School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

Ask A Biologist heading

Body Defense & Repair

Ouch! You just got a paper cut on your finger. Germs on that paper are preparing to invade your body. For your immune system, this means war. Image from Bact via Wikimedia Commons.

>> Full Story

Snacking on Sunlight Bits

header image

Snacking on Sunlight Bits

By Drew Peltier
Illustrated by Sabine Deviche

show/hide words to know

  • Carboxylase: a type of protein that is good at attaching to a specific molecule arrangement: a carbon atom connected to two oxygen atoms, one of which is connected to a hydrogen atom.
  • Chlorophyll: the pigment that gives plants their green color and allows them to absorb sunlight... more
  • Chloroplast: a part of a cell found in plants that converts light energy into energy plants can use (sugar). Other living organisms such as algae also have cells that contain chloroplasts.
  • Enzyme: a protein that changes the speed of chemical reactions inside a cell.
  • Evaporate: the act of a non-boiling liquid becoming a gas.
  • Photosynthesis: a set of chain reactions that convert light energy into chemical energy. Photosynthesis also produces energy-rich carbohydrates like starch. Photosynthesis occurs in the chloroplast of a plant cell... more
  • RuBisCo: a protein important for plants to be able to pull carbon dioxide out of the air and convert it into sugar.
  • Stomata: tiny openings in the leaves of plants.
  • Thylakoid: the disk-shaped parts of a plant cell where light-dependent reactions occur... more

Flashcard facts and information about photosynthesis

Biology Bits stories are a great way for you to learn about biology a little bit at a time. We’ve broken down information into pieces that are very tiny—bite-sized biology cards. Cutting out the cards will let you organize them however you want, or use them as flashcards while you read.


You can also download Biology Bits in the following formats:

Biology Bits Download Print PDFBiology Bits Download Slideshow PDF
 Print PDF Slideshow PDF

Bone Bits

Busy Bones Biology Bit header

Bone Bits

By Melinda Weaver
Illustrated by Sabine Deviche

show/hide words to know

  • Callus: a hardened part of tissue.
  • Cartilage: a firm, but flexible connective tissue found in different parts of the body, such as bone joints, outer ear, and lower ribs... more
  • Irregular bone: a bone that is uneven or unusual in shape, like the vertebrae.
  • Marrow: a soft tissue found inside bones.
  • Mineral: a non-living substance found in nature that is made of specific and organized elements.
  • Nutrient: a vitamin, mineral, or chemical in food that the body uses to grow, repair, or do work... more
  • Platelet: a small cell fragment without a nucleus that helps stop blood the flow of blood when the body is injured.
  • Sesamoid: a small bone buried in a tendon or muscle.
  • Spongy bone: an inner layer of bone full of open sections for marrow, nerves, and blood vessels to move nutrients.

Flashcard facts and information about bones

Biology Bits stories are a great way for you to learn about biology a little bit at a time. We’ve broken down information into pieces that are very tiny—bite-sized biology cards. Cutting out the cards will let you organize them however you want, or use them as flashcards while you read.

This set of bits will teach you about the main organ system that gives your body its shape: bones. To learn more about the science behind bones, visit Busy Bones.


You can also download Biology Bits in the following formats:

Biology Bits Download Print PDFBiology Bits Download Slideshow PDF
 Print PDF Slideshow PDF

Our Volunteers

collection image

On the Shoulders of Others

Ask A Biologist volunteers

Ask A Biologist has become a great resource for students, parents, teachers, and life-long learners.

How have we done this? By relying on the knowledge and devotion of our volunteers.

ugly-bug-contest-2014-winner

show/hide words to know

  • Entomology: the study of insects. People who study insects are called entomologists.
  • Insect: major group of animals with a pair of wings and three pairs of legs... more
  • Taxonomy: the practice and science of classification which includes identifying and grouping like things. Its roots are in the Greek, taxis (order, or arrangement) and nomos (law or science). Biological classification... more

A city saved and an amazing win for the Astonishing Treehopper. The last minute 100 votes made the Astonishing Treehopper the winner of this year’s Ugly Bug Contest.

show/hide credits and transcript

Credits: Yue Huang for video production, Jacob Sahertian for video editing, Sandra Leander for voice over, and James Baxter for transcript. Thank you to this years sponsors for making it possible to continue the "Ugly Bug Contest".


The video opens on a destroyed city. The sky is cloudy and dark.


