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So the big countdown is almost up and the Olympics will soon be upon us! Tomorrow night the whole world will be turning up or tuning in to watch the opening ceremony for the 2012 games and I am turtley excited! Over the next few weeks we will be watching the world’s athletes competing to be the best and I will be cheering on team GB to do us proud.

This morning I woke up extra early so I could watch the Olympic torch pass near our London office and it was great! The crowd was amazing and really showed their support. I showed mine through my choice of outfit:

I really wish turtles could compete…

Along Farringdon Road

Other than following the Olympics hype I have been keeping an eye out for testudine related news or anything aquatic and I stumbled across an awesome paper from BMC Genomics. It’s titled ‘An unbiased approach to identify genes involved in development in a turtle with temperature-dependent sex determination’ and examines whether, like many reptiles, the sex of the red-eared slider turtle is decided by the temperature of the embryos. It’s really fascinating stuff! If you fancy checking it out then follow the link to the paper.

Another intriguing reptile find this week includes the discovery of one of the most primitive snake fossils ever found! Not only that, the fossil has given clues that the slithery reptiles might have originated on land and not the sea. The fossilized animal lived in prehistoric times (along with my ancestors) and probably emerged from a line of burrowing reptiles that lost their legs through evolution. How amazing is that, huh?

Well that’s all from me folks. I’ll be back with more news next week!

 

I’ve got milk, have you? I made sure that I had an ice cold glass on Friday to celebrate World Milk Day! Since 2001 the 1st June has acknowledged the importance of milk and the milk industry and it really has churned up some great ideas. The United Arab Emirates introduced the ‘School Milk Project’, a month-long initiative with children to help answer their questions and to let the little hatchlets know how important milk is in order to grow up big and strong! Finland organised a seminar titled “Around the World with Milk and Music” which included different ways milk is used around the world and live music from each country. What did you do to celebrate?

This June has been jam-packed with science treats! On 6th June, we saw the transit of Venus which is among the rarest of predictable astronomical phenomena. It occurs in a pattern that repeats every 243 years, with pairs of transits eight years apart separated by long gaps of 121.5 years and 105.5 years. In other words we were really lucky to see it!

Transit of Venus lasted 6 hours in 2004

We also witnessed a partial lunar eclipse on 4th June where the moon was about one third covered by the earth’s umbral shadow at maximum eclipse. Unfortunately for us in Britain we were unable to see it but if you are lucky enough to live in Australia, Asia or North America I hope you kept your eyes peeled!

A partial lunar eclipse in Minneapolis, December 2011

So as you can see the last week has been very exciting! But it was not just full of scientific marvels, as we had a very British affair with the celebrations of the Queen’s diamond jubilee! And I celebrated in style. I definitely blended in perfectly with all of the festivities.

Who said red and green should never be seen?

Talking about blending in, I discovered an amazing fact about one of my sea friends, the octopus. They take camouflage to a whole new level by taking on the shape and colour of specific objects in their environment. They can even change the texture of their skin! Now that’s turtley cool.

Spot the octopus


One of my clones had been kidnapped! He was last seen at Thursday’s BioMed Central Research Awards ceremony looking very dapper in his tuxedo (I almost can’t blame people for wanting to take him as he was suited and booted to the nines!) But he’s extremely missed by his BioMed family so if you know of his whereabouts or saw him on the night please let us know.

I however have hung up my tux for another year and apart from the disappearance of my good friend I had an amazing night. Everyone was delighted with their awards, with the lovely Áine McKnight winning the main and very prestigious BioMed Central Research Award.  Being an avid football fan (yes turtles like football too!) I was so excited to be going to the Emirates Stadium which is where the celebrations were held. Our impressive entertainment from the free-styling footballer Paul Wood left us all in awe and clamouring to have a go.

Me at Arsenal

Throughout today I’ve been trying to hunt down our missing Gulliver and in my efforts I came across some very interesting turtley revelations! The remains of a pre-historic turtle has been found in a Columbian coal mine. However these are no ordinary finds. The shell of the 60 million year old turtle is about the size of a small swimming pool along with giant jaws and a long tail. Talk about a massive discovery!

Artwork: Liz Bradford

But why were they so big? Experts believe that with the combination of changes in the ecosystem; including fewer predators, a larger habitat, plentiful food supply and climate changes,  worked together to allow them to survive. Isn’t it amazing what you find out about your ancestors?

Well folks. I think I’m going to wrap things up here as it is the end of the day at the BioMed Central office and I am desperate to go and try out my new footie tricks. Until next time!

The dust is settling after the London mayoral elections and it’s left me feeling quite inspired to try a career in politics.  I’ve got some super cool policies: build shells for the homeless, free surf boards and Open Access research for everyone!  Something else I’d advocate is cleaning up the sea.  Scientists reckon that the pile of plastic in the North Pacific has grown by over 100 times in the last 40 years.  That’s my home we’re talking about!  I don’t come round to your house and leave my rubbish in your living room!  Seriously though, if this carries on then my neighbours will be in real danger of becoming extinct and there’s already way too much of that going on.

In more positive news, my distant cousin at Marwell Wildlife has just become a mum.  Check out these four baby Egyptian tortoises.  This species is critically endangered so it’s great to see some newcomers on the scene, even if they are barely bigger than a human thumbnail. Little tykes!

