Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris

First American edition, 1967
"There are one hundred and ninety-three living species of monkeys and apes. One hundred and ninety-two of them are covered with hair. The exception is a naked ape self-named Homo sapiens. This unusual and highly successful species spends a great deal of time examining his higher motives and an equal amount of time studiously ignoring his fundamental ones. He is proud that he has the biggest brain of all primates, but attempts to conceal the fact that he also has the biggest penis, preferring to accord this honour falsely to the mighty gorilla. He is an intensely vocal, acutely exploratory, over-crowded ape, and it is high time we examined his basic behaviour."

Desmond Morris is a wonderful writer, and I think this shows in the first paragraph of his best-seller book "The Naked Ape" (1967), reproduced above. I hadn't read it for at least ten years, and this second reading (but first time in English) was as enjoyable as the first one.

The Naked Apesubtitled A zoologist's study of the human animal—is Morris' attempt to teach us some anthropological and biological facts about ourselves, and this in a very clear and funny way. Morris is a British scientist who studied animal behavior at Oxford. He later worked at the London zoo  and he has participated to many radio and television programs. Last but not least, he's the author of many popular science books! (You can read his full biography and find his complete works on his personal website.)

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Fluorescent bacteria under the microscope

Pantoea agglomerans and Pseudomonas syringae bacteria
Some time ago I made experiments growing two bacterial species on a gel surface, using fluorescence to distinguish between them. Since some of these pictures looked nice to me, I decided to share them here!

Here's some information about the bacteria and how the images were taken:

Pantoea agglomerans and Pseudomonas syringae are two bacterial species that live in association with plants: the former as a harmless inhabitant of plant leaves and the latter as a pathogen that can colonize the inside part of the plants. Because it is not easy to visualize these bacteria in their natural environment (the surface of plant leaves), it is common to use fluorescently-tagged strains. I discussed this type of research in a previous post.