Sarapiqui

The first objective of our trip was to take in the wild life of Costa Rica. Now, even in Costa Rica, this is easier said than done. No problem seeing the plants. They cannot help it. But the animals - their lives depend on being well concealed, and they are very good at it. Before… Continue reading Sarapiqui

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River Cruise at Porto Viejo, Pineapple Farm Tour, and a Hotel Near a Volcano

The day after white water rafting on the Sarapiqui, we checked out of the Selva Verde Lodge and rode to Porto Viejo to board a small cruise boat. William pointed out anhinga, turtles, iguana, snowy egrets, cecropia, fig trees, howler monkeys, black vultures, blue heron, and chilamate trees. There was evidence of recent flooding –… Continue reading River Cruise at Porto Viejo, Pineapple Farm Tour, and a Hotel Near a Volcano

From San José to Sarapiqui

Naturally, from the outset we had a certain idea about Costa Rica as a country rich in wildlife, a site for ecotourism. We were about to learn it is more than that. The next day, Sunday, we had a buffet breakfast - which included rice and beans - and then met for an 8 AM lecture… Continue reading From San José to Sarapiqui

More on Brains vs Brawn in Human Evolution

After considering the failure of genetic analysis to confirm the trade-off of brain vs. brawn, I checked what the evidence is that the chimps are so much stronger than humans. The answer is: they are not. The difference in strength is on the order of 1.5 times greater for chimps, not 3 to 5 times.… Continue reading More on Brains vs Brawn in Human Evolution

Brains vs Brawn in Evolution of Humans

I had an email discussion with fellow blogger Eilif Heyerdahl recently, and I speculated that we humans have traded muscular strength for brain power, based on the notion that chimpanzees are 3 to 5 times stronger than humans. This is by no means my original idea. Trade-offs are well known in evolution. But the literature on human evolution offers… Continue reading Brains vs Brawn in Evolution of Humans

Visions and Insights in Biology: What the Pea Hen Sees

James Gorman of the New York Times has a great series of videos, called Science Take, and one of my favorites for showing students is this one, where a pea hen is equipped with a head-mounted video camera, so that scientists can figure out just what she is looking at. The lesson from this experiment… Continue reading Visions and Insights in Biology: What the Pea Hen Sees

Visions and Insights in Biology: Forensic Paleontology

  The fossil record is a catalog of unexplained deaths, almost by definition. Of course part of the job of the paleontologist is to attempt to provide an explanation: climate change, competition from other species, giant asteroids colliding, the list of possible reasons is long, and the cases made range from modest to very persuasive.… Continue reading Visions and Insights in Biology: Forensic Paleontology

Visions and Insights in Biology: Electrical Signaling and Counting in Plants

A colleague of mine, a plant physiologist and biochemist, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, was a professor at Cornell, a connoisseur of music and art, and an amateur violinist. The Cornell campus sits on a hill overlooking downtown Ithaca (New York). My colleague told a story many years ago about giving a ride back… Continue reading Visions and Insights in Biology: Electrical Signaling and Counting in Plants

Visions and Insights in Biology: People Playing with Animals

People play with animals, and animals participate whole heartedly - think for example of playing fetch with a dog. This turns out to have deep evolutionary roots. One of my favorite clips to show students is this, where a little girl called Kayla plays with a baby gorilla at the zoo. Separated by a glass… Continue reading Visions and Insights in Biology: People Playing with Animals

Visions and Insights in Biology: Stephen Colbert and Ötzi the Iceman

A number of years ago I took part in the development of an Introductory Biology course with several of my colleagues. Our concept was to create the materials for a course that any instructor could use, and pool resources, such as examination questions or the updating of lessons, so that all instructors could benefit from… Continue reading Visions and Insights in Biology: Stephen Colbert and Ötzi the Iceman