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  1.  (6769.1)
    Well, it's not actually called a Dickheaded Shark.

    It just... is a dickheaded shark.
  2.  (6769.2)
    Kosmopolit posted about the parasitoid wasps that spawn a eusocial army of cloned 'soldiers' that patrol their host and keep it free from competing larvae

    Turns out there's a species of trematode flat worms that are not only eusocial, they've developed a similar tactic of asexually producing an army of sterile soldiers.
    Scientists at UC Santa Barbara have discovered a caste of genetically identical "warrior worms" -- members of a parasitic fluke species that invades the California horn snail.

    The findings are reported in the early online version of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

    "We have discovered flatworms in colonies with vicious, killer morphs defending the colony," said Armand M. Kuris, professor of zoology, in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology. "These flukes have a strongly developed social organization, much like some insects, mammals and birds." The tiny warrior worms are only a couple of millimeters in length, yet they are powerful thanks to relatively large mouths.

    These worms form colonies in snails. Reproductive worms and soldier worms cooperate to grow and defend their colony within the snail. These two types of individuals look and behave differently, explained first author Ryan F. Hechinger, assistant research biologist with UCSB's Marine Science Institute. The warrior worms attack other invasive parasites trying to invade the snail.


    These colonies also act like an immune system, defending the body of the snail from other fluke infections, said second author Alan C. Wood, a marine science lab manager at UCSB. The soldiers behave like white blood cells; they attack other unrelated flukes, biting and killing them.

    These flukes with soldier castes may also have a biomedical application. They might be used in the biological control of major human parasitic diseases such as blood flukes. There are 200 million cases of blood fluke diseases worldwide, said Kuris. The soldier worms might eliminate infections from forming in the snail hosts, preventing infections in humans. Liver flukes might also be controlled.
    The biotherapy applications of this are really fascinating too.
  3.  (6769.3)
    Not creepy - just weird.

    Brazilian insects of the Membracids family:

    The current theory as to why they look so weird is that nothing's going to eat anything that looks THAT weird.

    • CommentTimeDec 1st 2010
    ^Some of them look like Henry Moore sculptures...
  4.  (6769.5)

    much more interesting than NASA's arsenic-eating bug.

    Oriental hornets can extract energy directly from sunlight. They don't use a symbiotic algae like some other animals that photosynthesize, in fact they don't even use chlorophyl.

    This is a completely different technique for extracting power from light which they appear to have evolved all on their own.

    The energy isn't enough to support them but apparently gives them a boost during the day.

    • CommentTimeDec 9th 2010

    Whoohoo! NatGeo did an article on the ten weirdest new animals of 2010!

    My favourite? Squidworm:

    • CommentTimeDec 12th 2010 edited
    Edit for repetition

    Well, fuck.
  5.  (6769.8)
    (RatDonalds there was already way up in the top, posted by the thread's originator.)
    • CommentTimeDec 12th 2010
    Look what I found in my back garden yesterday. It's not sick or weird, just HUGE

    It was mostly-dead with ants crawling all over it. I brushed them off and put it somewhere safe, but it carked it anyway.
    • CommentTimeDec 12th 2010
    ^What the hell is it?
    • CommentTimeDec 12th 2010 edited
    It's called a Children's Stick Insect. It has amazingly delicate wings.

    Link to info

    (edited for linkage)
    • CommentAuthorradian
    • CommentTimeDec 13th 2010
    barrel eye fish

    Barreleye Fish. Has a transparent forehead for spotting predators through...
    • CommentAuthorPablo
    • CommentTimeDec 13th 2010
    That Barreleye Fish is freaking awesome.
    • CommentAuthorRenThing
    • CommentTimeDec 22nd 2010
    Scientists produce singing mice.

    God I love living in the future.
  6.  (6769.15)
    With respect to the singing mice, it's possible that this mutation brings down the pitch of the normal ultrasonic vocalizations of mice, which would be pretty interesting.
    • CommentTimeJan 9th 2011
    Look what I found today!

    Cathedral Rock Trail

    It's an Anemone stinkhorn (Aseroe rubra, meaning "disgusting red"). That sticky brown stuff in the middle? It's called the gleba, and gives off a delightful odour of rotting flesh (thankfully this one didn't smell of anything much due to recent rain).

    Fungi are weird...
    • CommentAuthorRenThing
    • CommentTimeJan 9th 2011
    That looks like it's going to leap from the forest floor, wrap itself around your head, and implant eggs up your nose.
    • CommentTimeJan 9th 2011 edited
    In "small study on subject-loaded-with-preexisting-prejudices as reported by lay media" news, we have a study in which men who sniffed women's tears became less sensitive to sexually arousing images.

    Basically this article gets the Noble Prize for silly science reporting. For this amazingly terrible sentence:

    Perhaps human tears contained a chemical signal too, Sobel thought. So he asked six women to watch triple-hanky chick flicks such as "My Sister's Keeper" and let their tears trickle into a test tube.

    *edit: here is the Science article for this story, not really any better, though it does provide info on the control.

    Not addressed in either article: did the six women used in the study have fertility issues. Alternately, were they in non-ovulatory phase or already pregnant. I mean if you've already decided to look for libido-influencing chemical signals in fucking tears, that's possibly relevant. Unless scientists have already foreseen that problem, and demonstrated that female tear-smell never varies outside of emotional status.
    • CommentAuthorMono
    • CommentTimeJan 10th 2011
    @smileyfish: Dear heavens, 'tis an Elder Thing! Run!
  7.  (6769.20)
    ... What?
    Satirist Stephen Colbert envisions his “Colbert Nation” mentally marching in lockstep with his special brand of patriotism. But scientists have done him one better, by creating tiny worm-bots completely under their control.

    Rather than comedic persuasion, these scientists are using a dot of laser light. With it they can make a worm turn left, freeze or lay an egg. The researchers report their work online Jan. 16 in Nature Methods.

    The new system, named CoLBeRT for “Controlling Locomotion and Behavior in Real Time,” doesn’t just create a mindless zombie-worm, though. It gives scientists the ability to pick apart complicated behaviors on a cell-by-cell basis.

    [...] Transparent and small, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is particularly amenable to light-based mind control. Another benefit of the worm is that researchers know the precise location of all 302 of its nerve cells. But until now, there wasn’t a good way to study each cell by itself, especially in a wriggling animal.

    “This tool allows us to go in and poke and prod at those neurons in an animal as it’s moving, and see exactly what each neuron does,” says study co-author Andrew Leifer of Harvard University.

    The system is based on the emerging field of optogenetics, in which light is used to turn cells on or off. Leifer and his colleagues genetically engineered light-responsive molecules into particular groups of cells in the worm.

    Then, a computer program that the team developed figures out where in the microscope’s field of view a target cell is. Once the cell is pinpointed, the program directs lasers so that a tiny beam of light hits the cell.
    The part I don't get is... Colbert?