Greetings everybody,

I know what you are thinking, how in the world did Biobunch come across this weird sounding animal? Well I owe it all to 'The Book of Barely Imagined Beings' I got for Christmas last year! Do not let the word shrimp confuse you the Gonadactylus are lethal little predators packing a serious whack! 

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Conservation status: Not listed
Habitat: This little shrimp is found on reef flats and believe it or not dead and live coral. They bury cavities in the coral and take root there. Their range is thought to be between New Caledonia all the way to the Western Indian Ocean.
Length: 8-90mm

Now what characteristic to focus on for this colourful little guy... I suppose could focus on its supposed 'genital fingers'

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First things first, does this shrimp actually have genitals for fingers? It would be quite amusing but - no. No this shrimp does not have genitals for fingers, however, the scientist who first found this shrimp is thought to have amused himself by thinking that they were and thus named it accordingly.
All jokes aside, this gherkin sized shrimp is probably one of the most efficient killing machines to be found in nature. Their typical victims fall under the shelled organisms variety, such as oysters, crabs and snails.  Gonodactylus fall under one of two hunting types, you have the smasher and the 'spearers', neither sound very appealing so lets have a look a little closer.

The shrimp you see above is a 'smasher' and the blow that they deliver is equal to a force of 1,500 N and is over in just a fraction of a second. That's not all for defenceless prey item, the speed at which the first blow is delivered causes a process called cavitation to occur, whereby a partial vacuum in the water behind the shrimps lethal weapons is formed. This is acts as the second shell crushing blow. Never judging a book by its cover is crucial in the case of the Gonadactylus as a punch from this could lead to a broken bone!

In the case of the spearers as the name suggests, these shrimp carry out the art of skewering their prey on the very sharp barbed points on their front limbs. Lovely! Look at the image below for the variety of shapes and sizes of the Gonadactylus's appendages. 

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The brutality through which these Stomatopods kill in combination with spectacular vision makes them a near to perfect 'killing machine'. As such, the overall design of these little shrimp have remained relatively untouched for what is thought the past four hundred million years! I suppose if you have the perfect design then why change it?

That bring us to the end of our post guys! As alway it has been a pleasure posting for you, remember to keep up with the blogs twitter account. Until next time.

Over and out.
Greetings everybody, 

2016 is shaping up to be an interesting year so far for science! It is only January and already the controversial topic of genetically modifying human embryos has been catapulted into the spotlight. This long standing bioethical debate was triggered by Kathy Niakan’s application to carry out embryonic gene editing in the UK! It is now an all out war between scientists vs scientists.

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Firstly, why is genetic modification such a promising technological advancement for therapeutic treatment? Simply put, it would allow us to replace ‘damaged’ DNA that will likely cause some form of genetic disease with ‘undamaged’ DNA. 

Sounds good, so why is there a split amongst scientists? 
Ethics my dear, ethics. Those that are against this step forwards believe it would be crossing an ‘ethical line’ by carrying out modifications on germ line cells (reproductive cells, embryos), as the changes will be carried forward onto the next generation, without consent. Additionally, with great technology comes great responsibility, there are fears that germ line modification is the first inevitable step towards non therapeutic uses i.e. designer babies

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Ok, so you have been introduced to the debate now to introduce you to how this type of gene  modification actually works. I could go into the whole massive scientific procedure behind it, but I won’t. The things you need to know are in the diagram below. 

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Whilst germ line modification has remained hidden, somatic cell modification has been flourishing. Cells used in this technique would never lead to a baby therefore the ethics concerned are not so stressed. 
Outcomes from research on genetically modifying somatic cells are very promising! A study conducted in California used genetic editing technology to remove the gene holding the blueprint to make the receptor that HIV binds to from white blood cells. A functional cure for HIV/AIDS seems rather plausible with this technique, there infected patients are injured with modified white blood cells, and casting anti-retroviral drugs as redundant.

