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Plant cells? Algae? Coral? Were you right?
Surprisingly, these are leaf cells from a genetically engineered tobacco plant made to produce fluorescent proteins. Each squiggle shape is an individual plant cell with glowing proteins localizing to the cell periphery. Tobacco was the first genetically modified plant ever to be produced back in 1982, where DNA was altered so the plant became resistant to antibiotics. This was the first stepping stone for the production of all genetically modified crops today, a topic of intense debate in biology, economics, ethics, and government.
Image by Sebastian Konrad, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany.

Match It Monday!

Plant cells? Algae? Coral? Were you right?

Surprisingly, these are leaf cells from a genetically engineered tobacco plant made to produce fluorescent proteins. Each squiggle shape is an individual plant cell with glowing proteins localizing to the cell periphery. Tobacco was the first genetically modified plant ever to be produced back in 1982, where DNA was altered so the plant became resistant to antibiotics. This was the first stepping stone for the production of all genetically modified crops today, a topic of intense debate in biology, economics, ethics, and government.

Image by Sebastian Konrad, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany.

115 notes
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A peacock feather at 50-times magnification
Feathers in birds and their ancient ancestors serve several purposes, including insulation, flight, and display. As feathers evolved from single barbs to the more complex patterns seen today, their functions became equally nuanced. They trap air to provide excellent heat insulation, possess intricate shapes to enhance lift and reduce drag during flight, and come in a prism of colors due to pressures of sexual selection. Some species of birds also have powder down feathers that produce fine particles that sift through and coat feathers, making them waterproof. Due to human pollution, this powder can be washed away and the waterproofing property lost, waterlogging feathers and causing birds to sink.
Image by Charles Krebs.

A peacock feather at 50-times magnification

Feathers in birds and their ancient ancestors serve several purposes, including insulation, flight, and display. As feathers evolved from single barbs to the more complex patterns seen today, their functions became equally nuanced. They trap air to provide excellent heat insulation, possess intricate shapes to enhance lift and reduce drag during flight, and come in a prism of colors due to pressures of sexual selection. Some species of birds also have powder down feathers that produce fine particles that sift through and coat feathers, making them waterproof. Due to human pollution, this powder can be washed away and the waterproofing property lost, waterlogging feathers and causing birds to sink.

Image by Charles Krebs.

778 notes
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Larva from the peanut worm, Nephasoma pellucidum
Worms from the phylum Sipuncula, commonly known as peanut worms, live in marine habitats and use small tentacles to gather organic debris from the water. First described in 1827 by a French zoologist, a related species was later identified by famed invertebrate zoologist E. Ray Lankester. Lankester dissected the new species between rounds of golf in Scotland. In celebration of his golfing holiday, he decided to name the species Golfingia vulgaris, which was later sorted into the Sipuncula phylum.
Image by Dr. Michael Boyle, Smithsonian Institution.

Larva from the peanut worm, Nephasoma pellucidum

Worms from the phylum Sipuncula, commonly known as peanut worms, live in marine habitats and use small tentacles to gather organic debris from the water. First described in 1827 by a French zoologist, a related species was later identified by famed invertebrate zoologist E. Ray Lankester. Lankester dissected the new species between rounds of golf in Scotland. In celebration of his golfing holiday, he decided to name the species Golfingia vulgaris, which was later sorted into the Sipuncula phylum.

Image by Dr. Michael Boyle, Smithsonian Institution.

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Match It Monday!
Eggs? Fungus? Fruit? Did you guess it?
These are actually butterfly eggs from Battus philenor, the Pipevine Swallowtail. Larva hatch from eggs and feed on the leaves, stems, and seeds of its host plant Aristolochia fimbriata, commonly known as pipevine. Initially non-toxic, larva convert chemicals found within pipevine into poisonous forms, making them toxic to predators. Many other species of butterflies mimic the Pipevine Swallowtail to fool predators into thinking they, too, are poisonous.
Image by David Millard.

Match It Monday!

Eggs? Fungus? Fruit? Did you guess it?

These are actually butterfly eggs from Battus philenor, the Pipevine Swallowtail. Larva hatch from eggs and feed on the leaves, stems, and seeds of its host plant Aristolochia fimbriata, commonly known as pipevine. Initially non-toxic, larva convert chemicals found within pipevine into poisonous forms, making them toxic to predators. Many other species of butterflies mimic the Pipevine Swallowtail to fool predators into thinking they, too, are poisonous.

Image by David Millard.

126 notes
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Neuromuscular junctions
At the interface between nerves and muscles are neuromuscular junctions. Within these junctions, signals sent from the brain cause nerve terminals to release vesicles filled with a chemical that acts on a muscle to activate its contraction. Nature has evolved several lethal toxins that poison this process, a notable one being botulinum toxin that causes the fatal disease botulism. This toxin works by preventing vesicles from fusing with nerve terminals so that muscles cannot contract. Currently, botulinum toxin is marketed as Botox by the pharmaceutical company Allergan, Inc., which required less than one gram of raw toxin to supply the entire world’s usage of Botox in 2011.
Image by Dr. David Ward

Neuromuscular junctions

At the interface between nerves and muscles are neuromuscular junctions. Within these junctions, signals sent from the brain cause nerve terminals to release vesicles filled with a chemical that acts on a muscle to activate its contraction. Nature has evolved several lethal toxins that poison this process, a notable one being botulinum toxin that causes the fatal disease botulism. This toxin works by preventing vesicles from fusing with nerve terminals so that muscles cannot contract. Currently, botulinum toxin is marketed as Botox by the pharmaceutical company Allergan, Inc., which required less than one gram of raw toxin to supply the entire world’s usage of Botox in 2011.

Image by Dr. David Ward

720 notes
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Pyramidal neurons and their dendrites from a mouse brain
Named for their triangular cell bodies, pyramidal neurons reside in the brain and act as the main conduit of information flow, passing on electrical signals from one area of the brain to the next. Pyramidal neurons are known for their many branches of dendrites, the inputs of a neuron that—when efficiently stimulated—trigger a neuron to fire a signal to other neurons. Dendritic branching allows a single neuron to communicate with thousands of others within a network, all within a fraction of a second.
Image by Dr. Alexandre Moreau, University College London.

Pyramidal neurons and their dendrites from a mouse brain

Named for their triangular cell bodies, pyramidal neurons reside in the brain and act as the main conduit of information flow, passing on electrical signals from one area of the brain to the next. Pyramidal neurons are known for their many branches of dendrites, the inputs of a neuron that—when efficiently stimulated—trigger a neuron to fire a signal to other neurons. Dendritic branching allows a single neuron to communicate with thousands of others within a network, all within a fraction of a second.

Image by Dr. Alexandre Moreau, University College London.

375 notes