This Week’s BioBites:, armed fungus, and more

Though grad students are great procrastinators, we still have a finite amount of free time and science is moving pretty quickly these days. Consequently, we come across a whole lot of interesting stories during the week that we don’t have time to write about on our blog. So from now on we’ll be posting a list of links to cool articles in the media on a whole variety of topics that we think you’d enjoy. Starting with this week…
Read this week’s BioBites!

1.) Wanted: mature male, likes eucalyptus and long tree climbs

Turns out that many animals, just like people, are pretty picky about their mates. For their rare species, like koalas, zoos are setting up the equivalent of animal dating sites to match up successful couples.

2.) Animal math = survival

As it turns out, animals can do math, too. The intuitive sense of more and less is something we share with our animal brethren and it seems to be an important base for understanding our complex, abstract math system. Read about it in the NY Times (warning: free registration may be required), or test your own intuitive math skills using a test from a study out of Johns Hopkins University. The average adult scores about 75%. How do you do?

3.) Gene therapy trial for treating pain opens

Scientists at the University of Michigan have designed a way to use a virus to deliver a pain relieving gene to the nervous system. Read about how they’re starting trials to use this therapy in humans to help people deal with chronic cancer related pain on

4.) Fungus with guns?

Gross, but true – some fungus live in animal dung. In order to keep the species alive and spreading, they need their spores to be eaten by animals. Only problem is that animals don’t eat where they poo. These fungi have solved the problem by evolving squirt guns that shoot out the spores up to 55 mph. Read about it on EurekAlert or watch a video from a high speed camera.

5.) Brita filter? No thanks, I’ve got cactus goo!

One scientist has her grandmother to thank for her latest discovery… that prickly pear cacti have a goo that can purify water. Her grandmother, a native of Mexico, told her that the goo can be used to clean dirty river water before using it – and she was right! The goo surrounds a number of impurities, such as dirt, arsenic and bacteria, causing them to clump together and be easily removed. The Discovery Channel website discusses how scientists are hoping to learn more about the molecules that are in the goo and maybe use them to make a new kind of filter system.

Photo by Corey Leopold

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