Compare this to the first published article using gene editing tools to modify non viable human embryos, the results are not so optimistic.
They started of by injecting 86 embryos with CRISPR/Cas9 
71 of these embryos survived
52 were genetically tested
Only 28 were successfully spliced
4 embryos contained the genetic material that was designed to repair the cuts in their DNA.

Not great success was reaped from this study and a key fear of such editing was confirmed during the course of their study. The researchers found a significant number of ‘off target mutations’, such unintentional mutations could have adverse effects for the baby. Some critics argue that there is no need for this advancement in genetic technology, current technologies allow us to genetically screen and select healthy embryos for IVF.

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Of 100 eggs only 13 will develop beyond the three month stage in IVF, the odds aren’t great. With each round of IVF costing around £5,000 a greater understanding of what goes wrong during development is much needed. Kathy Niakan believes that germ line modification unlock a deeper understanding of developmental biology as well as the underlying genetic factors that cause miscarriages. 


15 of 22 Western European countries have prohibited germ line modification claiming that this course of action is an ‘ethical breach’ that should never be crossed. The main issue is, if there are any detrimental effects of modifying a human embryo they may not be made apparent until the baby is born.

However! Lets look on what we have to gain from this unchartered venture. Near to complete eradication of devastating genetic diseases carried on for generations. Transformed germ germ lines carry the potential protection against, forms of cancer, diabetes and even age related problems. 

Yep! It is definitely a head scratcher in terms of bioethics but nonetheless, as scientists pioneering in this field their is an importance to educate the  young minds of future physicians. See you next Friday have an amazeballs weekend!!

Over and out

Greetings everybody,

Happy Friday! Todays post will be on  ‘The Battle for the soul of Evolutionary Biology’. Evolutionary Biology is a hot topic in science of late due to an all out war on whether Evolutionary Theory is just fine the way it is (Standard Evolutionary Theory) or if it needs a total reboot in order to fit with modern phenomena (Extended Evolutionary Synthesis). For you guys to form your own opinion, I am going to give you a crash course on what both sides are saying. Enjoy. 

Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES): 


Extended Evolutionary Synthesis is built on one fundamental idea. Genes cannot take all the credit for evolution. Scientists in support of this idea claim that Standard Evolutionary Theory can cause scientists to have tunnel vision as such they can miss crucial parts of the picture. They argue that the original theory neglects the role processes involved in an organisms growth and development have on their evolution. At present, evolutionary theorists have maxed out on researching an organisms genes and  their phenotypes but have neglected the link between the two. Development.

According to Kevin Laland and his colleagues four phenomena should be integrated into Evolutionary Theory 2.0. Developmental Bias, Niche Construction, Phenotypic Plasticity and Extra Genetic Inheritance. For todays post I will focus on two!


Now I am not going to go into too much detail about this process because it will be featured in its very own post on Biobunch in the not too distant future. This phenomena describes an organisms ability to reconstruct their developmental path by changing their phenotypic state or activity (e.g. rate of metabolism) in response to novel or varying environmental conditions. 
Below are two examples of this process in action check it out! 


There is a lot more to inheritance than genes. Extra-Genetic Inheritance takes parent-offspring similarities one step beyond genetics, by explaining the maintenance of behavioural traditions, cultural inheritance and so on. Classic example is the passing of nut cracking knowledge in chimps. 

Closing points: 

Overall, the four phenomena above mentioned may have a far larger explanatory power of why and how evolution occurs than currently given credit for. Overall the synthesis provides an interesting and arguably novel view on evolution by providing more than one route for an organism to ‘fit’ into its environment. 

Scientists that are behind this synthesis, are not completely undermining current evolutionary biology, however, what they are calling for is a wider stance on topics by revamping Standard Evolutionary Theory. After all it has been shown countless times plurality is always the best policy. 

