Natural History Notes

These are quick stories or news items with less commentary. These may be short stories or comments about other natural history stories from other sources

Ancient DNA Comes to Life: Giant Virus Resurrected from Siberian Permafrost

Pithovirus. Credit: Julia Bartoli & Chantal Abergel

Just how long can DNA survive after the death of a cell or without cellular activity to maintain itself?  I addressed this question a few months ago (Young Earth Creationism and Ancient DNA) and suggested that we would learn much more in the coming year.  Already we have seen multiple complete genomes from fossil bones […]

NH Notes: Curiosity Update – Amazing Views Inside A Crater

Curiosity rover wheels after rolling into a portion of a sand dune (sol 527).  Image: JPL/NASA/MSSS

When I last updated you on the excursion that the Curiosity rover has been making across the floor of Gale Crater on Mars I noted that the images it has been beaming back had been getting rather routine.  But the rover has slowly been moving downhill toward what seems more and more likely to have […]

NH Notes: A Fish that Prefers to be on Land – The Pacific Leaping Blenny

The Pacific leaping blenny.  Many populations of this species are found along the coasts of Guam.  These fish is only about 4-8cm in length.

This fish prefers to be out of water!  The Pacific leaping blenny is back in the news again with the publication of further research on how they avoid being eaten by birds and lizards.  Whoa, back up a bit you say.  A fish living out of water! Yep, and this isn’t just a fish that […]

NH Notes: Rising Star Expedition Update


The process of discovery in science can be as fascinating to follow as a sporting event:  if we knew how it was going to end we would be much less likely to watch.   The Rising Star Expedition has the drama but not the finality, fortunately!, of a sporting event where there is a final score.  […]

NH Notes: More Planets Than Stars Update

Artist’s representation of the “habitable zone,” the range of orbits where liquid water is permitted on the surface of a planet. The authors find that 22% of Sun-like stars harbor a planet between one and two times the size of Earth in the habitable zone. (Credit: Petigura/UC Berkeley, Howard/UH-Manoa, Marcy/UC Berkeley)

Our solar system comes with planets of all sorts of sizes and compositions.   Not long ago, it was possible to debate if there were any other planets in the Universe other than those of our solar system.   Now, there doesn’t seem to be any question that other planets, called exoplanets, do exist. The […]

NH Notes: The Mosquito That Produced More Than A Little Buzz

This is a picture of the 46 million year old fossilized mosquito. The iron bearing compounds were identified just in the abdomen area suggesting they are the result of the breakdown of blood products.

A few weeks ago yet another sensational fossil was unveiled.  It wasn’t a dinosaur or a hominid but rather several tiny mosquitoes.   Fossils of mosquitoes are known from amber (fossilized tree sap) but are extremely rare in sedimentary rock.  However, it isn’t the rarity of the fossil itself that made headlines. It was what researches discovered in the […]

NH Notes: Curiosity Update – Scenes on the Way to Mt. Sharp

A view from under the Curiosity rover showing two of its six wheels. If you look closely you can see that they have many small pits in the aluminum showing the wear and tear they have received from driving on this rocky ground. Image: JPL/NASA-CalTech

Curiosity keeps chugging away across the floor of Gale Crater.  A few weeks ago we talked to a rock  (My Interview with a Martian: A Story of Origins) that it met as it is working its way to the base of Mt. Sharp.  I had mentioned that the trip has been a tad boring compared […]

NH Notes: Fuzzy Orange Galls on Oak Leaves

Galls along the main vein of a pin oak leaf.  Image: Joel Duff

My 5-year-old daughter is very attentive to the insect population around our house. She spends many hours collecting all sorts of insects and other animals.   A month ago she brought me a leaf that she thought had a caterpillar of some sort on it.   She is well aware that bugs make little houses […]

NH Photography: Gnats Swarming Above Grass

Slowing down to 1/13th of a second we start to see the flight paths bending a bit. Image: Joel Duff

Who loves pleasant sunny fall afternoons?  Most everyone and everything and that includes a large population of gnats in my yard that have also enjoyed a wet northeast Ohio summer.   I had a few minutes to do some yard work today but I was distracted when I walked through a cloud of these small […]

NH Notes: Inverted Valleys – A Question of Age

Petroglyph at Petroglyph Park in St. George.  There are thousands of Anasazi petroglphys in the area attesting to the fact that the boulders and rocks in this area have barely eroded at all in the past couple thousand years.

Inverted valleys formed from lava “rivers” and ancient stream beds are one of many unusual geological phenomena found in Utah.  The rocks speak in Utah and they speak very clearly because they readily reveal so many clues about their origins since they are so visible to us.   Some of the most powerful testimonies of […]


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