Science online, phylogenetically distant edition

Louisiana Fish and Wildlife staff rescue an oil-coated pelican. Photo by The News Hour.

As of Thursday night, the Gulf of Mexico oil gusher is capped, but still gushing—and new reports suggest even more oil than previously thought has escaped. Plumes of oil are spreading under the surface of the Gulf. Reports from the American Birding Association are pessimistic at best. On the bright side, an environmental law expert told NPR earlier in the week that criminal prosecution arising from the spill will be “a slam dunk.” Southern Fried Science has compiled the best online sources for oil spill news, including this salty primer on oil containment with booms. I’d add ProPublica’s excellent coverage to the list—and you should go hear ProPublica’s Abrahm Lustgarten tell Terry Gross about BP’s dismal safety record in case you feel your outrage flag.

In non-catastrophic science news:

  • Darwin was right. Again. Confirming a prediction made in The Origin of Species, a recent study shows that bacterial strains are better able to invade cultures of distantly-related strains than closely-related ones. (The EEB & flow)
  • Surprising it’s not higher, really. A survey of marine biology papers suggests that about 25 percent of literature citations are “inappropriate”—but apparently considers citing review articles “inappropriate.” (Neurodojo)
  • Because men are shallow, whatever our orientation. Gay men are 50 percent less likely to be obese than straight men; the reverse is true for women. (Slog)
  • Really, it’s a shame to waste so much neck. Contrary to the current prevailing thinking among paleontologists, at least one sauropod species seems to have used its long neck to reach high-up foliage. (Dinosaur Tracking)
  • Somewhere in here is an episode of Star Trek. Unlike males, female jumping spiders will fight to the death in confrontations over territory—especially if they’re almost ready to lay eggs. (EcoTone, Wired Science)
  • Accidental complexity in the genetic code. Introns, snippets of non-protein-coding DNA interspersed within protein-coding DNA, may have originated as “selfish genes” in our bacterial ancestors. (Wired Science)

This week’s video: BBC footage of aphids’ peculiar lifestyle.