When I was little, my big brother would take me fossil-hunting on a quest for trilobites, marine arthropods that have been extinct for around 250 million years. Occasionally we'd find lone specimens but never a bunch of them in a conga line as seen above. Paleontologists at France's Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 studied lines of nearly two dozen trilobytes from Moroccan fossil beds to gain insight into the origins of collective social behavior. From the New York Times:
These trilobites lived during the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event, a period defined by a dramatic increase in the variety and complexity of marine life. It was the evolutionary sequel to the first major diversification event, the so-called Cambrian explosion, which established most animal groups in the fossil record some 541 million years ago.
Before the Cambrian, there is “no evidence for group behavior” in animals, (paleontologist Jean) Vannier said, because Precambrian life-forms lacked sophisticated nervous systems.
Ampyx trilobites, in contrast, had an anatomy that could have enabled chemical communication and sensory stimulation. Though they were visually blind, the trilobites had long spikes protruding from their rear ends. These appendages clearly overlap and link individuals in the fossilized chains, and perhaps allowed tactile or pheromone signals to be exchanged.
“Shipworms” are a menace, devouring the wood in ships and docks. For a while, as the New York Times explains, the pollution in New York harbor actually had some benefit in fighting them: By the 1960s, the waters had become overrun with raw sewage and oil and chemicals discharged by factories. “Industries were using the […]
One of the major contributors to greenhouse gases is the methane that cows belch up as they break down cellulose, but five years ago, research from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) found that adding small amounts of a pink seaweed called Asparagopsis to cows' diets eliminated the gut microbes responsible for methane […]
On Slate Star Codex (previously), Scott Alexander breaks down Invisible Designers: Brain Evolution Through the Lens of Parasite Manipulation, Marco Del Giudice's Quarterly Review of Biology paper that examines the measures that parasites take to influence their hosts' behaviors, and the countermeasures that hosts evolve to combat them.
Sous vide cooking: It sounds fancy, but it’s actually one of the easiest and most reliable ways to cook. It’s the reason why many restaurants are able to put out delicious dishes with a consistent flavor. All you need is the right equipment, and that hasn’t always been available to those outside the resto crowd. […]
The more you use your computer, the more it becomes possible for others to use it too. Where there are anti-virus systems, there are hackers looking for a way to get around them. That’s why it’s important to get software that doesn’t just passively scout for viruses in the background. The folks behind GlassWire have […]
Knowledge is power. It’s a cliché, but sometimes things turn into a cliché because they’re true. If you’re making your way through the world of business and entrepreneurship, it only makes sense to read about the insights of people who have climbed that ladder before you. Trouble is, the modern workday doesn’t leave a lot […]