Many people think that small animals are cute, but size is a relative thing.  The world’s smallest mammoth, for example, is still well over three feet tall.  It’s a quality example of how nature adapts.  A bunch of massive mammoths stuck on a tiny island where there isn’t any room, so over time they get smaller – now that’s thinking outside the box!

On the other end of the scale, did anyone see the moon on Sunday?  It was turtley huge!  Because the moon’s orbit is an ellipse not a circle its distance from the earth is always changing.  When it’s at its closest, like it was the other day, they call it a “supermoon” (whoever “they” are).  Not only does it look bigger and brighter than normal, but it affects the levels of the tides – glad I wasn’t visiting the folks that day!

Well I’d best be off, got the BioMed Central Research Awards to prepare for.  But since there’s been a bit of a theme of small animals in today’s blog, here’s a picture of some platypus babies for no other reason than to make you go “awwwww”.  Did you know that there is no official plural of the word “platypus” in the English language?  Some people say “platypuses”, others say “platypi”.  Personally I quite like “platypodes”.  However you call it these little guys are still adorable.

(Photo taken by Faye Bedford & supplied by Dr T. Grant.)

Did you see my newest crabby friends? The dudes at De La Salle University in Manila found four new species of Insulamon freshwater crabs endemic to Aqua Palawana. Such pretty colours – I’d be green with envy if I wasn’t green already.


Insulamon palawanense © Senckenberg

It’s been a busy week for my BioMed Central buddies.

The 25th of April was World Malaria Day with the theme “Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria”. According to the World Health Organization, in 2010 malaria was responsible for 655 000 deaths worldwide, mostly among African children.

The good news is that the lives of 842,800 children have been saved worldwide over the last decade by anti-malaria programs. But the bad news is that there have been 75 episodes of malarial resurgence (since the 1930s) in areas where the disease used to be under control. So there is a real possibility that the success of the past decade will be overturned by resurgence of the disease if support for anti-malaria programs is not maintained.

I’m looking forward to our 6th Annual Research Awards. There are loads of new categories this year and the winners have just been announced. The winners are automatically in the shortlist for the overall BioMed Central Research Award. The shortlist for the Open Data Award sponsored by our pals at LabArchives was also announced.

I might know who the winners are – I might not – I’m certainly not telling! I’m a tight-lipped turtle! You’ll just have to wait until the BioMed Central Research Awards ceremony where the awards for the Case Report of the Year, Open Access Advocate/Institution of the Year and Editor of the Year will also be presented.

Vote for ‘Turtle of the year’ anyone?

With April Fools Day out of the way I can safely emerge from my shell.  Turtles aren’t known for their practical joking but in the 1920s a whole bale of us got in on the action by helping American painter Waldo Peirce play a prank on his concierge.  He gave her a pet turtle and then secretly swapped it every few days for a bigger one.  When she started showing off her ever-changing  chelonian to all her friends he then confused her even more by swapping it for smaller and smaller ones instead.  My uncle Snapper said it was the funniest thing he’s ever done, but he doesn’t get out much.

Talking of relatives, scientists have been looking into my family tree by examining the fossils of giant soft-shelled turtles.  Trionychidae, or “pancake” turtles  as they are sometimes known, have soft leathery shells rather than the hard bony carapaces that most of us prefer.  I personally go in for a soft cuddly shell but then I am a very unusual turtle!

Image

Which probably explains why I was the only turtle invited to the unveiling of BioMed Central’s new journal Flavour; a taste-tastic treatise on the science of food.  More than 300 people gathered at the University of London to celebrate the official launch of the journal, learn about Nordic cuisine and try some seaweed ice-cream.  Yummy!

I’m always a fan of science, but even more so when it’s related to food, so I was stoked to learn about Pi Day.  March 14th or (03.14 for our American cousins) is an international celebration of π.  The party officially starts at 1:59 PM which gives a grand total of 3.14159.  In 1995, Hiroyoki Gotu memorized 42,195 places of pi, which makes him the world pi champion.  That sounds like a lot of work, so I hope they rewarded him with a tasty pie like this one!

Image

All this talking of food is making me peckish, so I’m off for a snack.

Happy eating peeps!

Well peeps since my last post I’ve been spreading the love in my super cute valentines outfit and scouting the globe for other examples of  turtle love!

Folks at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver have been sharing the turtle love with a proposal for introducing mobile nature reserves in our oceans. This would be a great help towards protecting my turtle homies and marine life buddies as we travel around the seas –  without increased marine protection it could be goodbye to fellow Gulliver’s all over the world!!!

My endangered snapping turtle bro’s in southern Ontario, Niagara need some BIG love too, they are super important for the ecosystem there and Patrick Moldowan, a fourth-year wildlife biology student at the University of Guelph is putting an ace petition together to help put measures in place to save them, they need your help toooooooooooooo, so please check it out and show your support dudes!

Don’t forget if you want to spread the Gulliver love too with your own clone then get in touch. Simply send a private message on my Facebook page with your address  – telling us where your clone will be living and what sciencey things he will be doing on his turtley adventures with you.

Finally I have been chatting with my friends Owl and Penguin at Animal Garden about Malaria and the amount of information available out there though Open Access – or not as the case may be!   

 

 

Well that’s enough from me for now, laters potatas….

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