Ants have been farming for far longer than humans have existed. They discovered fungus farming around fifty or sixty million years ago in the wet rainforests of South America, and have continued tending their underground fungus gardens through countless years as the planet changed and changed, and changed again. Much more recently — just a few years ago — I wrote about the fungus-farming ants (called “attine ants”), trying to imagine how they might view human agriculture. Our imaginary attine author closed with the hope that studying humans might help the attines understand their own history, “such as how the transition from primitive to advanced agriculture occured in our own ancestors”, and now a study by a group of humans has shed light on that very question. Continue reading
A while ago I wrote about how bacteria make their way into clouds, where they act as seeds around which raindrops condense. Now, a team of scientists in France has shown that the microbes floating around in the clouds do more than just make it rain to bring them back down to the surface; they also carry out chemistry while they’re up there.
One of the great things about working at a university is the opportunity to go to talks and learn about all kinds of interesting subjects from experts. As a biologist, I don’t usually hear much about Mars and astrogeology in my daily life, but I had the pleasure and privilege of attending a talk by Professor Victor Baker earlier this week. During his visit to Helsinki, Professor Baker lectured about the geological history of water on Mars. Though this is well outside my area of expertise, I hope to share some of the amazing things I learned, starting with a story about the recent ice age on Mars and the astonishing mechanism behind it.