Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The illegal orchid trade and its implications for conservation

When most people think of illegal wildlife trade, the first images that spring to mind are likely to be African elephants killed for their ivory, rhino horns being smuggled for medicine, or huge seizures of pangolins. But there is another huge global wildlife trade that is often overlooked, despite it involving thousands of species that are often traded illegally and unsustainably.

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Animal of the Month: 13 facts about frogs

The Anura order, named from the Greek an, ‘without’ and oura, ‘tail’, contains 2,600 different species and can be found in almost every continent on Earth. These are frogs, and they comprise 85% of the extant amphibian population on earth. They hop around our gardens, lay swathes of frothy eggs in our ponds, and come in a wide variety of exciting colours, but apart from that, how much do you really know about them?

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Greenwashing the garrison state

Across the globe, the garrison state has “gone green” as national militaries have become partly involved in stewardship of the natural environment. On the face of it, this is a puzzling development. After all, protecting plants and animals from the depredations of humankind is not a job that most people expect from women and men in uniform.

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Introducing March Mammal Madness

March is a notable month for basketball enthusiasts across the United States, as college teams face off and are narrowed down to one final champion. But for those of us who aren’t as inclined to get in on the sporting excitement, there is an alternative: March Mammal Madness (MMM). MMM was started in 2013 by Dr. Katie Hinde, Associate Professor at Arizona State University.

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Animal of the Month: Interactive guide to polar bear anatomy

From white fur to large paws, we all know what the largest bear species in the world looks like, but how much do you actually know about the anatomy of polar bears? So far this month, we have explored how climate change affects our Animal of the Month. Now, we would like to take some time to appreciate the anatomy of the polar bear, particularly the ways in which the bear has adapted to its environment and lifestyle.

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The ‘most wonderful plants in the world’ are also some of the most useful ones

In the popular imagination, carnivorous plants are staples of horror films, high-school theater productions, and science-fiction stories. Many a child has pleaded with her parents to buy yet another Venus’ fly-trap to replace the one she has just killed by over-stuffing it with raw hamburger rather than the plant’s natural diet of flies, ants, and other small insects.

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Darwin Day 2018

Monday, 12th February 2018 is Darwin Day, so-called in commemoration of the birth of the father of evolutionary biology, Charles Darwin, in 1809. The day is used to highlight Charles Darwin’s contribution to evolutionary and plant science. Darwin’s ground-breaking discoveries have since paved the way for the many scientists who have come after him, with many building on his work.

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What happens when a volcano erupts?

Volcanoes are incredibly complex geological systems. They are capable of generating many dangerous effects in the form of lava follows, fallout, and lahars – as well as associated hazards such as seismic shocks, tsunamis, or landslides. About 500 million people currently live in regions of the world directly subject to volcanic risk, and it is estimated that about 250,000 persons died during the past two centuries as a direct consequence of volcanic eruptions.

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Animal of the Month: 13 nutty squirrel species [slideshow]

Most of these critters belong to the Sciurus genus which is from the ancient Greek, “skia” meaning shadow or shade, and “oura” for tail. Despite the variation within these different members of the same family, the evolutionary record shows that squirrels have actually changed very little over millions of years. If it ain’t broke…

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Are the gods indifferent?

It’s an old question, at least as old as Prometheus. Are the gods indifferent or is there something in the scheme of things that cares? The ancient tale of Prometheus neatly parses its reply – yes and no. Zeus is indifferent to humanity; we are small change. But not Prometheus. His concern for our plight leads him to give us fire, which as Aeschylus explains is more than the warming flames of the hearth.

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Biofilms: advantage for bacteria, threat for medical devices

It has been known for centuries that bacteria tend to adhere to solid surfaces, forming a slimy and slippery layer known as biofilm. Bacterial biofilms are complex microbial communities protected by an extracellular matrix composed of polysaccharides, proteins, and nucleic acids. The extracellular matrix improves biofilm cohesion and its adhesion to surfaces.

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Animal of the Month: Ten things you didn’t know about squirrels

Whether they’re gray or red, climbing a tree or scurrying on the ground, squirrels are one of the most ubiquitous mammals in the world. They are found in almost every habitat imaginable from tropical rainforests to deserts, avoiding only the most extreme conditions found in the high polar and arid desert regions. Different types of squirrels are indigenous to almost every continent including the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

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Organisms as societies

In the 19th century, biologists came to appreciate for the first time the fundamentality of the cell to all life. One of the early pioneers of cell biology, Rudolf Virchow, realized that the discovery of the cell brought with it a new way of seeing the organism and described it as a ‘cell state’. In the 20th century, this metaphor fell out of favour, but recent trends in biology suggest a revival.

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Animal of the Month: Reindeer around the world

We all know Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. But do you know about the different subspecies of reindeer and caribou inhabiting the snowy climes of the extremes of the northern hemisphere? As Santa Claus travels the globe, here’s an exploration of the possible types of reindeer that are pulling his sleigh.

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Of microbes and Madagascar

Microbes are everywhere. On door knobs, in your mouth, covering the New York City Subway, and festering on the kitchen sponge. The world is teeming with microbes—bustling communities of invisible organisms, including bacteria and fungi. Scientists are hard at work cataloging the microbial communities of people, buildings, and entire ecosystems. Many discoveries have shed light on how culture and behavior shape these communities.

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