About p-values

I stepped into a blog post by Pia Parolin titled “Do all biological processes need to be statistically significant?” ( http://tinyurl.com/nwcq5xa ). It sounds, at moments, the frustrated cry of the field biologist observing cool patterns and building cool theories on it until he/she faces that bloody p-value=0.051. Who hasn’t been there? Yet Pia’s article contains more than that, and it raises interesting issues (also see the article’s comments). Here are some notes of mine. Continue reading

Formica-Euphorbia: ambiguous interactions

ant-euphorbiaI photographed this ant hanging on a Euphorbia flower in Bellwald, Switzerland. The ant probably belongs to the genus Formica, and the plant seems E. cyparissias.
Since my time in Madagascar I pay much more attention to flowers and pollinators than I used to do. I guessed that the ant was probably foraging on the flowers, but the pollen grains on its head and abdomen suggested that it could also act as a pollinator: what was it then, herbivore or pollinator? “Good” interactor or “bad” interactor? Continue reading

The Drop of Water

Tonight I am just too tired to write, but I would like to share this short story Hans Christian Andersen wrote in 1848. It is a protist tale. I stepped into it while browsing pictures from http://www.flickr.com/photos/microagua/, a great, informal reference for desperate protist hunters like me.


Of course, you must know what a microscope is, that round magnifying glass which makes everything look hundreds of times larger than it really is. Continue reading

By the way

Some random corridor talks with other biology nerds.


“I used to work on pipefish before. They are Sygnathidae, like seahorses. They are interesting animals: the males get pregnant, instead of the females. …What? Oh, no, they don’t just carry the eggs: it’s a proper pregnancy. Well, actually there’s a gradient in the degree of specialization across species: some of them just have a sticky area on the tail where the eggs adhere until hatching; others have complete pouches and sometimes even a specific tissue to bring oxygen to the eggs, like a placenta. Evolution at work!”


“The are crazy examples of parasitism among insects. Many of them parasitize other insects. There is even a kind of mite, genus Dicrocheles, that live in the ear of moths. A female get in and form a whole colony. In the end the ear stop working and the moth is half deaf: but the parasite always manage to colonize only one ear, so the moth can still hear and avoid bats.”

(I didn’t even imagine moths do have ears.)


“We carry on a wide range of ecological studies on frogs. Here we have toads, while in that terrarium we keep tree frogs, Hyla arborea. In this one there are only flies: we grow them to feed the animals. This one is empty now, the experiment is over. This… Oh, here I keep two pythons: but it’s not for science, they’re just pets”.


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