Whooping Crane Chick #804 had a lot to say in the egg


Posted on 12th January 2009 by Judy Breck in animals | biology | ecology

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Journey North invites us to come online and Meet the 2008 Whooping Crane Chicks. For this post I have selected Crane #804, born May 9, 2008, shown in the two pictures with this post. Like all 2008 chicks, #804 was born in captivity because none of last year’s nests produced live young. The egg care givers report in their notes that:

This chick has huge personality. He already had a lot to say while still in the egg! Barb said, “When it was in the hatcher, we would check on the egg by making crane vocalizations to assess its strength and progress. Each time I did this, #4 just peeped and peeped and peeped. It was like a little girl who had her phone privileges taken away for a month and finally was able to talk on the phone again to her girlfriends. Chick #4 did this before hatching and also after being old enough to go to a pen.”

Read more about this chatty crane on #804’s personal page. It includes the explanation for the second picture above: “Bees were a problem at the refuge and 804 was stung. The bee sting made his beak get out of line, but it was soon back to normal.”

Chick #804’s page is part of Operation Migration, a remarkable project to reintroduce Whooping Cranes to their natural migration. The cranes, including #804, are now almost finished with their October 2008-January 2009 migration.

The virtual birth, life, and migration of Chick #804 is gold for learning within the internet swamp. A printed textbook and/or the most creative and exciting classroom work cannot provide the learning experience that a student gets by following Chick #804. This is not a substitute for education as we have known it. It is a marvelous phoenix of learning hatching in the swamp.

Animated learn node: new technology explains dolphin kick power

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Posted on 1st December 2008 by Judy Breck in about learn nodes | animals | biography | biology | engineering | general science | math | mechanics | sciences


This learn node is centered in the 2008 discovery at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of how the dolphin kicks with huge power — something that has been a mystery called Gray’s Paradox. Six nodes emerge from the open internet in this animation, providing connected places to learn about dolphins and their power kick.

The center node takes you to the work of Timothy Wei, professor and acting dean of Rensselaer’s School of Engineering, to see how he has solved Gray’s Paradox using his new state-of-the-art water flow diagnostic technology — Digital Particle Image Velocimetry DPIV — that measures the force a dolphin generates with its tail. Other nodes are about DPIV, how the US Navy trains dolphins (a retired Navy dolphin stars in the Rensselear video), general dolphin information (from the San Diego Zoo), and open courseware from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine on marine mammal medicine including care of dolphins, who are cetaceans.

Learn node: new technology explains dolphin power kick


Posted on 24th November 2008 by Judy Breck in biology | engineering | sciences

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In this learn node the 2008 discovery of how the dolphin kicks with huge power is spotlighted at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where the discovery was made. For decades, scientists have puzzled over the sea mammal’s speed, since “Gray’s Paradox” was described, as the Rensselaer website explains:

There was something peculiar about dolphins that stumped prolific British zoologist Sir James Gray in 1936. He had observed the sea mammals swimming at a swift rate of more than 20 miles per hour, but his studies had concluded that the muscles of dolphins simply weren’t strong enough to support those kinds of speeds. The conundrum came to be known as “Gray’s Paradox.”

Timothy Wei, professor and acting dean of Rensselaer’s School of Engineering, has solved Gray’s Paradox using his new state-of-the-art water flow diagnostic technology that measures the force a dolphin generates with its tail. The image above is from a video that captures the action of the dolphin by using Digital Particle Image Velocimetry (DPIV). The dolphin performing in the video is Primo, who is retired from the U.S. Navy.

For background on these subjects, the San Diego Zoo has an excellent online dolphin section and the University of California Irvine School of Biological Sciences explains DPIV in great detail.

Learn node: dinosaur teeth and the reptile mouth


Posted on 18th November 2008 by Judy Breck in biology | general science | paleontology | sciences

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This learn node features a tiny dinosaur with big canine teeth that the Natural History Museum reports shows for the first time how one of the earliest dinosaurs grew into an adult. The webpage explains:

The turkey-sized reptile called Heterodontosaurus lived around 190 million years ago in the Early Jurassic period and had an unusual combination of molar-like and canine teeth.

Reptiles usually have small same-sized teeth along the length of their mouth but Heterodontosaurus had 2 fang-like canines at the front.

The image posted here is from a video narrated by Dr. Richard Butler, a dinosaur expert at the museum and featured on the page linked above.

For nodes of related learning: An excellent overview article about Anatomy and Physiology of the Reptile Mouth is provided at PetEducation.com. For time frames for the dinosaurs, the big picture can be seen in the Chart of Geological Ages at Connexions.

Learn Node: How Fish Muscles Work


Posted on 14th October 2008 by Judy Breck in biology | general science | sciences

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How fish muscles work from the molecular to the whole organ level is a lecture from the University of Southern Maine that gives focus to this learn node. A basic concept for the subject is that:

Two contrasting behaviors: The first is steady swimming at slow and intermediate speeds using low amplitude axial undulations (i.e. the side to side displacement of the body is small). The second is burst swimming and escape responses using high amplitude axial undulation. In the escape response, a fish bends into a C-like posture then whips its tail in the opposite direction, accelerating a mass of water behind the fish, which causes the fish to accelerate forward. The key is that body bending is small in steady swimming and large in bursts and escapes. Also, the escape response can be very fast, that is less than 1/10th of a second.

