The Amazing Atheist goes Green, and Why the Fuck don’t I Post More?

TAA talks about gas prices, and in doing so speaks in support of green energy.

Anyway. I’ve deliberately decided not to feature an organism this friday, or the whole blog will soon become nothing more than a collection of Friday’s Featured Organisms. “Why don’t you post other things?” I hear you ask. Laziness could be an answer. Also, I’ve recently been involved in trying to finally start my goddamn stage; I’ll start helping soon, but apparently most of the projects will take place in summer. This solicited me to start studying for the exams I’ll have to take in the summer, so hopefully I won’t have many problems juggling the exams and the stage when the time comes. All this means less time and energy to write meaty articles. I’ll try to do better before the summer madness begins. Things I plan on doing:

1) Post more of my naturalistic photos (the “Face to face” updates)

2) Post more movie bio-reviews (the “Popcorn Biology” updates)

3) Post the second part of my mockumentary reviews (I didn’t forget!)

4) Win the penis joke wars against Jerry Coyne (this is going to be an herculean task)

See ya soon, fuckers.

Friday’s Featured Organism: Amanita phalloides

Amanita phalloides

Shroom... of DOOM!

For the first fungus-based post here at The Cladogram we’ve goth the poisonous Amanita phalloides, the deadliest european mushroom, also known as Death Cap. My ongoing war with Jerry Coyne forces me to point out that the young fruity body (the mushroom) of this species is shaped like a phallus, hence the name “phalloides”.

Fungi are amazing and ecologically important organisms, and they’re weirdly misunderstood by non-biologists: usually, people think of them as plants. Hell, usually even in Biology Faculties they’re included into basic botany courses, even though the professors themselves of course explain that they’re more closely related to animals (the same way ALL of the diverse group of Protozoa are usually introduced in basic zoology courses – I think it’s time to create a separate course for “minor” Eukarya clades that are neither animals or plants). Just like animals, fungi are heterotrophs (many of them are fundamental in the process of decomposition of dead organic matter, and many are parasites of living beings), they have glycogen as an energy storage molecule, their cells contain chitin (in fungi it forms cell walls, while plant cell walls are of course made of cellulose), and they can’t do photosynthesis. Fungi, Animalia and Amoebozoa are all part of the clade Unikonta, while plants and other groups like green algae are part of the clade Plantae. So yeah, support the fungal secession from the plant tiranny!

Coyne’s competition becomes unbearable

Aaargh! Not only he’s famous in the science/skeptic world and I’m not, not only his blog is widely known and mine is not even really worth of the name “blog”, not only he is a real biologist and for now I’m only a student; now Jerry Coyne is clearly beating me in the amount of NSFW content too! He started a while ago, and now he’s at it, again, with an article about the penis of geese! Curse you Coyne!

Jerry Coyne: because one bio-blogger obsessed with penis jokes isn’t nearly enough

So, just when I was thinking that maybe the density of penis jokes on my blog was too high, super atheist blogger biologist Jerry Coyne makes me feel accepted with a post about animals with huge penises. I knew that the barnacles where the biggest considering the overall size of their bodies, but I somehow didn’t expect a killer whale to be so… let’s say manly. And the picture… god, that’s pretty graphic.

Origin Reborn

As Jerry Coyne pointed out on his site, a natural-history artist is creating an illuminated version of On the Origin of Species.  It’s gonna be a though, lenghty work: she estimates that the job will be done in approximately 10 years. That’s a lot of dedication we’ve got here, and judging from what we can see now, the final result is gonna be awesome. You can also donate to the project, and get some goodies too.

Let’s talk camouflage – or not?

by Francesco Lami

Camouflage is a widely adopted trick by organisms, especially animals, to avoid predators or surprise preys. Awesome myrmecologist (what’s with this blog and myrmecologists, anyway?) Alex Wild of Myrmecos fame has posted some days ago an article about what might indeed be one of the most incredibly elaborated camouflage tricks in the already incredibly elaborated world of camouflage. Click the link and look at that goddamn moth, Macrocilix maia: as Alex himself pointed out, it’s a whole mural, depicting two red-eyed flies feeding on bird droppings, complete with light glinting off the wings and the poo. Especially if looked from a few feet of distance, those really look like real flies and real crap, probably realistic enough to trick a bird anyway, and to make the whole thing more convincing, the moth smells bad (what’s with this blog and smelly animals, anyway?). I must admit, however, that I’m a little bit skeptic, and I’m not even the first one, to feel that way. Matthew Cobb wrote a post at Jerry Coyne’s WEIT addressing the most important problem with the theory: ok, flies makes the whole “bird shit” scenario a lot more realistic, but wouldn’t they attract fly-eating predators? While I still think that this, while a good objection, might not be enough to completely destroy a theory supported by the fact that the moth not only does look like bird droppings with flies, but also stinks like bird droppings with flies, I can’t help but think that this might just us seeing things we imagine where there are none, not differently from a Rorscharch test. It’s a story similar to that of the Samurai Crabs, whose face-like carapace has been suggested by some to have been artificially selected by superstitious japanese fishermen who released all the crabs which remotely looked like human faces, while others think it’s just a case of paraeidolia.

Long story short, the question is: do the wings of M. maia look like bird shit thanks tnatural selection, which gave the advantage of not being eaten to the shittiest moths? Or is that just one of the many varieties of moth wings, in which we have seen what we wanted to see (which is… shit, I guess)?