up so rarely, my best option is to stick with my one status + two DPS team as they'd otherwise get slaughtered" - which works great for everything else, 'cept when Snorlax does pop up, even with DMeteor and HPump on Dragonite n' Starmie, they aren't enough to take it down alone. Hence me trying Confuse Ray as a second move on the Starmie as a possible counter.

    But yeah, eh, you're right, it's not working and I ought to try something else!

    [–] Bird have their own taste in music. Most parrots like classical music or pop, but they generally hate electronic dance music. tea_and_biology 23 points ago in Awwducational

    Scientific sources here, here and here for those curious for details (if you can get around the paywalls / gain access!). In short, some parrots in some studies responded to some music in some sort of way sometimes. Oh, also, more interestingly, some humans are trying to make instruments that allow parrots to play music themselves.

    Anywho, in the study quoted for the title, music preference was tested on only a very small number of African grey parrots; even then, as noted by the authors themselves, individuals had different tastes which could not be generalised, let alone across all parrots as per the title. Tagged as 'questionable / unverified' for this reason!

    Cute GIF though, eh?

    [–] The northern cardinal is probably the most 'romantic' bird species: they mate for life, travel together, sing before nesting, and during courtship, feed seed beak-to-beak tea_and_biology 56 points ago in Awwducational

    Haha, nah. Penguins get around, a lot. About a third of all Adélie penguins engage in extra pair copulation and/or mate-switching in any given breeding season (source) - often ending in pretty nasty violence when hubby comes home after a fishing trip to find another guy all up in his partner (kinda' conveniently left that out of Happy Feet, didn't they?). This sort of behaviour actually got pretty sensationalised a few years back, starting with a BBC article on how female Adélie penguin prostitute themselves for nesting material. The reality is a little more nuanced; they're often simply stealing material and then, when caught, offer their bodies in order to perhaps distract and avoid a fight.

    In any case, penguins are getting off with another all over the place for multiple reasons, and it's not all happy families when it comes to penguin colonies.

    [–] The northern cardinal is probably the most 'romantic' bird species: they mate for life, travel together, sing before nesting, and during courtship, feed seed beak-to-beak tea_and_biology 43 points ago in Awwducational

    Good question! Turns out it goes both ways in parrots. Many are legitimately monogamous; one study on crimson rosella parrots found no evidence for any extra pair copulation (source). Others however behave in just the same sort of way as the cardinals - being socially monogamous, with boys n' girls forming nesting pairs that often stick together across multiple mating seasons, but not sexually monogamous. For example, in monk parakeets just under half of all nests reared by a bonded pair also contained chicks from other fathers (source).

    Not being a psittacologist (?) myself, I'm not too familiar with the types of environmental and behavioural pressures affecting parrots in particular that would push them in either direction - so I can't say what lovebirds might get up to (I haven't yet found any studies on them either!). In which case, the doe-eyed view we have about 'em may yet still hold true!

    [–] Some slime molds can turn into slugs and search for food or a better spot. Despite not having a brain they have been shown to be able to anticipate and react to stimuli using a rudimentary internal clock. tea_and_biology 12 points ago * (lasted edited a month ago) in Awwducational

    Slime mold slugs are definitely animals right mods?

    Well, technically not even remotely, paha - but y'know what, we don't exactly have any rules on critters having to be animals, so you're all good! I guess we just never had the situation where somebody considers some bacterium, or a parasitic protist, or some other bit of eukaryotic goop like your slime mold to be 'cute', 'innit.

    You've convinced me though. N'aaw, look at it's wee probing lil' snoot!

    [–] The northern cardinal is probably the most 'romantic' bird species: they mate for life, travel together, sing before nesting, and during courtship, feed seed beak-to-beak tea_and_biology 2821 points ago * (lasted edited a month ago) in Awwducational

    Zoologist parachuting in! Weeeeeeeeeeee!

    Mate for life, eh? Hmmmm. Despite the common Disney vibes we prescribe to Northern cardinals, and backyard songbirds in general, the reality of bird life down the garden is actually far more dirty, gritty and very much R-rated.

    I mean, fair, Northern cardinals are at least arguably "monogamous" during a single breeding season. Saying that, by "monogamous" what I really mean is that they're, well, about as monogamous as we humans are - they cheat, have side-mistresses, saunter off for secret moonlit soirées with the milkman, n' everything. It's a no holds barred gang bang down the woods these days.

    In technical terms this behaviour is known as extra-pair copulation. Basically the female will sometimes sneak off to mate with extra males, and perhaps too the male will meet with another female from time to time. It's actually advantageous for both sexes to do so:

    • By banging females from several other nests, males can ensure some of their eggs will have been fertilised by him, without having to invest in their care growing up - being busy with his own nest n' partner - and so maximising his reproductive success.

    • It's more risky for females who have to invest more in raising their offspring - don't wanna' catch an STD or anything. But, it's thought they do so to ensure their brood is more genetically diverse, with some individuals more likely to succeed than others when they grow up (she's the winner as she has genes in all of them). They might also mate to acquire additional resources from nearby males, such as nesting material, which will better ensure the survival of all of her chicks.

