Riley Dickie
Biology 111
Period 3 - Semester 1

Skelly, K (2008). Floss' Journal. Retrieved October 6, 2009, from K. Skelly's Website Web site:

Post #14 - Why Don't Woodpeckers get brain damage?
Did you know a woodpecker can move its head more then 7 meters per second and can bang its head against a tree up to 20 times every second? Did you know when it slams its head into a tree it is applying more then 1200x the force of gravity. So how does it do this without any damage?
It starts with a series of evolutions and adaptations. Over time, the brain of a woodpeckers get smaller and smaller and the their brains are packed so tightly inside the skull that their brain does not move around. In humans, our brain isn't packed as tightly, so when it does move, we endure concussions and what not.
Another thing scientists have found is that the brain is shaped more flat and wide then in the spherical shape like humans. This allows the impact of a blow to be spread out over a greater surface area. However, the most important component of a woodpecker is the fact that is does not rotate its neck or body. It delivers a direct blow to a tree depending on the angle at which it is facing. This prevents side to side movement of the brain, which doctors have proven to be the most damaging with most species. In humans, a car crash can be most fatal not because of the head on impact movement of the brain, but when the brain moves side to side.
I thought I would share this because I found it very interesting. Not only how the woodpecker has evolved over time to protect itself, but how scientists relate everything to human brain injuries!
To read the full article, click here:
Also, here is a video on a woodpecker doing his thing! Enjoy!

Smith, C. (2007, July). Why Don't woodpeckers get brain damage?. Retrieved from

Pileated woodpecker in the rain. (2009, March 29). Retrieved from

Post #13 - Gentetic Mutation turns Muscle into Bone
What do you think would happen to your body if all the soft tissue in your body randomly began to turn into stiff bone? It would simply leave you debilitated. Now, I know what you are thinking... this could never happen? WRONG. Scientists are beginning to know more and more about a fairly new disease called fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP). It happens when your body recieves signals from the brain to transform soft tissue cells into bone cells, creating a strange second skeleton.
The disease is first seen at childbirth, where everything will appear normal except with abnormally bent big toes. From there, the disease will spread to random parts of your body at random times. Scientists still don't know why it happens or when it happens, but they do know it is very serious. It is one of the world's rarest genetic disorders, will only about 1 in every 2 000 000 million showing signs of having FOP.
Eileen Shore and her associates at the University of Pennsylvania, has been studying the disease since 1991. She states that, "I always had been interested in development on a cellular level," she says. "What changes a cell, or what regulates a cell to follow certain cell fate decisions? We usually think about development on an organism level, but it was more a question of what determines the personality of the cell?" When she discovered FOP and the work of Frederick Kaplan, a professor of orthopedic surgery at Penn State University, she realized she had found a puzzle that was "a disease of misregulated cell differentiation," she says.
There say they are finding break throughs with this research, including being able to give therapy to those who are showing signs with this disease. It is all published by her and Kaplan in the Journal of Clinical Investigation back in November.

Skeleton of a man who had FOP

To read the rest of the article and to read an interview with her, please click here:

Harmon, K. (2009). How can a Genetic mutation cause muscle to turn into bone?. Retrieved from

Post #12 - Untold Stories of the ER
The one thing I wouldn't mind being when I am older is a doctor! Go to college, maybe play a little hockey and then settle down by either working in Fredericton or close to it! My new favorite show on TV is Untold Stories of the ER on TLC. It basically is a show about the craziest situations ever faced by emergency doctors and response personal. It is amazing how these people make the timely decisions they do that save so many lives, or how they handle certain situations during hectic times. Below are simply links to my favorite episode clip from the show! Some images may be a little graphic, but they are unreal! To be a doctor in these situations would be the coolest job in the world, and up there with most satisfying! Please enjoy!
Broken Leg Part 1 -
Broken Leg Part 2 -
Broken Leg Part 3 -

Post #11 - Shark vs Octopus
Who do you think would win if you put a shark and an octopus in the same tank? Most likely you would say the shark, but thats what not what the researchers from this aquarium are saying. After many shark carcuses were found at the bottom of the tank, they decided to take video to see what exactly was happening. As you could see, the octopus easily took down the shark, showing just how unpredictable the wild can be. Here's one last video of a zebra and a lioness. Guess who wins? If you think the lion, think again! (Both videos are posted below!)

