Author Archive | Nsikan Akpan

Bristletail sensilla (left) lack the grooves that often house olfactory neurons, which contrasts with those in firebrats (middle) and leaf insects (right).  Missbach et al. eLife (2014).

When Did Insects Learn to Smell?

Summer beckons in the northern latitudes. As temperatures warm, beachgoers will flood sandy coasts, carrying bags of potato chips and sandwiches. Picnics will sprout in parks supplied with pink watermelon wedges and soda pop. Feasts ripe for people, and undoubtedly bugs too. In mere seconds flies and bees can swarm, but how do they sniff…

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<a href=””>Albert G. | Flickr (CC BY 2.0)</a>

Measles Pop Quiz: Social Media Edition

Let’s try something new. I predicted that my story on a ‘Measles Outbreak Traced to a Fully Vaccinated Patient for First Time’ would generate a cloud of comments on Facebook (Science Magazine + ScienceNOW). Like a storm offshore, I saw it coming. So I posed extra questions to my sources that could cover the eventual…

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Fossilized feces. Credit: North Dakota Geological Survey

Lessons Learned From Really Old Poop

Fossilized feces may sound gross, but its hidden lessons about microbes certainly don’t stink. A petrified piece of poop—called a “coprolite”—from the 14th century has unveiled the earliest evidence of antibiotic resistance genes in the human gut microbiome. The findings reveal how these genes were swapped among bacteria long before the era of antibiotics and…

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A genetics survey ‘resurrects’ a sailfin dragon species that was misclassified in 1872, while providing a new blueprint for patrolling a black market trade. Credit: Scott Corning

Lazarus Lizard

He’s grown bigger since the last video. Chico chopped off his own tail a few months back (I think maybe he was upset about being in his cage). Such is a life in captivity for a sailfin dragon as retold on YouTube, where there are over 1,400 videos of Hydrosaurus lizards. The vibrant reptiles are often…

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Perhaps the greatest gift for the environment this holiday season would be a change in how we recycle paper. Photo courtesy of <a href=””>SXC</a>.

Paper Recycling: The Gift that Could Give Much More

Doe-eyed kids will rise from their comfy beds on Christmas, eager to rush downstairs and unwrap the presents under the tree, all the while, unwittingly taking a huge dump on the environment. U.S. household waste is highest between Thanksgiving and New Years, rising by 25 percent—or an extra one million tons during the holiday season….

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<a href=””>Monarch Butterfly | SXC</a>.

Lookout! The Monarchs Are Coming…Maybe

Dressed in orange and black, they have traveled epic distances, through the unforgiving environs of urban development, only to arrive with feverish anticipation for what’s to come. Who are these eager travelers? Legions of kids flooding into Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz, Calif. to view the return of migrating Monarch butterflies. Every autumn,…

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