    So, err, yeah. With up to 35% of all eggs within a nest containing genetic material from an outsider (source #1, #2), Northern cardinals are cheatin' birdholes, sorry to say. And that's for only one breeding season; they frequently switch their primary mate year on year, going for an upgrade and all that. But it's all good news as the chicks will all have a better chance of survival for it!

    In fact, most birds commonly thought of as mating for life don't really. If you do want a legitimately monogamous bird however, why not swipe right for a puffin? This study found no extra-pair paternity in a puffin colony - given the difficulty finding mates and rearing young, they really do stick together through thick and thin. N'aaaw!

    TL;DR: Northern Cardinals are rarely, if ever, truly monogamous in the way we often think of it. Minutes after being beak-fed by her dutiful hubby, she's probably off in the bushes bumping uglies with his rivals - as also will he. Bird life 'aint all roses.

    [–] Two years ago today, "Toughie" - the last Rabb's Fringe-Limbed Tree Frog on Earth - passed away in captivity, and with him his entire species. Amphibian populations worldwide are being decimated by the spread of Chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease for which there is no known in-situ cure. tea_and_biology 49 points ago * (lasted edited 2 months ago) in Awwducational

    Deep in the jungles of Panama in 2005, conservation scientists were racing to find and rescue as many individual frogs as possible, removing them from the wild to be placed into international captive breeding programmes. Amongst them was "Toughie" and his kin - the last dozen or so known Rabb's Fringe-Limbed Tree Frogs on the planet. How come?

    Well, it's called Chytridiomycosis. A fungal disease that, like the black death pandemic that ravaged Eurasian human populations during the 14th century, is spreading like hellfire through ampibian populations worldwide. Originating in Africa, our penchant for introducing non-native species into new territories meant we humans spread it via Xenopus frogs, which were frequently used for pregnancy testing up until the 1950s. Infected Xenopus brought chytrid spores into new countries, which then made it into native populations that were unable to cope with the disease. Once established, there was nothing we could do.

    As we speak, amphibians worldwide are facing one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and sadly losing. Mortality rates are very high, often 100%, and though we can somewhat successfully treat chytridiomycosis in captive frogs, via bathing in anti-fungal medication and antibiotics (weirdly), there is currently no available vaccine, nor effective method to quarantine, protect or otherwise treat amphibians currently in the wild.

    As such, since the 1990s, chytridiomycosis has been responsible for the mass die-off and extinction of dozens of amphibian species, a figure set to only get worse as it spreads. Thankfully, there is a glimmer of hope for many of our friendly hoppos. Captive breeding programmes have successfully managed to rescue plenty of frogs that were in the line of fire, and though many species are currently extinct in the wild, we're managing to keep insurance populations going in captivity - to hopefully one day be returned to the wild should we manage to solve the chytrid problem.

    Alas, we were a little too late for Toughie and his pals. Once the last female died, Toughie was left calling into the void, never to be heard by another Rabb's Frog again. He died 26th September 2016. RIP, 'innit. Gone, but not forgotten! #WicksOutForToughie


    Sources:

    Weldon, C., du Preez, L.H., Hyatt, A.D. et al. (2004) Origin of the Amphibian Chytrid Fungus. Emerg Infect Dis. 10 (12), 2100-2105

    Stice, M.J. & Briggs, C.J. (2010) Immunization is ineffective at preventing infection and mortality due to the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis.. Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 46 (10), 70-77

    P.S. If you wanna' help save froggos from their sticky situation, there are plenty of charities and other NGOs doing the good work to whom you can donate - for one, check out The Amphibian Ark, who're rescuing frogs from the wild and researching more effective methods to fight the chytrid plague!

    [–] How come other mammals (i.e. dogs) have evolved to not have nipples but humans have not? tea_and_biology 9 points ago * (lasted edited 2 months ago) in askscience

    With exception to the monotremes - a basal group of mammals, including the echidna and platypus, which lay eggs and provide milk from open pores in their skin - all female mammals have nipples. Doesn't matter if you're a human, dog, blue whale or pygmy three-toed sloth; if you're a lady mammal, you have 'em.

    Likewise all male mammals have nipples at some point in their life (after all, every individual mammal initially starts off developing as female in the womb); most retain theirs into adulthood, though in a fair few species they're lost during embryonic development, leaving no trace at birth. Male horses lack nipples, as do brown rats and house mice, for example.

    So why do some males lose 'em? There doesn't seem to be any evolutionary advantage, however given the nipple developmental sequence is rather complex and involved, and because blind evolutionary forces tend to lose things that aren't beneficial, it's likely just the result of random drift; one of several genes involved was mutated and given it didn't reduce fitness in any way, happened to stick around. The presence of nipples in most other male mammals likewise doesn't affect fitness, and so there isn't any selective pressure to actively remove 'em either.

    Just as an interesting aside, on the flip side, there's one curious species of bat - the dayak fruit bat - wherein males not only retain their nipples, but can also lactate!

    Anywho, both male and female dogs and humans have nipples, so the premise of your question isn't quite accurate I'm afraid. Next time you give a good boy his belly rub, look a little further down away from the ribs and towards the belly - you'll find a neat lil' row of doggo teats to peruse. Enjoy?!