(2008, June 21). Shark Vs. Octopus. Retrieved from ****
(2006, June 26). Young zebra vs african lioness. young zebra is victorious. Retrieved from

Post #10 - Dreaming at Night
Have you ever wondered why we dream at night? Well I do. I woke up this morning after a dream I was playing a round of gold at the Fredericton Golf Club during a thunder-storm. Weird eh. So I decided to find an article on the internet about why we dream.
First off. The exact definition of the world dream is: any image, thoughts and emotions experienced during sleep. For thousands of years, researches have been puzzled by the questions, why do we dream? What purpose to dreams serve? To be honest, not one particular theory has been proven correct. It is important to know that these same researchers are still trying to prove the purpose of sleep itself.
Now, these theories about dreams range from some thinking they serve no real purpose, while others believe it is a major part of ones mental, emotional and physical health. Ernest Hoffman, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Newton Wellesley Hospital in Boston, Mass., suggests that, "A possible function of a dream to be weaving new material into the memory system in a way that both reduces emotional arousal and is adaptive in helping us cope with further trauma or stressful events."
Other theorys are consistent with the psychoanalytic perspective, where is it suggested that dreams represent our desires, thoughts and motivatons. Another well believed theory was the activation-synthesis model of dreaming where dreams are simply whats on your mind during sleep. My personal favorite theory is that dreams are like a "clean-up" of the brain at night, where all the clutter in your mind is recycled while asleep.
In todays world, that is all that is known about dreams. We don't know exactly why they happen, and we don't know why we get a happy setting or a nightmare. Hopefully in the future it will be proven, but until then, we can simply just go to sleep and wait and see what our brain has in store for us!

Van Wagner, Kendra. (n.d.). Why Do we dream? - top dream theories. Retrieved from

Post #9 - December 21, 2012
I just finished watching a documentary on the Discovery Channel about the supposid end of the earth. Dating back thousands and thousands of years ago, it has been predicted by many religous groups, oracles and priests that the world will come to an end through natural cause. The most accountable forcast was predicted by the Mayan Long Count Calender, dating back 5 125 years ago. Arguments supporting this dating are drawn from a mixture of archaeoastronomical speculation, alternative interpretations of mythology, numerological constructions, and alleged prophecies from extraterrestrial beings. It is believed that the earth will be directly between the center of the milky way galaxy and the sun, which will cause the earth axis to alter, causing natural disaster world wide to occur. The I Ching, a Chinese book of predictions and the Holy Bible book stand by with predictions backing up the Mayan's. No one know's for sure what will happen, but as the date comes closer and closer, some are beginning to really worry. I truely recommend you find a documentary on this topic, because it could be a reality soon enough. Watch these two video's about the new movie in theaters soon about 2012, and a short documentary about what is being said about December 21, 2012. Enjoy!

(2009, November 14). 2012 warning. Retrieved from
(2009, June 18). '2012' trailer hd. Retrieved from
(2008, January 28). 2012 pole shift - mayan and i ching prediction. Retrieved from

Post #8 - What is a pimple?
Woke up this morning, went to the washroom and realized something everyone does once and a while. I had a pimple!! That got me thinking... what exactly is a pimple? A pimple is simply a small swelling in the skin caused by a blockage of a pore that forms when dead skin attempts to fall off of your body, but can't because of that blockage in the pore. When dirt and/or infection get into that blocked pore, pus formed causing "whiteheads" and "blackheads." Dermatologists recommend when a pimple forms, it should just be left alone to take its natural course. It only takes a few days for a pimple to naturally subside. Popping pimples are not recommended as it could drive the pus deeper into your skin. To read the full portion of what I read, click on this link: So next time you see a pimple, don't pop it, embrace it as it is natures course! (Also, I thought about adding a picture or a video, but it was a bit gross what I looked up! If you really want a visual, you can look for yourself!)

