'Critter' is actually a form of the word 'creature' from before English pronounced 'ture' with the 'ch' sound.

I'm not sure what level 1 and level 2 would refer to - i've never come across it before (in this context). If you post the link where you saw that maybe we can clear it up.

I haven't seen anything published to back this up, so experts - feel free to correct me.

However, I think it's because these guys need extremely wide pupils during the night, and very very small openings to let light into the eye through the day that this wavey edge forms.  The longer edge allows for greater expansion.

Note that the Tokay gecko (pictured) is particularly extreme in this regard.

Why do you assume we are no longer evolving?  There's plenty of evidence to suggest growing variation and potential selection in modern human populations.  Have a look through past answers on this subject with the search box up in the top right.

Here's a couple of similar themed questions:

http://www.askabiologist.org.uk/answers … hp?id=5170

http://www.askabiologist.org.uk/answers … hp?id=8073

http://www.askabiologist.org.uk/answers … hp?id=7711

http://www.askabiologist.org.uk/answers … hp?id=6933

It's not necessarily a major part, but can be very useful.

(posted in Research and Careers)

Well, I guess it comes down to what kind of job you want to go for.  The BSc would put you in better stead for an academic career certainly.  A science degree from Bristol is also a generally good qualification to get, opening many doors for you.

With regards to lacking confidence - don't!  Everyone's thrown in at the deep end, and there's a wide range of ability levels in the A-level students coming through - as long as you're focused and enthusiastic, you don't need to worry about 'crashing and burning'.  In fact, being a mature student with a vocational background may be an advantage.

I went to Bristol, an took some of the zoology classes for undergrad, and there is some solid science/maths to the course, but there are also accompanying courses to help you through.

I don't know much about the fdsc, so I can't say if it would restrict your career potential or not...  hopefully someone else can provide a bit of experience/knowledge there.

If by "ever lived" you mean including extinct forms, then the answer is probably Purussaurus on both counts (technically it's an Alligator, but it's in the order Crocodylia)

Wiki link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purussaurus

(posted in Mammals)

Generally, when we use phrases like that, it's to indicate that it is not our direct area of expertise and that we are not responding with first hand knowledge/experience (the experts on AAB can only cover so many fields personally!), so please don't take offense at the statement.

As someone who did an undergraduate degree in Biology and Geology, and then a masters degree in computer science, I would say it isn't a bad idea, but it is a bit of a double edged sword.

The computer science side can come in really useful, and open avenues of research that you might not otherwise be able to follow. But, it can close as many doors as it opens, as you gain a niche skillset, and in jobs advertised specifically for more 'traditional' skillsets you might get overlooked.

Also worth considering: On the one hand, if you don't have the necessary computer science skillset for a given research task, you can always collaborate with someone that does.  Alternatively, if you do have the computer science background, you could be the person others go to for collaboration.

(posted in Evolution)

I would have thought that would come under Allopatric Speciation.  I'm not aware of any specific term just for continental drift.

Well, there have been reports of burrowing dinosaurs (see here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/ar … 0900072X).  Though presumably, if correct, that's only for making burrow to sleep in, like a Badger, rather than locomoting under ground.

There could be a number of factors as to why dinosaurs didn't evolve such a mode of life, but I'd suggest size and shape have a lot to do with it.  Even the smallest dinosaurs were larger than moles, and the larger you are the more dirt you have to move and the less efficient it becomes (also, the smallest dinosaurs tend to be 2-legged which doesn't lend itself well for burrowing as you have to dig a taller hole to walk in)

Hi Sakinah, have a browse through the careers section of our boards, or use the search function up in the top right, as there are a few questions about what to study to be a marine biologist etc which may be of use to you.

For instance see here:
http://www.askabiologist.org.uk/answers … hp?id=3134

You don't say what level you're at (/what age) so it's difficult to directly reccommend something specific for you.

What an absolutely fascinating question!

Perhaps this is related to our social construct directly countering the ancestrally evolutionarily favoured trait.

