Friday, May 13, 2011

Whales in NYC waters!!

Scientists, helped by hundreds of underwater microphones, discovered that the waters surrounding New York and New Jersey are full of singing whales. They even recorded the presence of the Blue Whale, the largest animal on earth today.

Read more about the presence of these charismatic marine mammals on National Geographic by following this link:
Whales Throng New York City Area, Surprising Scientists

Take care!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Armadillos: Leprosy carriers?

Leprosy, a debilitating infectious disease known to us since biblical times still affects 150-250 people every year in the Unites States. How is this possible? Why isn't it eradicated? Are we at risk?
If we believe a recent article published in the NY Times, unless you regularly handle or encounter armadillos you should be safe.

Armadillo playing in the grass in Palm Coast, FLImage via Wikipedia
Armadillos are new world mammals characterized by a leathery armored shell. They are great diggers and roll themselves into armored balls when threatened. 
Armadillos can be found in the south-east of the U.S.A all the way down through Central America extending to northern Argentina.

That's not all, they are also the carriers of Mycobacteriumleprae, the microorganism responsible for leprosy. Their low body temperature (31-35 degrees Celsius) is ideal for the bacteria's development. It's preference for cooler temperatures also explains why leprosy attacks the skin first, the coolest of our organs.

There isn't a cure yet but there are treatments to control the symptoms. Scientists are studying infected armadillos in hopes to find a cure for this illness.  While they do that, let's dispel some common myths about leprosy.

Leprosy is highly contagious.
False. There are two types of leprosy, and only one is contagious and only mildly at that. Transmission is thought to be through nasal droplets like the a cold or the flu. It is not sexually transmitted and requires a high level of exposure. The rumor of it being highly contagious has been linked to Leprosy camps back in the day that also took in patients with syphilis. Syphilis is a highly contagious sexually transmitted diseases which can cause skin lesions resembling leprosy in its final stage.

You're limbs fall off one after the other.
False. Leprosy causes skin lesions, loss of feeling in your limbs (which increases the risk of injury) and muscle weakness.

Interested to learn more about the relationship between armadillos and leprosy in the U.S, follow the links below.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spring Time in the City : New York 2011

Well folks, spring is here in NYC. New life is appearing everywhere and it's about time I get back to blogging.

Last year I got really excited by the tulips at the Montreal Botanical Gardens. I documented their growth week by week, it was fascinating to see them grow and wonder what the flower would ultimately look like. Follow the link to see for your self : Tulip Watch Montreal 2010

Tulips in NYC, although present, weren't as prevalent as Daffodils (a.k.a Narcissus). They were and still are everywhere. I have never spent as much time looking and photographing daffodils, as I have these past couple weeks.

The daffodil's trumpet gives this spring flower a very distinctive look. However, it wasn't until my mother heard someone on the BBC radio claim to have discovered a new structure that I really looked at a daffodil. 

Let's set the stage for this discovery.  Flowering plants, angiosperms, distinguished themselves from other plants 140 million years ago but it took us until the 19th century to actually define what makes a flower and how we classify them. A flower is composed of 4 key parts: petals, sepals, stamens & carpels. We use the number, colour, shape, and position of these structures to group and distinguish between species.

For the past 150 years, scientists have been disagreeing on the nature of the daffodil's trumpet or corolla. Is it a petal? Or is it part of the stamens?

Dr. Robert Scotland and other researchers at Oxford University looked for the answer within the bulb. They discovered the trumpet forms separately from the rest of the flower,  it's a completely new structure.  Scientists call it an example of evolution. I wonder just how much this is going to impact plant taxonomy. It was hard enough to learn the first time around.

In addition to being the new poster child for evolution, the daffodil has medical value.  It contains galantomine which can slow the development of the Alzheimer disease.

I thought NYC was daffodil crazy but it's nothing compared to Scotland, where they dominate the landscape. Here are some pictures I took from my trip. Enjoy!

They just grow wild everywhere!

Daffodils, you'll never look at them the same way.

Take care!

BBC Wales. March 2011. Oxford Scientists in Daffodil Discovery. [accessed online 04-30-2011]
Enhanced by Zemanta

You might also like

Related Posts with Thumbnails