Science round-up: stories and research….

…. that I’ve missed out on over the past week or so, due to patchy internet access.

Hello loyal followers (although I’m not sure how many of you there are – possibly one or two??). As you would have seen, I have been away from home over the past couple of weeks, first in London, then in Washington DC (with sight-seeing in New York as evidenced in Monday Awesome), and now, finally, I’m at my last stop in Mexico City.

I’m at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) and I have an internet connection!! Yay! After more than a week of not much interweb, it’s great. So, let me commence my round-up of interesting things I’ve seen from the past week or two:

1) Cane toad toxin is not so bad for some blue-tongue lizards.

2) Microplastic is bad and all-pervasive.

3) Lyme disease is on the increase in the UK.

4) American politics is bizarre.

Blue-tonge lizard (photo credit NewScientist article)

1) Lizards taking on cane toads and winning.

Newly published and reported in New Scientist, this work comes out of Rick Shine’s lab at the University of Sydney. Shine’s group found that blue-tongue lizards whose diet included a particular introduced plant (or ‘ornamental’ plant, if you’re that way inclined) were affected less by cane toad toxin than those lizards who did not dine on the plant. The plant in question is called mother-of-millions, and has a toxin in its flowers similar to that of cane toad poison. The research suggests that the lizards have built an immunity to the toxin via eating the plants, and therefore do not react as strongly to cane toad toxin. Nice. If only we could get mammals and reptiles across northern Australia immune to cane toad toxins.

2) Microplastic is everywhere – and could even be in the food chain.

From the BBC, I learned about microplastic and how it is everywhere. Microplastic is the term for all the little fibres shed by polyester, acrylic and nylon clothes during washing, that consequently get into water systems via treated (or untreated) sewerage processes. But it gets worse. There is evidence that microplastics are getting into the food chain. These tiny bits of plastic fibres are being eaten by very small animals, and the fibres are getting into their cells. That’s bad.

3) British dogs harbouring Lyme disease-harbouring ticks.

Also from the BBC, is a report on Lyme disease in the UK. Apparently the rate of incidence of Lyme disease has been increasing in the UK over the past few years. Now, research indicates that the abundance of Lyme-bearing ticks (presumably Ixodes scapularis, but the report doesn’t specify which species) on domestic dogs, is higher than previously thought. The prevalence of dogs infected with Borrelia burgdorferi (the disease bit) in the particular study was over 2%, as opposed to 0.5% as expected. So watch out, British owners of dogs who like to play in the woods.

4) Newt Bloody Gingrich wants to be a spaceman.

After spending a week in America, in the middle of Republican nomination debate/primary/whatever-the-hell-it-is things, I’ve decided that Newt is just plain awful. Words can’t describe it but whenever I saw him on the tv, I had an overwhelming urge to throw things at it. His “let’s put a space station on the moon” is seriously moronic. It’s nice to know that others agree. Like John Glenn, first American to orbit the Earth. If your platform as a Republican is to bag out the way the current administration handled the world economic crisis, running with “let’s shoot billions of dollars at a lunar satellite” is probably not clever.

So there you have it. A couple of things I liked, and one thing I really didn’t. Hopefully with my fancy-schmancy internet access, I’ll be able to bring more science-esque things to you (and if you have any suggestions for blog-worthy science, let me know). That is, if I’m not too busy in the lab extracting DNA from acanthocephalans. 🙂


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