In other words, in modern western society, it could be argued that going to school, college and university, getting a career, building up a deposit for a house etc are all things that are more difficult to do if having a child when young, but are also all things that in the longer term provide a much better supply of resources for offspring.

Thus whilst having offspring when young potentially increases reproductivity, playing 'the long game' might will result in fitter offspring. 

This is something parents may understand better than adolescents (who may be rather heavily driven by hormones as opposed to long term logic! :) ), and hence the need for parental discouragement.

I'd also argue that parents may discourage adolescent sexuality so as to enable them to continue providing resources for their own offspring without having to divide between offspring and grand-children.

And of course on top of that is a whole host of social, cultural, and economic factors that probably have very little to do with evolution.

Part of the reason this may not have been calculated (it may have mind, but obviously no-one here is aware of that if it has) is that mass isn't that relevant for marine organisms.

If you are interested particularly by biology on the small scale (molecular/cellular) then that sounds like an apt choice for a career in your chosen area of biology.

If you're unsure, a general degree in biology would be the way to go, as it gives you lots of options at the end (if you change your mind, for instance)

(posted in Research and Careers)

Assuming you're talking about the UK (and specifically England), there are several universities with excellent Palaeontology degrees (or at least with strong palaeontology elements to geology or biology courses); Bristol, UCL, Imperial, Cambridge, Leicester, Portsmouth etc.

You should take a look at the prospectuses of these and other Universities and decide which offers you what you're looking for.  Also, have a look at the research pages of university departments (usually earth sciences, but sometimes Biology too) and see what's going on beyond degree level.

Hi William,

  You don't say where you are or which options choices, so I'll asssume you're in the UK about to start GCSE.

  Basically, do whatever you're good at/enjoy, but make sure you are both good at and enjoy the sciences!  Biology is obvious, but physics and chemistry are both very useful too.  Other than that, choices like History or Geography don't really matter as long as you get good grades in whatever you choose.

  As for volunteering, contact your local museum and ask if they have a volunteering program - this is the best way to get some experience, though museum work and research can be quite different careers (not always, but often).

Because we have such an aptitude for altering the environment, rather than adapting to suit it, it's quite likely that we won't see speciation. 

Also, the fact that humans are so wide spread yet integrated works against speciation.

However, if there were a massive population crash (disease? big war? etc)  those two  factors probably wouldn't apply as strongly.

Well, these things tend to get picked up by the media and blown up a bit.  Yes the new planet is in the habitable zone, but so far astronomers don't know if it's a rocky planet, or a gas planet.

Even if it is in the habitable zone, and is rocky, and has water and an atmosphere (mostly all unknowns at the moment), we just don't know how easy or hard it is to originate life, because we only have a single data point - Earth.

So to directly answer your question: Maybe it can harbour life, we don't know.

Note that that is a different question to whether it does or not.  In which case, again, we don't know, and we don't even know what the odds are.

Well, as with many soft-tissue reconstructions, it might be possible in some cases, but I don't think you could ever say it was probable - large external ears are just unsupported (because neither Birds nor Crocodilians have them, it would be unreasonable to argue dinosaurs did without solid evidence).

I dare say a lot of 'secrets' reside in the ocean, as it's so poorly understood.  But some key to longer life and youthfulness (if indeed there is one), would probably be found closer to home, where resources are more closely linked with our own genetics/environment/etc.

My bet would be on a combination of our own genetics, a general understanding of genetics in all organisms, and some synthetic process.

I've always been under the impression that the seeds of Aesculus were mildly poisonous, and that seems to be the case, although Wikipedia states that apparantly "Aesculus seeds were traditionally eaten, after leaching, by the Jomon people of Japan over about 4 millennia, until 300AD" Though it goes into no further detail.

(posted in Evolution)

Consider that the first 'eyes', which were in fact just light sensing nerve cells will have evolved before a centralised nervous system. 

As the nervous system became centralised (via evolution, over long time scales), it incorporated those cells.

