Preferences’ Origins

Taste for garlic from the womb on

When it became obvious that I was going to become a father for the first time, well-meaning people were quick with all kinds of advice like: “Be nice to the foetus; if you want your child to be a music lover later in life, play music to the unborn child or sing songs to it while it’s still in its mother’s womb.” Although nonsense, because the unborn in its watery environment with ears and acoustic centres of the brain still not fully developed wouldn’t hear much of the muffled sounds that might or might not get there at all, but all the advice was, of course, given in the best intention. To be honest, I did not follow any of those suggestions and my children still turned out to be music lovers. Continue reading


Nature’s Naked Queens of Slime

Can there be anything more beautiful?

The most exquisitely coloured creatures on Earth, which are they? Ask someone and you will hear parakeets mentioned, birds-of-paradise, certain butterflies perhaps, or even coral reef fishes. But slugs? Just to mention that word causes some people to cringe. Slugs and beautiful, that doesn’t seem to match at all and most people associate these animals with the pest that is nibbling at their lettuces or cabbages in their vegetable gardens at night or after the rain. Continue reading


Animal Paradoxes

The bumblebee and skin-deep speeds

One of the most frequently quoted examples of a paradox is the one of the Athenian, who claims that all Athenians lie. So, what is a paradox in biology? Something that works, which in theory should not work at all: a flying bumble bee with its bulky body and small wings had been termed a paradox until it was solved by Richard Bomphrey of the Royal Veterinary College of London. Although the bee’s wings are weak and small, they can, however, create airflows that separate from the wings and re-attach to form strong lift. How water striders move around on the water surface like ice-skaters on a frozen lake was another paradox, which was solved in 2004 by M.W. Denny of the Hopkins Marine Station in California. Continue reading