Smith, S.E. (2009, November 1). What is a pimple?. Retrieved from

Post #7 - Narwhal's Tusk
I bet everyone reading this knows what a narwhal is and what its tusk looks like.
If I said that a narwhal's tusk was just one big tooth would you believe me? You would have to because Martin Nweeia of Harvard School of Dental Medicine and his colleagues finally solved the mystery that had been haunting scientists for years. A tusk, which can measure to 2.75 metres in length, acts as sensors just like those in your teeth to detect chemicals associated with prey, ice formations and salt water concentrations. The scientists at Harvard studied two tusks from caught narwhals and looked at them closely under a electron microscope. What was revealed was that the tusk consisted of millions of fluid-filled tubules, the same tubules that exist in human teeth. However, the outside of the narwhals tusk shows the same properties as the inside of the human tooth, leading to the purposal that the tusk is simply an inside out tooth. It is still not known why some narwhals don't have a tusk, and how they survive without one if it is such an important factor for living. All that is known is that narwhals swim in very large groups, and simply follow the leads of others. It is also known that those with tusks are the leaders of these packs, as it symbolizes hierarchy and dominance to the narwhals. I found all this information in an article from NewScientist, but a documentary was also done on this finding. So if ever in your life time you come across a narwhal with a broken tusk, don't bother calling a vet, just simply take it to the dentist!

Geddes, Lindao. (2005, Dcemeber 24). What's the point of the narwhal's tusk?. NewScientist, 6.
Oceancontent, Initials. (2008, September 10). Narwhal tooth. Retrieved from

Post #6 - Mad Cow Disease
I know what everyone thinks. Mad cow disease makes cows go crazy. My answer to that. YES it is! It is actually an illness called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (bo-vine spun-jih-form en-seh-fah-la-puh-thee), or BSE for short. It's called mad cow because it is an illness that targets a cow's nervous system causing it to act strangely and lose ability to do all of it's all normal routines, allowing for the name mentally ill, or "Mad". The cow could loose the ability as simple as walking.
Now you may be asking yourself what does this have to do with me? Here's the deal. If you eat a piece of meat from a cow contaminated with BSE, you put yourself at great risk of human diseases effecting the brain, inlcuding the major disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or CJD. It is very serious but very rare. In the United States, only 1 million or so people are said to have the disease, and it not something you can catch (contagious). However, if you do get CJD by eating a contaminated piece of meet, you get all the same characteristics as mad cow. Derastic measures are being taken to make sure no BSE contaminated meet makes it to stores, but of course some may slip through. It isn't anything to worry you as the chances of getting CJD are so slim, but just know it is a possibility. So if you start acting crazy, you just might have MAD COW!
Here are the links to the two internet articles I read and if you are interested further!

Dowshen, Steven. (2009, August ). What's mad cow disease. Retrieved from

Post #5 - Hummingbird more related to birds or insects?
I dont't know exactly why I was thinking about hummingbirds, but I was. We have one always out in our backyard during the summers, and I find it truely facinating how they operate, especially how they fly. That lead me to do a little research on them.
What I found out was interesting. Hummingbirds don't fly like a bird or an insect, however they fly like a little bit of both. Douglas Warrick of Oregon State University in Corvallis took this on as his special little project. By conducting multiple tests on different species of hummingbirds by observing air currents and swirls of air left in their wake, he determined that a hummingbird hovers in the air by using 75% of their downstroke and 25% of their upwards beat. This is what makes them so unique, because birds and insects don't use both motions, except now with the exception of the hummingbird.
Another couple of interesting facts that seperate both birds and insects are their bone and wing structures. An insect can turn its wings inside out while a birds wings are simply flexable. If you could have guessed, a hummingbird possess a part of both characteristics.
Some of you may not find this as interesting as I did, but I get truely facinated by it. Here is the rest of the article for those interested like myself. Also here is a video below on the slow-motion movement of a hummingbird in motion. Enjoy!