As to how processing the data evolved, consider that at first the cells were merely a binary switch - light or dark, and simple behaviours (move or stay still for instance) could be associated with whether that stimulus was 'on' or 'off'. 

Subsequently, additional behaviours associated with the switches already evolved, or additional switches (that is, more advanced vision) can evolve independently of each other but confer an evolutionary advantage.

As to where Science stands on 'coordinated' feature evolution, it's actually a lot more advanced than it's given credit for.  It's just that a lot of this knowledge is restricted to specialists in those fields.  For instance, I know that there has been a reasonable amount of research on the evolution of how spiders came to weave webs, but I haven't studied it myself (as a quick example, google threw up this book:
http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&a … mp;f=false
which seems old, but indicates much thought has been given to the problem)

Sounds like a sea Urchin to me (and I hesitantly say a black sea urchin) - rather than being bitten, you were 'pricked' and stung.

Depends entirely on the course you wish to apply for at university, and which university you want to study at.

Given that competition for university places is constantly on the rise, I would suggest that a minimum of 3 Bs at A-level, in at least Biology and possibly two other sciences (inc. maths) would get you onto a good course at a good university, though bear in mind entry requirements are always changing (usually going up!).

Have a browse through our careers section, as similar questions are frequently asked, and many people have slightly varying advice.

My entomologist colleague James Jepson tells me its a Palloptera muliebris.

Here's a close-up image from wiki commons:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: … 2(loz).jpg

It looks like a hornet to me.


(posted in Research and Careers)

Hi Malcolm,

  Have a read around the careers section of our forum (or search it for palaeontologist/paleontologist), where you'll find a decent amount of information.

To sumarise here though:

Throughout school (GCSE-A-level) he should focus on doing well in maths and the sciences.  Maths is generally widely used in all disciplines, while Chemistry, physics, and biology  are all important for differrent aspects of palaeontology.

Specialisation can come later, when he has a good feel for what kind of science he enjoys.

(posted in Birds)

It always is.  The confusion arising here is that there is a cross over between strictly scientific definitions, and general usage of terms.

We do go around saying that we, dogs, cats, cows etc are mammals, which is just the same as saying birds are dinosaurs.

Biologically - yes, you are dead forever.

There is no evidence for any kind of afterlife or reincarnation.  However, that is not proof that there isn't (absence of evidence is not evidence of absence), so feel free to believe there is life after death if that is your wish.

What makes you think the first two are related to the latter two at all?

I would have said they were more or less unrelated.  

The increased activity -> increased parental care may be a side effect of the young having increased activity and requiring more parental care.

But I'm not sure, and I'm happy for any other AAB member to inform me!

At first I thought you were asking if there were any other fossils in the world other than megalodon teeth!

However, on re-reading, I assume you mean are there any other fossils of megalodon , aside from teeth...  to which the answer is yes, some vertebrae have been attributed to megalodon.  However, because sharks are cartillaginous, it is rare to find parts of them other than the jaws.

(posted in Evolution)

Because it possesses features belonging to two other classes (birds, and reptiles).

Possessing feathers is a trait associated with birds, but teeth, claws, and a long bony tail are features of reptiles (in this case).

This is a highly simplified explanation though, because at the moment palaeontologists and other scientists are debating exactly what is a bird, and how you can classify one.  If you search for Archaeopteryx on this site, you should find several posts/threads that give you more info.

(posted in Evolution)

As a hypothesis regarding abiogenesis (the origin of life), I personally think that a) it's an untested idea, though with equal weighting to other ideas as to how life arose on earth, but b) it doesn't really solve the problem of life originating - it had to start somewhere.

I think that given it had to start somewhere, it's not that mind bending to think that even if it only originated once, we would be here to observe it's existence, making earth as likely as anywhere for life to originate.

One recent idea put forward that I quite like is that Panspermia works both ways - life could have originated on Earth, and then as we were impacted by meteors/asteroids ejecta could be flung out containing either simple life or the building blocks of life.

