We at Promega Connections have covered much that is weird and scary in science over the last few years. In honor of Halloween, celebrated in the United States on October 31, we summarize and link to the top 10 scariest blogs on Promega Connections.
- Zombie Ants This is a story of a parasitic fungus that infects ants, causing drastic changes in normal behaviors: the ants climb to astounding heights off the jungle floor (for an ant) and bite a leaf, triggering the growth of a fungal stalk and spore sac from their heads – ultimately killing the ant and enabling the spores to hitch a ride on the wind for better distribution.
- Spontaneous Human Combustion Terri does a great job of providing a no-hype explanation of what the experts think may be happening in these cases. I think it’s a really great reason to ditch the lonely, sedentary lifestyle of blogging on your lap top while sipping a Merlot in front of a roaring fire.
- Attack of the Killer Tomatoes If you are an aphid, this blog is bad news. As Caroline writes, lurking in many of our backyards is a member of the nightshade family that traps its victim into a slow, lingering demise.
- A Tell-Tale Heart In this blog, Terri describes the mtDNA analysis of blood from a “keepsake” handkerchief from the French Revolution and the preserved heart of one of Louis the XV’s descendants. Is the blood on the handkerchief that of the king?
- Desiccated Bats Geomyces destructans, a cold-loving fungus perfectly suited to growth in the cool, moist environment of the bat cave, covers the muzzles of hibernating bats and destroys their wing tissues, killing them by the hundreds of thousands. We’ve written about white-nose syndrome three times, here, here and here, and you can stay up to date on the latest news from the USGS.
- Ring around the Rosy and Other Scary Children’s Rhymes Sara describes analysis of remains from three very old mass graves in Europe in an attempt to isolate and genotype the causative agent of the Black Death. This is followed by a report describing the isolation and sequencing of DNA from teeth and bones from a single grave in Britain in hopes of understanding the incredibly high mortality rates behind the European Black Death.
- Killer African Rats These rats are impregnated with a cardiotoxin. Predators beware.
- Goliath Spiders, Migrating Giant Ants As I compile this list of scary blogs, I’m thinking Kelly may be our weird science writer winner. In this blog she discusses research on the giant ants that migrated across North America. I’m awfully glad we had that Ice Age.
- Worms from the Depths of Hell Even my favorite worm, C. elegans, has trouble competing with this newly discovered nematode: Haliocephalobus mephisto. Isobel describes the discovery of this metazoan from the bowels of the earth, proving that space is NOT the only unexplored frontier.
- A Devil of Cancer This cancer is one that can spread by contact, and it may wipe out an entire species: the Tasmanian Devil. Read about it and how captive breeding programs may provide a way out for these animals.
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