How do scientists know if an organism is one species or another, and how do they know whether a critter is a subspecies? In short, what defines a species? I started asking scientists at the Florida Museum of Natural History about this when I worked there as a staff science writer. Many researchers would come back from survey trips with what they said were species new to science, or paleontologists would come back from digs with bits of fossil bone that they said also represented new species. In the beginning, I passively accepted their assertions, making careful notes of what features distinguished this newly discovered organism from its close relatives. Then I began to wonder about the boundaries that separate species. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘biology’
The following script was supposed to air on a science radio program, but the editor inexplicably killed it. I have never had this happen — after a pitch being formally accepted — so I asked for a reason why. (Still waiting for that reason.) Here’s the script:
Honey bees get high… on crack? … yes, from tiny doses.
Cocaine evolved in coca plants as a defense against leaf-munching insects. It works by destroying their motor pathways. But when mammals — think humans — ingest small doses, it activates the “reward” mechanism in their brains. (more…)