(posted in Birds)

Also, Breana, it's worth noting that however 'beautiful' birds may appear to us, our eyes cannot see many of the colours in their plumage.  Many birds have colours only visible in the ultraviolet spectrum, making them appear more distinctive and colourful to other birds than to us.

So a bird which you consider beautiful, may well appear relatively drab and dull to other birds.

If I had to pick between Chinese or Carolina mantis, I'd say it's far more like a Chinese mantis.  However, Mantids are not my speciality and someone may be able to give you a more confident answer.

It seems that an oar fish can grow to be the longest out of the above (at 17m), but you'd probably call a 16m Megalodon 'bigger'

That's an antlion larvae!
More info here:

That is a horntail!  See here for more: http://www.askabiologist.org.uk/answers … hp?id=6550

(posted in Fossils)

As usual, the creationist arguments are often simply due to a lack of understanding, or misinterpretation.

A quick look at creationist sites shows misleading information...  For instance, on one site I saw the argument that recent research (Crompton et al 2011 - Interface) said that the tracks had to be made by modern humans, yet the abstract states:

"...most of these functional features were already present, albeit less strongly expressed than in ourselves, in the maker of the Laetoli G-1 footprint trail, 3.66 Mya."

So that paper actually says there is a noticable difference between the Laetoli trackmaker and modern humans - the opposite of what the creationist sites are reporting!

The big problem is that as we close the gaps in the fossil record, previously obvious boundaries become blurred.  Ironically, the more we find in the gaps between our ancestors and ourselves, and the better the fossil record becomes, the more those fossils will resemble modern humans, and therefore be used as evidence for no evolution by creationists.

It's not really surprising that tracks made "just" a million or so years before modern man look quite like modern man tracks - our ancestors were pretty similiar!

As to the trackway maker, the paper I reference above refers to A. afarensis as the most likely trackmaker.

However, as a track worker myself, the idea of differentiating trackmaker at species level seems optimistic at best!  If there's consensus at genus level, then that's probably about as good as one can hope for, so saying the trackmaker was probably (/possibly?) Australopithecusshould be good enough!

I was under the impression Nautilus lived in deep water...  wouldn't it be odd to see one in shallow water?

No Probs, glad we could help!

The only thing that springs to mind is the Helicopter Damselfly:
http://www.arkive.org/helicopter-damsel … eo-00.html
It's wings don't actually rotate like a helicopter (a 'wheel' in nature is extremely rare), but they certainly look like it.
What is unusual is spotting one in norther california, as their range is reported as extending as far as Northern Mexico.

(posted in Fossils)

At the risk of being a kill-joy, it looks to me like a pointy shaped rock!

However, the photos are quite blurry, and I'm happy to be proved wrong by any other experts here.

You may want to have a look at this:

http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110727/ … 1.443.html

Looks like you were on to something there! :)

(the full paper is here if you have access:
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v4 … 0288.html)

Yeah, 1700 kg sounds about right.  A couple of years ago some colleagues and I did a paper on the Allosaurus 'Big Al', which is slightly smaller, and got 1300-1900kg (best estimate 1500kg).
You can find that paper here:

(posted in Fossils)

As in this post: http://www.askabiologist.org.uk/answers/viewtopic.php?id=6536
Things can fossilise quickly.  Especially in a chalky/limestone area where carbonates can precipitate out of water easily.
If you upload a picture we may be able to give you a bit more info.

We can't provide advice on illnesses of pets or people, and as someone that keeps reptiles, I've not come across this before, and would personally suggest you take your BD to the vet.

No, not all lizards can.  And it's not just small ones (and not all small ones can).  However, I'm not sure what the largest lizard that can shed it's tail is, perhaps someone else knows.

(posted in Research and Careers)

Hi Carol,
  Please take a look at our "From the Lab" section, particularly:
http://www.askabiologist.org.uk/from_th … -biologist

And browse through our careers section for lots of discussion on choosing specialities.

My colleague tells me it's a plume moth.  Google image search for "plume moth" brings up similar creatures, though none with such forward facing wings, so perhaps this is a somewhat unusual species/specimen.