April 17, 2014 at 12:43pm
Female penis, male vagina
The females of the cave-dwelling insect Neotrogla aurora penetrate the males with a penis-like organ. It’s inflatable and covered in spines that prevent males from escaping during copulations that last 40 to 70 hours. (When researchers tried to separate one copulating pair, they ripped the male in half while the genitals remained interlocked.) Competition among females for nutritious “seminal gifts” may have driven the evolution of the female penis:
All known Neotrogla species inhabit extremely dry oligotrophic caves and feed on bat guano and bat carcasses, which are relatively scarce resources. Under such circumstances, nutritious seminal gifts cause a strong selection pressure for increased female mating rate.
Source: Female penis, male vagina, and their correlated evolution in a cave insect by Kazunori Yoshizawa, Rodrigo Ferreira & others, Current Biology (2014)
“Using little more than a flattened fossil, researchers from UC Berkeley have created a stunningly life-like computer rendering of a long-extinct lycopod. A quick glance at this primordial plant reveals a very alien-looking species.
The computer rendering was compiled by graduate student Jeff Benca.”
Learn more at io9.
Black Friday-The Collapse of the American Shopping Mall | Seph Lawless | Via
When they were built in the 1970s these two gleaming Ohio malls were symbols of the boom years in the U.S., and their wide walkways were filled with shoppers.
Now the verdant foliage that decorated them has died off and the fountains inside are dry as store after store deserted the out-of-town malls.
The demise of the Rolling Acres and and Randall Park Mall have been documented by photographer Seph Lawless, who remembers visiting them when he was a child and even had his first job at one of the them.
So iconic, the book cover needs no words
via Melville House
When Rodents Were Rhino-Sized
The yellow curve shows the emergence of rhino-sized rodents in South America about 20 million years ago. It’s from a new paper linking the evolution of gigantic size in mammals to global changes in climate towards cooler and harsher conditions. [Patterns of maximum body size evolution in Cenozoic land mammals: eco-evolutionary processes and abiotic forcing by Juha Saarinen et al, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2014)]
The superb painting by James Gurney shows Josephoartigasia monesi, an extinct rodent that weighed about 2,000 pounds, judging from fossil remains described in 2008. It is the largest of the 50 known species of Dinomyidae, a family of giant rodents from South America, all but one now extinct. The pakarana (Dinomys branickii), the only surviving family member, weighs in at around 30 pounds.
Explosive pods launch seeds up to 20ft
Speaking of the evolutionary strategies of seeds, let’s all take a moment and appreciate this fantastic “exploding pod” maneuver, employed by a number of plants. Some varieties of Caigua (which I discussed last week), have to be harvested with goggles, just in case they pop!
(Source: ForGIFs.com, via anarchobotanist)
Where you grow up makes a huge difference in chances of moving up the income ladder.
What’s up with the Deep South? Here’s a historical insight from Colin Woodard:
Established by English slave lords from Barbados, Deep South was meant as a West Indies–style slave society. This nation offered a version of classical Republicanism modeled on the slave states of the ancient world, where democracy was the privilege of the few and enslavement the natural lot of the many. Its caste systems smashed by outside intervention, it continues to fight against expanded federal powers, taxes on capital and the wealthy, and environmental, labor, and consumer regulations.
Where is the Land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States, by Raj Chetty and colleagues at NBER and Harvard University (2014)
Up in Arms, by Colin Woodard, Tufts Magazine (2013)
A Pyramid in the Middle of Nowhere Built To Track the End of the World
A huge pyramid in the middle of nowhere tracking the end of the world on radar, just an abstract geometric shape beneath the sky without a human being in sight: it could be the opening scene of an apocalyptic science fiction film, but it’s just the U.S. military going about its business, building vast and other-worldly architectural structures that the civilian world only rarely sees.
The Library of Congress has an extraordinary set of images documenting the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex in Cavalier County, North Dakota, showing it in various states of construction and completion. And the photos are awesome.