AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: sar418

Birds are gardeners, too.

Christmas Island warbler nest; Richard D. Chandler


Bowerbirds build large and elaborate nests to attract mates. In this process, they decorate the nest with colorful fruit; once the fruit dries up, and the bird no longer needs it, the plant is thrown away, causing the growth of this plant near the nest. These birds accidentally garden plants, this adds to their role in spreading seeds and fertilizing plants. Birds spread seeds by digesting the fruit and then disposing of its seed in a different place. They also pollinate plants while feeding from a flower. Brightly colored flowers attract birds to feed from their nectar; the bird is then covered with pollen from the anthur of the flower’s stamen. When the bird goes to the next plant, the pollen covering their bodies is
placed in the stigma of the flower.

The coloration of plants represents their role in the environmental community. Brightly colored flowers are attractive to birds and
insects. Brightly colored fruit are attractive to animals, including humans, because it makes the consumer think the fruit is ripe. The Bowerbird picks the greenest potato plant to decorate its nest with, because it is the most visually pleasing. This selection causes potato plants that are greener in color to grow around the birds nest, causing the bird to decide what plants grow in certain areas.

Bowerbirds are the only animals, other than humans, to use fruit for a use other then eating. This selection and use makes the birds “accidental genetic engineers” and cultivators of potato bushes near their nest.

It is the natural instinct of certain birds to eat fruit and drink nectar. It is also the natural instinct of Bowerbirds to create decorative
nests to mate and pass on their genes. The natural instincts of birds in general cause certain plants to be fertilized and reproduce. The relationship
between birds and flowers revolves in a cycle that is the foundation of nature.

Photo: Christmas Island warbler nest, Christmas Island, March 1967.

Richard D. Chandler, The Smithsonian Institution

I love animals, but I eat meat.

Roan Cow by Sara Naghavi

The following is my personal opinion and what I personally believe to be true.

It’s no secret that I love animals. I regard animals as people, I can’t help but look at different creatures and think about how similar they are to us. Animals, any creature of God, has not only the right to life, but also the ability to feel. I truly believe that all animals think and have feelings. The only problem is that humans feel entitled over them and have justified this by separating animals into two categories; pets and food. This separation has been embedded into our habits throughout history. The fact is, however, that whether it is the dog in your house, or the cow in upstate New York, all animals experience happiness, loneliness, and fear. Just because they can’t voice how they feel, doesn’t mean that they don’t feel it. People feel disgusted when they hear about dogs being eaten in other countries, but not usually about the filet mignon on their plate. Our life is composed of a previously balanced ecosystem, the planet Earth. Every ant or seed of grass is needed to remain in equilibrium. Because of the extinction of so many species of animals, and the made-man pollution we have released, the ecosystem, and therefore the environment has changed. Because of the “industrialization” of meat that currently takes place in America, our ecosystem is facing changes that will affect our society. Now I myself love steak, and therefore am not a vegetarian, but I know there’s a problem when I can’t talk about nature or be near my pet birds, while eating meat. Although this is a hypocritical stance, it is something I am personally battling to figure out for myself.

This article explains that Americans should realize the current process of animal slaughter and how an animal ends up being on your plate. It doesn’t preach about becoming a vegetarian, rather it says that people should be conscience and realize the effects this situation has on our ecosystem and on the way we think about animals. The author suggests that people, as a whole, should try to figure out a more humane process of raising and killing animals. We currently “process” hundreds of animals per second. Pachirat, a political science graduate student worked in a slaughterhouse to “understand the normalization of violence…concluded that our isolation from killing allows us to tolerate unimaginably cruel practices simply because we don’t see them.”

Educate yourself on animals and the production of meat, and conclude your own opinions on the subject. While you’re at it, realize that too much red meat is bad for you.

PS. while we’re at the zoo this friday, appreciate the animals and the fact that although many of them might have been born in captivity or placed in captivity to be nursed to health or to be saved, many of the animals were taken from their homes and families and imprisoned behind bars.

Sugar Motivates You.

Dumdums by Linuxerist

A study from a few years ago created a theory called The Energy Model of Self Control. This stated that willpower lessens as your brain lacks sugars, that it previously used for provious exertions. Basically, once you perform a task that requires motivation, you will have a harder time completing the following task that requires motivation, because you have used up the sugars that allow you motivate yourself.

Daniel Molden, a scientist from Nothwestern University, was skeptical of such claims. He recently recreated the study and used more technologically advanced machines, to measure the results. What he found was that the claim that once you perform a task that requires willpower, you will have a harder time to perform the following task that demands that same. He then challenged that “acts of self-control lower blood glucose levels.” After performing a self motivated task, volunteers rinse with either a sugar-water solution or an artificial sugar-water solution. In the previous research, subjects had to eat or drink sugar, to experience the effects. The results showed that participants that rinsed with the real sugar-water solution were able to motivate themselves for the next task, whereas volunteers that rinsed with what tasted like a sugar-water solution, but actually contained no sugar, were not able to self-motivate themselves. The results also showed that the sugar didn’t need to be metabolized, as the results were immediate. Molden and partners have concluded that the mouth can register the presence of carbohydrates in the solution and then signals the brain that energy is coming. The dopamine system motivates the brain to work harder. “In short, the sugar motivates — rather than fuels — willpower.”  These scientists have decided that self-control is a lack of motivation, and can be restored with a simple sugar rinse.

