2009 - best picture (according to me)

It's almost the eve of 2010, and I suppose this future year will bring plenty of sci-related news for us to indulge in. The highlights of 2009 are already being reviewed on several popular science, as well as science webpages, such as the New Scientist, Nature, and so on ans so forth.

A picture that's been stuck in my mind since I first saw it is from a funeral. No, not Michael Jackson's, but another primate. Her name was Dorothy, she was a 40 year old chimpanzee, and a much prominent member of her group. When carried away for her burial, the other chimps gathered in silence, holding arms, acting just as any group of grieving human would. The keepers at the chimp sanctuary were of course deeply moved, even the locals who have grown up in a culture where chimps were regarded as saturday dinner.

It's not new that chimps and humans are highly alike, but this picture is just a perfect example of the innate emotional life we share with them.

Image from http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/visions-of-earth/visions-earth-2009



It's a hard duck life

Image taken from http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/pets/duck.htm

I've written about the rough love-life of ducks before, and the Muscovy ducks are no exception. These birdies have gone through an evolutionary race leading to not just this sadistic mating behaviour but also in their penis ability. First of all, the females do prefer to pick out their sexual partner themselfs. They especially like male ducks with an appropriate courtship and attracting plumage. But the males are not innate gentlemen, no no no. If a female is unwilling to accept his invitation, he has no objections on forcing himself on her. And what's his weapon of choice? His penis. It's long (up to 40 cm) and screw-like and useful for raping a female Muscovy duck.

But the beauty of evolution has led to a response in female genitalia, because they have a reason for being choosy - they want to pick out proper males that might carry good traits for their offspring. Now, the female vagina twists in such a way that copulation becomes more difficult for males. The hypothesis for the reason behind this construction is that the females can somehow choose who's sperm she wants to be fertilized by, and if she herself has choosen to mate with a male, her relaxation of the muscles makes the reproduction process easier.