Ecology in pop music, comic books and foodies’ delights

Recipes for lionfish and other invasive species, the microbial communities likely inhabiting Lady Gaga and other humans, hidden ecosystems in caves and underneath Antarctica, explaining evolution through a graphic novel and the big flavor of tiny life forms. Here are the latest stories in ecology for the first week in January 2011. Invasivore’s cookbook: Discover’s Discoblog listed a couple of ways that citizens could help to manage invasive species: One idea provided by writer Jennifer Welsh was adding lionfish, kudzu and asian carp to the dinner menu. The red lionfish (Pterois volitans), for example, has been occupying reefs off of the Florida Keys and have been spotted as far north as Rhode Island. Some Florida restaurants feature lionfish dishes and The Washington Post has a recipe for lionfish romesco stew. Read more at “What to Do With Troublesome Invasive Species: 1) Eat Them, 2) Wear Them.” Lady Gaga’s life forms: According to a recent Scientific American blog post, pop musician Lady Gaga has the same life forms inhabiting her body as the rest of us. That is, Rob Dunn describes everything from the common foot fungus Tricophyton rubrum to the forehead mites Demodex spp. Dunn even explained the bacteria, protists and bacteriophages living in the human mouth. Read more at “The top 10 life-forms living on Lady Gaga (and you).” Hidden ecosystems: There were a handful of stories this week on hidden ecosystems. Wired reported on Lake Vostok underneath Antarctica and a river that runs underwater in a cave in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Also, stunning photos of the world’s largest cave–Hang Son Doong in Vietnam–show an indoor jungle and gigantic segments that could fit a skyscraper. Read more at “World’s Largest Cave Can Fit Skyscraper, Has Jungle.” Evolution in comic book form: Scientific American featured an excerpt from a comic book set to be published this year on evolution and how it shaped humanity. According to the description, the book was “written by noted comic-book author and professor of biology Jay Hosler and illustrated by the award-winning duo Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon.” It follows the characters Bloort and Prince Floorsh: time-traveling space aliens. View the excerptat “Getting a Leg Up on Evolution–the Comic Book Version.” Growing Gorgonzola: For her first blog post, biologist and journalist Claire Ainsworth provided an overview of the interactions between bacteria on various types of cheese and the effects these microbes have on the flavor, texture and nutritional value. “While ‘ecosystem’ might sound like a rather grandiose term for a common or garden cheese, it is in fact perfectly apt,” wrote Ainsworth. “The reeking slice of Camembert oozing over your oatcake has more in...

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From the Community: December Edition

The following links highlight ecology from the month of December, but there are several science-related end-of-year lists floating around as well.

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Trust your gut, it controls more than you may know

Most people are familiar with the role of DNA: A set of genetic instructions on how a particular living organism should function. This nucleic acid has been widely explored as a way to identify individuals, define illnesses or hereditary diseases and contribute to behavior, among many other clues about an individual. However, there may be another complex feature of human anatomy that influences many surprising aspects of human physiology, immunity and evolution: gut flora.

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Gut flora and the human rainforest

Scientists have known for decades that the human intestinal tract is home to an abundance of diverse bacteria. This microbial rainforest is introduced incrementally to infants as they grow—primarily from their mothers during birth and breastfeeding and from everyday encounters. Many of these microbes aid in digestion and fight off pathogens, but until recently, researchers were not certain if phages, viruses that infect bacteria, were also present in the human gut.

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