Standard Evolutionary Theory (SET):


This is the evolutionary theory that everybody has come across at some stage in life whether it be through the national curriculum, or higher education the point is, it is widely taught to us. This theory was largely formed on the principles set out by ‘The Modern Synthesis’. What is this? Well the great Charles Darwin provided us with natural selection as a process by which evolution is likely to occur. But its missing something, genetics. Thus, ‘The Modern Synthesis’ was born with the union of natural selection with modern age genetics. 
I know that you know this story but take a quick look at the wonderful process Darwin proposed! 


Scientists in favour of the EES called for a pluralistic approach to be adopted in terms of evolutionary theory. However, this call had been answered long before they asked. Those four phenomena up to this date have been the stars in many papers and many evolutionary biologists would agree that these phenomena are extremely interesting. Indeed, interesting, but not enough to warrant the rebranding of evolutionary theory. 

Never underestimate the power of genes. The discovery of these little hereditary units have allowed for precise predictions and the quantification for many components of evolution! In fact it is thanks to our understanding of genes  as to why we understand one of the biggest scare of the 21st Century- antibiotic resistance.

Now what do we know we need a lot of in the field of science? Evidence. According to those in support of SET, EES are bursting with enthusiasm and optimism but their evidence is not so optimistic. Several of the phenomena have not established a solid link with evolution, whereas the theories in SET (genetic drift, natural selection, mutation and recombination) have been linked as causes of evolution many times over. 


Needless to say the concept of an Extended Evolutionary Theory is extremely exciting, and it is likely that the four phenomena listed above will play al large part in the rebranding of the theory in the future. For now, until more studies are done there is no need for such large scale modification. 

It is easy to get the idea that Standard Evolutionary Theory is like the worlds grandfather, set in its ways, unwilling to change and static whereas Extended Evolutionary Synthesis sounds like your bright eyed bushy tailed kid brimming with promise. This is not the case according to scientists Standard Evolutionary Theory has had a brilliant year thanks to many technological advances!

Lastly, ‘Gene-centric’ is not a bad thing! 

Charles Darwin, sorry for the mix up both yourself and your theory are rehired! That brings us to the end of this weeks post, hope you have learnt somethings along the way! Now it is down to you, SET or EES, either way you choose to go, this post has highlighted that this area is growing every day and needs innovative and passionate people! Personally I am interested in the future role phenotypic plasticity may play in an organisms ability to adapt to climate change (the looming threat). 

Until next time guys thats Biobunch

over and out

Greetings everybody! 

Hope you have had a lovely and productive week! For those reader out there who have had their first week back at school, it does get better... eventually. Anyway lets celebrate Friday with Biobunch's own Species of the week (SOTW). 

This week features the Northern White Faced Owl, otherwise known as the transformer owl (all will become clear). Take a look at this lovely little owl below isn't it cute. Somewhat resembles those ty toys you find in just about every try store nowadays. Its all in the eyes!

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Conservation status: Least Concern

Habitat: Found in dry woodland and the acacia savannah in both Northern and Central Africa South of the Sahara. These little carnivores are found eating a range if insects including scorpions as well as small reptiles, birds and mammals. 

Length: These are small birds and range between 24-28cm. 

Now onto the best part their characteristics! 

Why are they called the transformer owl? All is answered when you see how these owls react to a possible threat such as predators. They have two responses both of which involve a rather dramatic change in appearance. 

Similar to many other animals in the face of a equally sized opponent the owl puffs out its feathers to appear far larger like this: 

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These lovely birds have amazing control over their facial muscles and when faced with a predator they go from cute plush toy face to, well, 'BRING IT ON' face. Check it out in the video below. 

However, if it is a more intimidating opponent such as a larger bird of prey it will slim itself, stay perfectly still and blend in the trees... as a stick: 

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We are coming to the end of the post. I know sad, but don't worry we are leaving you with one more  video about a babyNorthern White Faced Owl living at Whipsnade Zoo! 

That was Biobunch, 
Over and out. 

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