    Source:

    Wysolmerski, J.J., Philbrick, W.M., Dunbar, M.E. et al. (1998) Rescue of the parathyroid hormone-related protein knockout mouse demonstrates that parathyroid hormone-related protein is essential for mammary gland development. Development. 125, 1285-1294

    [–] What’s an attraction from your city/town that tourists go insane over but natives couldn’t care less about? tea_and_biology 1 points ago in AskReddit

    Haha! Asking the important questions! Go to the one directly opposite the train station car park - The Penrhos Arms. Absolutely fine for a pint. The other pub, the Ty Gwyn is best avoided. If you're looking for a pub lunch or summit' though, there are a bunch of other more gastro-minded pubs elsewhere on the island, that are probably a better bet. I'd consult TripAdvisor and your own tastes on that one though!

    [–] What experiments/tests do you think the government are doing that we have no idea about? tea_and_biology 2 points ago * (lasted edited 2 months ago) in AskReddit

    Would you be comfortable having your family's genomes out there?

    Personally, I would - and I have! Likewise speaking from the 'other side' as it were, having worked in labs analysing patient genetic information, privacy and transparency concerns are taken very seriously. From the get-go, all data is pseudonymised, attached to a garbled reference number that's often only matched to you as an individual in a single client-side database (which few have access to) and for only as long as they need to contact you about it. Otherwise, it's fully anonymised and just another line of code in a database.

    I mean, sure, it's possible to cross-reference the raw data with other information that may be available (anywhere from census information to social media posts) and perhaps identify the genome that belongs to you - but the difficulty would be phenomenal for any third-party and, well, the information you'd really need in order to de-anonymise your genome is far more sensitive and useful (e.g private medical records, banking information etc.). If someone was really out to get you in that way, a bit of anonymised genetic information encrypted on a server somewhere would be the least of my worries!

    [–] What experiments/tests do you think the government are doing that we have no idea about? tea_and_biology 2 points ago in AskReddit

    Do mass produced chips contain several gene variants and control for each gene?

    Yup! That's actually the point - they're mostly checking for things called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which are simply single letter differences you find between different people on the very same gene. Well, it's a lil' bit more targeted, they're not looking for all SNPs - every one of us will have wee differences in thousands of our genes compared to our peers, but those mostly don't matter at all - instead they're only focusing on very specific SNPs that we already know are associated with differences in susceptibility to whatever genetic diseases they've chosen to look for.

    In terms of accuracy, it exceeds 99.9%, though given they're looking at up to a million or so variants, even a 0.001% error rate will mean a few false positives or similar will be flagged - in any case, if anything medically significant or worrying is flagged, it provides a foundation from which to go on for a more rigorous genetic screening to double-check anyway.

    [–] What experiments/tests do you think the government are doing that we have no idea about? tea_and_biology 5 points ago in AskReddit

    Haha, oui! Have a full genome sequence and a lovely DTI ("sMRI") scan of my own brain for, err, dodgy biological self-assessment reasons. It's nice to know I probably maybe won't go bald, and that I have enough connections between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and the amygdala to know I'm probably not actually a psychopath. Probably.

    *Nervous twitch*

    [–] What experiments/tests do you think the government are doing that we have no idea about? tea_and_biology 5761 points ago * (lasted edited 2 months ago) in AskReddit

    Biologist here! If it makes you feel better, companies like 23andMe don't actually sequence your genome. Like, at all. Instead they genotype you, which is quite a different thing.

    I won't go into the nitty gritty details, but basically if your genome was a book, they're not reading it or making photocopies - that sequencing is far too expensive and involved. Instead, they're simply flicking through super quick to check pages 17 and 485 haven't been ripped out, and to see whether Chapter 6 starts on page 112 or 113.

    For a lil' more detail, they do this using a mass-produced microchip thingy, upon which there lies a grid - like a big physical excel spreadsheet. Each cell in this grid corresponds to some variant bit of the human genome, and will light up if any DNA that matches that variant touches it. So what they do is they wash this chip with a whole loada' your raw DNA, and a whole buncha' cells in this grid will light up. By looking at which cells do and don't light up, they then know your genome contains the sequences that match up with the reference sequences in those cells. No sequencing, no reading, just a quick flag to see what's going on down there.

    So yup, don't worry - nobody will be cloning you any time soon! Well, at least, not from the mainstream companies on the market that analyse yer' spit for thirty bucks. If you want your full genome sequenced, there are a couple of ways to do it, but it'll set you back about a cool thousand dollars or more.

    EDIT: Ooh, just to clarify, I'm not making any claims about what they may or may not do with the pseudonymised data they do collect, and whether that's a legitimate concern or not - up to y'all to decide whether to throw on the tinfoil or not. You can check out their privacy policy for yourself (in short, they claim to take privacy and transparency very seriously; you choose what they do with your sample and information afterwards, who they can and can't share it with, whether it's destroyed/deleted or not etc. etc); so make of it what you will!

    [–] The great dying of 2018 tea_and_biology 3 points ago in collapse

    u/see-the-world, do you have the source of this image, or a higher quality version, by any chance?