Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Pigment profile in the photosynthetic sea slug Elysia viridis

How can sacoglossan sea slugs perform photosynthesis – a process usually associated with plants? Kleptoplasty describes a special type of endosymbiosis where a host organism retain photosynthetic organelles from their algal prey. Kleptoplasty is widespread in ciliates and foraminifera; however, within Metazoa animals (animals having the body composed of cells differentiated into tissues and organs, and usually a digestive cavity lined with specialized cells), sacoglossan sea slugs are the only known species to harbour functional plastids.

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9780199985562

Engaged Buddhism and community ecology

For the most part, Buddhists have historically been less concerned with explaining the world than with generating personal peace and enlightenment. However, the emergence of “engaged Buddhism” – especially in the West, has emphasized a powerful commitment to environmental protection based in no small part on a fundamental ecological awareness that lies at the heart of Buddhist thought and practice.

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Living in the dark

It is well known that many of the permanent inhabitants of caves have evolved a bizarre, convergent morphology, including loss of eyes and pigment, elongation and thinning of appendages, and other adaptations to conditions of complete darkness and scarce food.

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What goes up must come down

Biomechanics is the study of how animals move. It’s a very broad field, including concepts such as how muscles are used, and even how the timing of respiration is associated with moving. Biomechanics can date its beginnings back to the 1600s, when Giovanni Alfonso Borelli first began investigating animal movements. More detailed analyses by pioneers such as Etienne Jules Marey and Eadweard Muybridge, in around the late 1800s started examining the individual frames of videos of moving animals.

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The environmental case for nuclear power

Time is running short. When the IPCC published its first scientific report in 1990 on the possibility of human-caused global warming, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) was 354 ppm. It is now 397 ppm and rising. In spite of Kyoto, Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban, and Doha, atmospheric CO2 continues its inexorable upward path.

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ocean-worlds

The life of oceans: a history of marine discovery

It pays to be nice. One of the most absolutely, emphatically wrong hypotheses about the oceans was coined by one of the most carefree and amiable people in nineteenth century science. It should have sunk his reputation without trace. Yet, it did not.

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If it’s 2014, this must be Sacramento

It is likely that most ecologists have their own stories regarding the annual meetings of the Ecological Society of America (ESA), the world’s largest organization of professional ecologists. Some revere it, whereas others may criticize it. There is, however, truth in numbers—growth in attendance has been seemingly exponential since my first meeting in the early 1980’s.

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Why you can’t take a pigeon to the movies

By Siu-Lan Tan
Films trick our senses in many ways. Most fundamentally, there’s the illusion of motion as “moving pictures” don’t really move at all. Static images shown at a rate of 24 frames per second can give the semblance of motion. Slower frame rates tend to make movements appear choppy or jittery. But film advancing at about 24 frames per second gives us a sufficient impression of fluid motion.

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Microbes matter

By John Archibald
We humans have a love-hate relationship with bugs. I’m not talking about insects — although many of us cringe at the thought of them too — but rather the bugs we can’t see, the ones that make us sick. Sure, microorganisms give us beer, wine, cheese, and yoghurt; hardly a day goes by without most people consuming food or drink produced by microbial fermentation.

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Bioscience, flies, and the future of teleportation

By William Hoffman
In pondering how rapidly animal, plant, microbial, viral, and human genetic and regulatory sequences travel around the world over wireless and fiber optic networks, I’m transported back to the sci-fi movie The Fly I watched as a boy. Released in 1958, the film was based on a story George Langelaan published in Playboy.

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Animals could help reveal why humans fall for illusions

By Laura Kelley and Jennifer Kelley
Visual illusions, such as the rabbit-duck (shown below) and café wall are fascinating because they remind us of the discrepancy between perception and reality. But our knowledge of such illusions has been largely limited to studying humans.

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Tracking down a slow loris

By Mary Blair
Slow lorises are enigmatic nocturnal primates that are notoriously difficult to find in the wild. The five species of slow loris that have been evaluated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species are classified as threatened or critically endangered with extinction. So, how did one end up recently on the set of Lady Gaga’s music video?

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The Man in the Monkeynut Coat and the men in the yellow jerseys

By Kersten Hall
It is a safe bet that the name of Pierre Rolland rings very few bells among the British public. In 2012, Rolland, riding for Team Europcar finished in eighth place in the overall final classifications of the Tour de France whilst Sir Bradley Wiggins has since become a household name following his fantastic achievement of being the first British person ever to win the most famous cycle race in the world.

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Coral reef stresses

By Charles Sheppard
Coral reefs are the most diverse ecosystem in the sea. In some ways they are very robust marine ecosystems, but in other ways, perhaps because of their huge numbers of species, they are very delicate and susceptible to being damaged or killed. On the one hand, healthy reefs are glorious riots of life, and marine scientists have spent several decades unravelling the complicated ways in which they work. On the other hand, at least one third of the world’s reefs have already died – gone for ever in terms of human lifetimes at least – even when the cause of their demise is lifted.

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Investing for feline futures

By Rachael A. Bay
For tigers, visiting your neighbor is just not as easy as it used to be. Centuries ago, tigers roamed freely across the landscape from India to Indonesia and even as far north as Russia. Today, tigers inhabit is just 7% of that historical range. And that 7% is distributed in tiny patches across thousands of kilometers.

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