In focus: How much do turtles wiggle their hips?

by Christopher Mayerl, Evolutionary Morphology and Biomechanics Laboratory at Clemson University (S. Carolina, USA). If you would like to contribute a guest post, please get in touch, such as on Twitter or Facebook. When you see a turtle, you automatically know it’s a turtle and not something else, probably because of its distinctive shell. However, there’s…

In focus: What is the Portuguese Man-O’-War?

Our guest post this week comes from Emei Ma, a scientific artist. If you would like to contribute a guest post, please get in touch on Twitter or Facebook. Occasionally, we come across an image or a video that compels us to ask, “What is that?” Such was the case when I saw the mesmerizing work of Aaron…

In focus: The mysterious extra ‘digits’ of pandas, moles and elephants

The biological ‘five finger rule’ is strikingly consistent throughout living tetrapod vertebrates. Humans and other primates, most carnivorous mammals, crocodiles, lizards and tortoises all typically possess the five digits (fingers and toes) characteristic of tetrapod limbs. It wasn’t always so – the ancient ancestors of the first vertebrates to walk on land, such as Ichthyostega and Acanthostega, had up to…

#FossilFriday: Ingenious camouflage found in ancient amber-preserved insects

While many species are known to have evolved specialised colouration to better blend into their environmental backgrounds, there is another important form of camouflage: incorporate your environment into your appearance! This can be seen across the animal kingdom, including in insects and their larvae, sea urchins, and snails. Now, researchers have found some of the…

In focus: Launching our new CrocBase project!

We are delighted to announce the launch of the first of several new open access databases from John Hutchinson’s team at the RVC, containing complete CT and MRI scans of almost all our modern crocodile specimens! Our CrocBase is hosted via the Open Science Framework, and contains 53 scan datasets of five crocodilian (AKA crocodylian to scientists) species…

New photographic project captures intricate beauty of insects

A new collection of images launched this week by the Oxford University Museum of Natural History reveal in stunning detail the intricacies of insect anatomy. Each image is a composite of around 8,000 individual photos, with the artist Levon Biss painstakingly adjusting the lighting and settings for each one to best highlight the microscopic details…

Section through an octopus shows the mouth passing through the brain

Octopuses and other cephalopods are well-known for their exceptional intelligence and complex brains, which appear to outstrip all other invertebrates’. But, they work within one strange constraint – like all other molluscs (snails, slugs, oysters and more), the nerve ring at the centre of their nervous system encircles the oesophagus. In cephalopods, this nerve ring…

#ThrowbackThursday individual bone cells from ‘Lucy’ tell the story of her growth

This rather abstract-looking image shows a tiny patch (around 110 micrometres across) of an ancient hominid femur. ‘Lucy’ is one of the the oldest and probably the most famous early human-like primate, belonging to the species Australopithecus afarensis. She lived around 3.2 million years ago in sub-Saharan Africa, and her remains were discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia….

Platypus x-rays show shadows of its “reptilian” ancestry

Platypuses belong to an ancient group of mammals, the monotremes. Today, these are the only living mammalian species to lay eggs, and the group also includes echidnas. But, as the x-rays of Dr Larry Vogelnest show, the platypus retains several skeletal features which link it to its distant ancestors (often called reptiles, but more technically referred…

A lovely Alitta virens for #wormWednesday this week!

This exotic-looking annelid worm was actually found off the Scottish coast at St Andrews, and appears in the 1910 Monograph of the British Marine Annelids. Also known as the King Ragworm, this regal creature can grow up to 1.2 metres (4 feet) long! This species was also the first to be shown to use chemical…