Different things motivate different people, some people just need a goal and they’ll do whatever it takes to reach it. I myself am very bad at motivating myself todo work and have no self-control to see to it that I complete what needs to be done. For a person like me, this is very interesting, and something I will definitely try in the future! Will you try rinsing your mouth with sugar and water to keep yourself motivated?

Photo: CC Liscensed photo by Linuxerist

Sharks prove evolution; hybrid shark.

Photo taken by "warrenski"

Sharks are just adding to their long list of impressive abilities. They are amazingly immune and can help cure cancer, they can be a cyclopes, and now they are proving evolution.

The world’s first hybrid shark has been discovered in Austrian waters. The shark is a cross of an Australian Blacktip shark and a Common Blacktip shark. Common Blacktip sharks are found in the Atlantic Ocean. This discovery displays the animals fight for existence; overfishing and pollution have reduced shark populations in general all over the globe. The adaptation of this new hybrid allows the animal to survive in cooler water temperatures, previously intolerant for species. Scientist believe the sharks are “adapting to cope” with global warming and changing water temperatures.  This adaptation and creation of a hybrid creature is evolution. This discovery proves that evolution is no longer a theory but is happening right now.

The new hybrid species has many generations under it’s belt, displaying its ability to reproduce. The species will have to be further studied before comparing their life to that of their parents. This discovery also opens the door to the discovery of other species crossbreeding or evolving as well.

Photo of Common Blacktip Shark:



While applying to college, be glad you’re not a dragonfly.

We all joke about stress killing us or that we’d rather be dead from all the stress we’re going through. Seniors have to keep their grades up, applications are due, sports, music practice, making time for friends and now family coming over for the holidays. I know it can feel like your Aunt Sally is trying to headbutt you, but we should all be happy that as of right now, the stress were under isn’t actually killing us.

Stress is bad for your body and effects every cell in a negative manner. Stress also makes it harder to do the work that is causing the stress in the first place. A recent study has shown that juvenile dragon flies actually die if put under stress. These dragonfly larvae were faced with predators, the stress of the situation killed them. In dragonfly larva, the negative impacts of the increase in stress hormones was fatal. Even though the predators wouldn’t have eaten them, the thought was too much for them. A specific reason for death of the juvenile was a reduced immune system that was further compromised by bacteria or viruses.

The last thing you want to do while inundated with work is to get sick and not be able to perform at your best. Be careful, and be mindful that stress is bad for your health and that its not the end of the world if you don’t get an A on your next test.

Photo: CC Liscensed photo by Kroszk@

Sharks kill cancer.

Sharks, thought of as being outwardly violent, are inwardly violent too. Sharks are generally resistant to viruses because of molecules their body have, especially a molecule named squalamine, discovered in 1993 from dogfish sharks. This molecule kills human viruses and can fight, kill, and prevent bacteria and cancer as well.  Squalamine can fight and treat a variety of cancers from the eye to the liver. Researchers believe this molecule can be a potential cure to HIV.

The way this molecule works relates to our current topic of study in AP Biology class. Squalamine sticks to cell membranes of various organs and blood vessels. By connecting with receptors on the cell, it prevents other proteins to be received by the receptor and enter the cell, proteins that allow viruses to survive.

This molecule is the reason sharks are so resilient towards various illnesses and can help humans become that way as well. It has been known that oils from their liver can be used as an anti-inflammatory and studies now show that one of their molecules can help cure liver diseases.  Shark oil is used in a very popular, over the counter anti-inflammatory medication used for arthritis, Chondroitin, that  contains shark cartilage. This discovery can help save millions of lives, but before you go and kill millions of sharks in the process, it might be a good idea to try to figure out a way to help humans and keep sharks safe, as well.


Link to article:


Virgin pregnancy in animals


Virgin pregnancy has been reported in various species and under difference circumstances. Some females retain sperm from previous accounts until their eggs can be fertilized, while others use their eggs to act as sperm and fertilize the eggs with just their DNA. A Pit Viper snake has recently been discovered to have been “hoarding”  sperm for 5 years; although there have been previous accounts of sperm conservation, this is the longest recorded case. All of these recorded animals have been kept separate from male contact for many years.

Asexual reproduction is very common among invertebrates, but previously thought impossible about vertebrates. These vertebrate give birth by parthenogenesis, which is reproduction without an egg being fertilized by sperm. This has been found in sharks, birds, and now reptiles. Offspring from such cases have seemed to be normally.

A theory exists that snakes, for example, may have evolved to being able to reproduce by parthenogenesis because of lack of males to mate with; this adaptation will help pit vipers from becoming extinct down the road.

There have been various cases of parthenogenesis; females reproducing offspring without any contact with males, females storing sperm until their eggs are available, and females holding sperm from immaturity until they are mature.

Scientists are interested in using this discovery to improve sperm storage for humans and livestock alike. Scientist reasoned that “virgin birth” is not possible in humans.

 For Full Article:



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