The toadfish is an important fish muscle specimen because it has been found that its swim bladder muscles are the fastest twitching muscles in the vertebrate world. The image by Robert Golder shown here is from an article at the Marine Biological Laboratory on this talented but ugly fish. Several articles at the St. Andrews University website of its Fish Muscle Research Group provide the latest ideas and theories in this important subject for mechanics, anatomy, genetics, and aquaculture.

Learn Node: Dinosaur sinus clues to bird breath

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Posted on 7th October 2008 by Judy Breck in biology | sciences

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Comparing the sinuses in some newly studied dinosaur bones from Argentina with bird anatomy, this learn node from the Public Library of Science lets students go online to peer over the shoulders of working scientists. The drawing is from Figure 1 in the article. In their recent work concerning the the anatomical relationships of dinosaurs and birds, the scientists here tell us:

In this paper, we describe a new large-bodied theropod from the Late Cretaceous of Argentina, Aerosteon riocoloradensis gen. et sp. nov., characterized by cranial and postcranial bones that are exceptionally pneumatic. Some of its postcranial bones show pneumatic hollowing that can be linked to intrathoracic air sacs that are directly involved in lung ventilation. As a result of an extraordinary level of pneumatization, as well as the excellent state of preservation of much of the axial column and girdles, Aerosteon helps to constrain hypotheses for the evolution of avian-style respiration.

For background on the general subject, the University of California Museum of Paleontology has an overview article: Are Birds Really Dinosaurs?

Learn Node: Radiology Assistant – all about imaging the body


Posted on 26th September 2008 by Judy Breck in biology | health | sciences

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This outstanding medical website about radiology is a learn node unto itself. There are articles richly illustrated with radiological images — X-rays — organized by anatomy. Major groups are abdomen, cardiovascular, chest, mammography, musculoskeletal, pediatrics, and neuroradiology. The Top Sites page connects to many more articles and websites, forming a cluster of nodes about radiological imaging.

via: Scout Report

Learn node: Bone marrow stem cells are doing new and wonderful things


Posted on 26th August 2008 by Judy Breck in biology | health | molecules, cells

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A learn node about bone marrow stem cells healing and curing in new ways points to an exciting, complex, and developing story. The highlights below link out into clusters of news and information on bone marrow stem cells. To review the basics, The National Institute of Health Stem Cell Information webpages include a video of stem cells dividing and sections on Stem Cell Basics, which begin:

Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body. Serving as a sort of repair system for the body, they can theoretically divide without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.

Harvard Science describes how bone marrow stem cells may help control inflammatory bowel disease in “the first demonstration of their ability to suppress a broad-based autoimmune reaction and protect gastrointestinal tissue.” Science News headlines: Bone Marrow Alternative: Stem Cells From Umbilical Cord May Be Used To Treat Hepatic Diseases, in an article pointing to stories about several other uses for bone marrow stem cells.

The Learn.Genetics project at the University of Utah offers a section on Stem Cell Therapies Today with illustrated explanations and links to related tropics. The National Cancer Institute provides detailed discussions of Bone Marrow Transplantation and Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplantation.

adult_stem_cells bone bone_marrow bowel cell cure diseases harvard hepatic immune_system intestines marrow peripheral transplant utah university

Learn Node: Gorilla conservation good news


Posted on 5th August 2008 by Judy Breck in biology | ecology | environment

This learn node about the discovery of 150,000 western lowland gorillas is prompted by a New York Times Science Times report. The image with this post is from a slide show accompanying the Science Times article. The discovery was announced by the Wildlife Conservation Society. The Society’s information section on the Western Lowland Gorilla does not yet have the good news of the new discovery as this learn node is written. By the time you are reading this it probably will because online resources are usually the first science to be updated. Although the new discovery makes some of the gorilla numbers happily out of date in this Gorilla Rescue video, the presentation is an excellent introduction for young humans to the challenge that lies ahead in their lifetime for caring for their fellow creatures of our planet.

Learn node: West Nile Virus transmission cycle and the dilution benefit


Posted on 21st July 2008 by Judy Breck in biology | ecology | health

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The illustration for this learn node is from a Tufts University on “Emerging Infections and Agents of Biological Warfare.” The West Nile Virus transmission cycle is also illustrated in a chart at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An interesting angle on the transmission is that protecting biodiversity of birds slows it down, as described in a Public Library of Science article:

We found there is lower incidence of human WNV in eastern US counties that have greater avian (viral host) diversity. This pattern exists when examining diversity-disease relationships both before WNV reached the US (in 1998) and once the epidemic was underway (in 2002). The robust disease-diversity relationships confirm that the dilution effect can be observed in another emerging infectious disease and illustrate an important ecosystem service provided by biodiversity, further supporting the growing view that protecting biodiversity should be considered in public health and safety plans.