May. 8, 2019

Defenestration

First of all, here's a different bit of the honeysuckle mess, not quite a colorful, but just as much of a puzzle as the one on today's wildflower page. Now, off an a bit of a tangent. It seems like one of the most valuable tools to keep handy in science is an open window. Use it to throw out what you thought you knew. Last night I learned about kleptogenesis, which goes way beyond what I learned about animal reproduction. Some salamanders are all female. They reproduce in pools where male sperm sacs float around and can be stolen. They then incorporate that sperm's chromosomes into their offspring. But they can select which parts to keep, in what seems to be a random process. The babies are always female. The result after years of this is a messy swarm of lady salamanders with two to five (!) sets of chromosomes, involving up to five different species. So far, 26 combinations have been found. This is a globally unique process happening in an area of the northeast US and southeast Canada, with Michigan as its epicenter. My explanation here is probably as sloppy as the process is messy. To learn more, query kleptogenesis. Isn't it fun to add to that pile outside the window?