Ask A Biologist Logo

Link: questions/rudolph-red-nosed-reindeer

From: December 12, 2014 at 01 hours
To: January 1, 2015 at 01 hours

From: December 12, 2014 at 01 hours
To: January 1, 2015 at 01 hours

From: December 12, 2015 at 01 hours
To: January 1, 2016 at 01 hours

From: December 12, 2016 at 01 hours
To: January 1, 2017 at 01 hours

From: December 12, 2017 at 01 hours
To: January 1, 2018 at 01 hours

From: December 12, 2018 at 01 hours
To: January 1, 2019 at 01 hours

From: December 12, 2019 at 01 hours
To: January 1, 2020 at 01 hours

Ugly Bug Contest 2014

show/hide words to know

  • Insect: major group of animals with a pair of wings and three pairs of legs... more
  • Taxonomy: the practice and science of classification which includes identifying and grouping like things. Its roots are in the Greek, taxis (order, or arrangement) and nomos (law or science). Biological classification... more

The city is in jeopardy and only the ugliest bug can save the day! Which of these super insects has what it takes to rescue the city? Cast your vote for your favorite Ugly Bug today.

show/hide credits and transcript

Credits: Yue Huang for video production, Jacob Sahertian for video editing, Sandra Leander for voice over, and James Baxter for transcript. Thank you to this years sponsors for making it possible to continue the "Ugly Bug Contest".


The video opens on a destroyed city. The sky is cloudy and dark.

Drums and synthesizers play. It sounds like the opening to a local news report.

There are a number of multi-storied buildings and skyscrapers, each one with visible damage. On the far left, a skyscraper is cracked and leans to the right. The building in the center of the frame is waving an American flag. Smoke is coming from it, and it appears to be on fire. On the far right side of the frame, we see a building with a large chunk missing.

A headline slides onto the screen from the right. In capital letters it reads, “UBC LIVE: BREAKING NEWS A CITY’S FATE IN QUESTION.”

A reporter breaks in, "This just in; A sudden storm has hit the city."

Lightening flashes down from the storm clouds and momentarily brightens the sky, as thunder crashes.

The reporter continues, "Severe lightening is causing structural damage to some of our buildings."

[music plays in the background for the rest of the video]

Lightening comes from the storm clouds and momentarily brightens the sky. We hear thunder. New cracks appear on the buildings where the lightening hits.

With a creaking noise, the skyscraper on the left of the screen begins to lean further to the right. It is on fire.

The reporter continues, "We need the help of the Ugly Bugs."

Words appear in the center of the screen. In capital letters, they read, “UGLY BUG CONTEST.” There is a whooshing sound as each word appears and then fades out.

The reporter goes on, "I understand that they've arrived on the scene. Let's watch now as the story unfolds."

Two red beams light up the screen from the lower left corner. As they move into the frame we can see that the beams are coming from the eyes of a bug with a blue body and yellow head (Flyclops – Sarcophagidae).

Flyclops flies to the center building.

We hear an electronic beeping noise and the beams coming from the bug’s eyes sweep over the part of the building that is still smoking and cracked. As they do, the building appears to heal – smoke stops coming out, and cracks disappear.

Flyclops flies left and out of the frame. From the left side another bug emerges. This one is green and twice as large as the first (Astonishing Treehopper— Membracidae)

Instead of flying, it walks. The screen shakes each time it moves, and it makes a deep thumping sound. It stops in front of a burning building.

The treehopper leans toward the fire, and appears to blow it out. We hear wind whistling, and the fire goes out. The treehopper fades out of the frame.

There’s another flash of lightening, and a new bug comes down from the sky along with it. This bug is red with yellow legs (Mega – Megalostomis subfasciata), and appears to land on the top of the central building.

For a couple seconds Mega glows red. Then the storm stops, and the whole city gets brighter and cleaner. Mega then fades out of the frame.

A bright blue bug (Waspique – Chrysis australis) flies into frame from the left side, and turns to face the leaning skyscraper.

Waspique uses its head to push the building until it’s standing up straight.

The screen darkens, and the other three bugs reappear. A bright spotlight lights each of the bugs.

With a whooshing sound, words appear on the screen. First, “WHO WILL SAVE THE DAY?” and under it, “YOU DECIDE.”

A final line of text scrolls into the frame from the right. It says, “Vote by December 15 at askabiologist.asu.edu.”

The text stays on screen as the background fades to black.

Bone Zoom Gallery

Get up-close inside bones! Take a look at the microscopic world of bone in our virtual bone histology lab.

>> Full Story

In some areas of the world, the weather changes in the fall, making the air turn cold. During this time, many leaves also change colors. Why does this happen?

Question From: Abby
Grade Level: 7

Answered By: Richard K. Simpson
Expert’s Title:
Graduate Student

To learn more about how plants grow, try this link.

Have a different answer or more to add to this one? Send it to us.

Share to Google Classroom

dropdown arrow downdropdown arrow up  Learn More

Share to Google Classroom