Hopkin, M. (2005, June 22). Hummingbirds get in a unique flap. Retrieved from
megabyte, JC. (2009, February 18). Slow Motion Hummingbirds 1 HD 720p. Retrieved from

Post #4 - Antarctic Warming
I know there are different views on global warming and the affects it is having on our world, especially in the Arctic and Antarctic climates. When reading through the New Scientist magazine, April 8-14, 2006 edition, I came apon something I really found shocking.
We know the surface temperatures and what not are rising in the Antartic, and it is having a major affect on life in the region, but the largest temperature changes aren't taking place on the surface, infact, the major changes are taking place upward of 10 kilometers in the sky in the middle troposphere. Collecting data from 11 weather balloons stationed around the Antartic coast over a span of 32 years from 1971 to 2003, they targeted temperature, humidity, and pressure. What they found was and still is unexplainable. The results showed that the Antarctic coast is seeing to some of the warmest air temperatures found on earth!
John Turner and his colleagues from the British Antarctic Survery in Cambridge, UK are the ones in charge of this project and the ones who still monitor the Antarctic region. It is still unknown why these strange warm temperatures are in the air, but it part of major debate and discussion world wide. As of 2006, the only components that could be linked inclube change of cloud formations and of coarse greenhouse gasses. As stated before, it is still an on-going project that I look forward to one day finding out about!
It is just amazing how the world functions and how little we really know about our earth! It is true biology!

(2006, April 08). Antarctic Warming: Hot Air. News in perspective, 07.

Post #3 - More sex and grapefruit to keep you young?

I know what you are thinking, and yes, sex may increase your lifespan, as well as eating grapefruit! Scientists at the University of Graz in Austria have proven that a polyamine called spermidine can dramatically increase an organisms life expectancy. Proven experiments include giving worms, fruit flies, yeast, and mice a single dose of spermidine, with results including a 30%-300% lifespan increase. To the extente to which humans will be affected is still unknown, however, we do live with spermidine in our lives already. As the title states, two main sources include male sperm and grapefruit. Now the article is not saying that you should go have more sex or eat more fruit and you may survive a few extra years on the world, but it is saying that scientists have found a beginning to a possible major discovery regarding human survival!

To read the full article, please click on the link:

Hadlington, Simon. (2009, October 5). More sex and grapefruit to keep you young?. Retrieved from

Post #2 - Giant Squids are Taking Over the World

Extra Extra, Read All About It!! Giant Squid are taking over the world! Well it may not be the world but they are taking over the oceans. According to scientists, squid have now over taken humans in terms of total bio-mass, which means they now occupy more space on the planet then we do! This has to do with overfishing of some species and certain climate changes that are affecting others. Because of this, there population size and growth developement have been able to rapidly expand. They are growing because they are gaining status on the food chain, and the warming of waters are helping with their development as well. They are now starting to be seen near shore lines along the west coast more and more. To read the rest of the article, here's the rest of the article. ****. Here's a video on a squid attack with a Californian diver. Just one of many new developments regarding squid. Enjoy the news article but be aware, squid are here, and they may find you!

Benson, S. (2002). Giant squid 'taking over world'. Retrieved from
Associated, Press. (2009, July 16). First Person: Giant Squid Invade Calf. Waters. Retrieved from

Post #1 - Food Consumptions
We often hear about our civilization in North America as one with high obesity rates and a developing problem regarding our unhealthy food choices. Well now there is an added problem! The amount of food we consume. Watch and enjoy this video and then read my post, but note that you may not want to "over eat" on this Thanksgiving weekend or any time ever again!

Many different things ran through my mind after watching this video. First off, about the record setting eater... wow! Congradulations buddy! However the odd man may be able to function normally after eating such large amounts, but what about the rest of the general population when they over eat? With obesity rising and the next generation of kids being considered on average more over weight then generations past, it is realistic to say that food consumption could be part of the problem. As stated in the video, people are training there bodies to consume more food then normal. Of course there is a limit, but a gradual change year after year in stomach compacity really seems like a possibilty that it could have an even on these obesity statements made by health officials. Now I know this video was made for the sport of "eating" but everyone can learn something from this. We are gradually eating more and more food, and it doesn't matter if we know it or not, but we are doing as the eater in the video is doing, and that is training our stomachs to expand to allow for more food consumption.

(2003, May 03). Sport Science - Busted Gut. Retrieved from