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  1.  (6769.1)
    I do a lot of research into weird medicine and biology for my comic Witch Doctor, and I think Whitechapel needs a link-dump thread devoted to such things. (Apologies if one already exists; I didn't find one when I searched.)

    I shall go first.

    Parasitic cancers.
    A parasitic cancer or transmissible cancer is a cancer cell or cluster of cancer cells that can be transmitted from animal to animal. Cancer is not normally a contagious disease, but there are two known exceptions: one is in dogs, and the other is in the Tasmanian devil.

    Devil facial tumor disease is spread through biting, rough sex, and sharing a meal. It causes lumps and lesions on the face that turn into tumors and can spread to the whole body, and can interfere with eating to the point that the animal starves to death. It's wiped out 20-50% of the Devil population.
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  3.  (6769.3)
    Glass sculptures of viruses.
    These transparent glass sculptures were created to contemplate the global impact of each disease and to consider how the artificial colouring of scientific imagery affects our understanding of phenomena. Jerram is exploring the tension between the artworks' beauty and what they represent, their impact on humanity.

    [...] The sculptures were designed in consultation with virologists from the University of Bristol using a combination of different scientific photographs and models.

    Fucking gorgeous.
      CommentAuthormister hex
    • CommentTimeSep 11th 2009
    Christian Bok (I won't call him a friend but a contemporary of mine) is writing a poem on a ... microbe? Virus? Not sure. Unsure with links but I saw it SOMEWHERE.
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  5.  (6769.6)
    I always thought a cross section of HIV would make a really beautiful back tattoo.
    • CommentAuthorRonin
    • CommentTimeSep 11th 2009
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeSep 12th 2009
    The extinct New Zealand raptor Haast's eagle was 30-40% larger than the largest rapot alive today.

    Haast's Eagle co-existed with the Maori for around two hundred years before becoming extinct roughly 500 years ago probably because the Maori wiped out the Moa, the gigantic flightless birds the eagles preyed on.

    New evidence suggests Haast's Eagles killed and ate humans - bearing out Maori legends.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeSep 12th 2009
    Naked mole rats

    The naked mole rat is the only example of a truly eusocial mammal.

    In a mole rat colony, only a single couple breed, the rest of the colony are sterile like droens in ant and bee colonies and devote themselves to serving the breeding couple.

    Because they live deep underground in tunnels where the temperature is constant year round, mole rats have lost the mammalian ability to regulate their body temperature internally.

    Stephen Baxter's sf novel Coalescent and its sequels feature a human subspecies modelled on mole rats.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeSep 12th 2009
    Some of the species of birds known as honeyguides live primarily off beeswax.

    Unable to break open bee hives themselves they guide animals such as bears and also humans to beehives. Once the animals break open the hive and eat the honey, the honeyguides move in to eat the beeswax and also the bee larvae.
    • CommentAuthorsteevo
    • CommentTimeSep 12th 2009

    These super-small cells are extremely suitable for life on otherwise untenable planets, with their minuscule food requirements, extreme resilience, and adaptability to micro-niches which couldn't support even regular sized bacteria. As well as existing where others couldn't, these sublilliputian lifeforms could persist on planets where catastrophes wiped out everything else.
  6.  (6769.12)
    @Kosmopolit: My favorite thing about Naked Mole Rats is that they're IMMUNE TO PAIN.

    (I once used them as an example in an argument with my Militant Vegetarian Ex-Girlfriend. She was arguing that it wasn't humane to eat animals, because they feel pain. She didn't like it when I asked if it was okay to eat Mole Rats because they don't feel pain.)
  7.  (6769.13)
    Here's one that blew my mind this week: HeLa Cells.

    Back in the '50s, a woman named Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer — which is to say, her was infected with HPV and the virus copied some of its genes into her cells, which went rogue. A scientist took a biopsy of her cancer and propagated the cells, and eventually released them commercially around the world. Her cells are "immortal," meaning they can just keep dividing indefinitely if the conditions are right for them to live. They've been used to develop a vaccine for polio and for research on AIDS, Ebola, cancer, radiation exposure, gene mapping, and the effects of zero gravity on the human body.

    Her cells are still being used in medical research. At this point, there have been way more HeLa cells propagated than there were cells in Henrietta Lacks' body. They've also adapted to live in tissue culture plates, and they tend to spread and contaminate other samples.

    One evolutionary biologist has pointed out that HeLa cells are incompatible with human cells, they fill a niche in an ecosystem, and they spread by themselves — so doesn't that make them their own species? He suggested the species name Helacyton gartleri.

    Another interesting tidbit about HeLa cells: They were taken and propagated without Henrietta's permission. Which is totally legal in the U.S. — under U.S. law, biological materials that come from diagnosis, surgery or therapy are the doctor's property, not the patient's.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeSep 12th 2009
    Brandon: Pain-free animals could take suffering out of farming

    My favorite mole rat fact is that their burrowing teeth are outside of the mouth so they breathe through their mouths while tunnelling,
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeSep 12th 2009
    Slime mold "robot"

    Slime molds are simple but very interesting creatures that are neither plants nor animals. They're usually sessile but can more to find new sources of food. They have rudimentary senses that respond to difference in light, temperature, moisture and so on in deciding which way to move.

    So a British scientist has build a logic gate, the basic element of a computer, where the working liquid is an actual living slime mold.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeSep 12th 2009 edited
    Scabies is typically a minor skin condition caused by parasitic mites.

    But if you fail to treat it and the victim has a compromised immune system you end up with a condition known as Norwegian Scabies.

    That's where the mites burrow into the body and pretty much eat the victim alive.

    Image link

    Noye: Edited to remove disturbing image.
  8.  (6769.17)
    JESUS, @Kosmolit!

    I think you win the thread for today.
  9.  (6769.18)
    @Kosmopolit this is where we branch off into the "did not need to see that" thread O.o
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeSep 13th 2009
    Sorry if I grossed people out. It wasn't intentional.

    If it were, there are much worse pics of Norwegian Scabies out there.
    • CommentAuthorDario
    • CommentTimeSep 13th 2009
    If it were, there are much worse pics of Norwegian Scabies out there.

    Could've just taken your word for it, but noooo.
    Thanks, Google Images. Thanks.