Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Puffin's Lair - Tamed foxes in Russia

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love dogs and those who prefer cats. Until now.

Russian scientist Dmitri Konstantinovich Belyaev strongly believed that foxes can become the new human's best friend. He and his team spent more than 50 years trying to domesticate silver foxes, a melanistic form of the red fox -Vulpes vulpes.
The experiments began in the Soviet Union in 1959 and continue until today, carried out in the institute of Cytology and Genetics at Novosibirsk, Russia.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Bloody confusion!

We are back again! Sorry for the delay. Let me compensate you with a very useful explanation about blood groups and compatibility. The eternal confusion. Am I universal receptor? Who can donate blood to who?

There exist two different human blood group systems -actually there are 32, but those two are the most important ones-, ABO and Rh antigen. 

First of all, all of you should know that the dominance in ABO group is A and B co-dominant and O recessive. It means that if we have AA or AO genotype, the phenotype will be A, if we have BB or BO the phenotype will be B, with OO we have O, and with AB the phenotype is AB.
In case of Rh we have positive (+) or negative (-) genotype, the positive is dominant and the negative recessive.

Knowing that, now... who can donate to who? Here there is a very clear table about that:

Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Puffin's Lair - Secret skin

The polar bear – Ursus maritimus – lives in the Arctic Circle and is the largest living bear in the world. In some places is also called the Maritime Bear, as in the scientific name, due to the time it spends living in the water. An adult bear weights from 300 kg to 700 kg, is carnivorous - is fond of seals – and not territorial, unlike grizzly bears. 

Thursday, 16 May 2013


As explained in the post About cloning..., when we talked about "surrounding DNA stuff", we were talking about epigenetics.

Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene expression caused by mechanisms in the underlying DNA sequence, some of which are inheritable. In other words, we do not depend only on our genetic code plus the environment to be as we are, we have our "genetic environment" inside that makes us different.

Differentiation process. Picture from

Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Puffin's Lair - The Puffin's tongue

As an Animal Biologist, when the mind behind Genetics and Beyond proposed me to divulge some curious aspects and facts of the wildlife, I rapidly agreed. Although all the animals are wonders of nature, I have chosen the puffin to inaugurate this blog section.

The Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) is a black and white seabird with reddish legs that presents a shiny colourful beak during mating season – the couple remains together for a lifetime.
It can be mainly found in northern coast of Europe, Iceland and Faroe Islands, and lives in colonies near the cliffs, ready to dive and get some squids and seafood.

However, what it likes the most is fish. And here it comes the amazing feature. If you have seen a bird diving for fish, they usually take out from the water one fish. The Atlantic puffin can catch and hold with ease about 10, each trip.

The puffin’s tongue is special, as is shown in the picture. It uses its raspy tongue to push the fish against spines on the palate while they continue fishing. Each time another fish is caught; the tongue pushes again and holds it up with the others.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

About cloning...

I am sure that all of you have heard about cloning before. Despite of being a scientific invention or discovery, it has existed from long time ago in nature. It is also called asexual reproduction. It happens, for example, in bacteria. But it also happens in higher animals. 

Example of fragmentation in a starfish. Picture from

Cloning is an identical copy of an individual, organism or cell that already exists. 
But coming back to more human concepts, cloning has been one of the most interesting issues in science since the discovery of the DNA. The idea of creating a new individual with exactly the same genome as another... it almost means immortality. But we can discuss about philosophical meanings later.
Picture from

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Genetic engineering

What do we think when we hear “genetic engineering”? I was used to think in fluorescent animals, giant vegetables and the Ninja Turtles (I haven’t lost hope). But I was pretty surprised when I discover the real meaning.

As a definition, genetic engineering is the modification/manipulation of an organism genome using different molecular techniques. From that definition, we should go further and think what it really means. We may travel to the 1970’s to see that the first organisms genetically modified were viruses and bacteria. The main aim of these projects, after the great discoveries about the existence and the structure of the DNA, was to know if this DNA was modifiable and if life could survive to these modifications. The process is theoretically simple: we take or create a DNA sequence that we know encodes for a particular gene or group of genes, and we introduce this sequence inside the host cell.

Dolly, the sheep
Dolly the sheep. The process of cloning. Picture from

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