School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

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This is an interesting question, as usually we think of organisms growing and getting larger as they thrive and become reproductive. As in most of biology, there are some exceptions to this. If you look at organisms called slime molds, you can see that small amoeboid cells emerge from spores, produced by the fruiting bodies that are much larger than the amoeboid cells. These amoeboid cells then concentrate and give rise to more fruiting bodies (so they get smaller as they proliferate).

Question From: Dusty
Grade Level: 10

To learn more about the growth of caterpillars, try this link.

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This is a great question! Actually most of the parts (tissue) that we would call the brain in a caterpillar is broken down during metamorphosis and rebuilt in the adult butterfly. Remember we said most. The muscles are also broken down and rebuilt. This makes sense because of what you have probably observed – caterpillars crawl and butterflies walk and fly. They need different types of muscles for the different ways they move.

Question From: Greer
Grade Level: 5

To learn more about butterflies, try these links.

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'Moon flower' is the common name for a variety of plants that have flowers that open at night. These flowers are big and white. In Arizona we have several of these types of flowers. There are the sacred datura (Datura wrightii), night-blooming Cereus (Peniocereus greggii), and several species of morning glory (Ipomoea). These plants have evolved over millions of years to be timed with the night/day cycle to open only in the night. They do this because night-flying insects mostly pollinate them. One such insect is the hawk moth.

Question From: Noah
Grade Level: 9

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There are not many true nuts. Nuts are found in the order Fagales, with oaks, acorns, chestnuts, hornbeam, and Hazels producing nuts. The confusion about nuts is that the use of the term by botanists is different than the use of the term for culinary, or food-related applications. Most people incorrectly apply the term nut to any seed with a large oil kernel found within a hard shell, but if the hard shell opens and the seed is not fused to the hard ovary "shell," then it is not a nut.

Question From: Jessi

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Yes, birds are reptiles, but let me explain a bit. Biologists use two types of classification systems, the Linnaean and the phylogenetic. The Linnaean system was developed by Carolus Linnaeus in the 1730's. In the Linnaean system, organisms are grouped by characteristics regardless of their ancestry. So a reptile is an animal that is ectothermic and has scales, and birds would not be reptiles. In the 1940's, a biologist named Willi Hennig came up with another classification system that he called phylogenetics.

Question From: Nikolas
Grade Level: 10

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In the Phoenix metropolitan region, we use about 2.3 million acre-feet of water. An acre-foot is the amount of water required to cover an acre of land with one foot of water. It is about 325,851 gallons which is about how much an average family of 4 uses in a year. Most of the water is used for farming (about 40%) and for city water supplies (about 35%). Phoenix-area residents use over 50% of the water we get from city water supplies outside water for watering lawns and maintaining swimming pools.

Grade Level: 11

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A couple's children can have almost any eye color, even if it does not match those of either parent. Currently it is thought that eye color is determined by about six genes, so you can imagine how inheritance of eye color becomes very complicated.

Question From: Angela
Grade Level: 11

To learn more about genetics, try this link.

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There are many similarities between humans and other animals that I am sure you have noticed. Humans and animals both eat, sleep, think and communicate (imagine a dog barking to communicate that he is hungry or wants to play). Although there are things in common I am sure you have noticed differences as well between people and, say, dogs and cats. But what are these differences?

Question From: Malcolm
Grade Level: 10

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The Earth’s carrying capacity is the number of people the Earth can support without using resources faster than the planet can reproduce them. Experts disagree on this number because carrying capacity depends on a variety of factors including: the type and quantity of available resources, how these resources are distributed, how much of the resources each person uses, and the people’s relative quality of life. Read more about carrying capacity at the Encyclopedia of Earth.

Grade Level: 12

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That's a great question. Most bony fish have something called a swim bladder inside them. This is basically an inflatable bag. Fish use the swim bladder to control their buoyancy by inflating it with oxygen from their gills using a gland called a gas gland. This increases their volume and pushes them towards the surface of the water. Some fish, however, have a tube that runs from their swim bladder to their gut, and they gulp air from the surface and push this into the bladder. Most of these fish live in murky, muddy waters that are low in oxygen content.

Question From: Gerett
Grade Level: 8

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