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Open Tree of Life Project List

Last updated 11 months ago

This is a Collection in support of the Open Tree of Life Project.

The tree of life links all biodiversity through a shared evolutionary history. This project will produce the first online, comprehensive first-draft tree of all 1.8 million named species, accessible to both the public and scientific communities.

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    Ornithorhynchus anatinus

    Duck-billed Platypus

    Ornithorhynchus anatinus|Duck-Billed Platypus||The duck-billed platypus, also known under the scientific name Ornithorhynchus anatinus, is a mammalian species native to freshwater streams in Australia. Ornithorhynchus anatinus came from the Greek meaning “duck-like flat-foot”.  One of the most unique things about the duck-billed platypus is that it lays eggs, making it one of only five mammalian species worldwide with this reproductive method. The other egg-laying mammals are four species of spiny anteaters also called echidna.  The duck-billed platypus has a very sensitive bill with electroreceptors that it uses to hunt for food in the water. Platypuses hunt for food at night and sleep during the day in their burrows built on land.  Platypuses hunt crayfish, insects, tadpoles, and small fish.  The platypus has very strong legs it uses for swimming, as well as webbed feet with claws that help the platypus swim and protect itself.  Male platypuses have a venom gland on the back of their legs that is believed to be used against other males during mating season.  The male platypus venom causes intense pain and is strong enough to kill a dog or seriously injure a human.   The duck-billed platypus is the only remaining living species of platypus.  Platypuses are related to both mammals and reptiles.  For instance, the platypus has splayed legs, which is a feature found distinctly in reptiles, but their bones also can rotate in their sockets, which is a mammalian feature.  Platypuses also have a bone located near the collarbone called an interclavicle that is usually only found in reptiles. Socially, platypuses are solitary animals that hunt alone.  Males do not assist the mother in raising the young, and as soon as the young are able to hunt for themselves, they go out on their own.  Typically living to about 18 years in the wild, platypuses become sexually mature around four years old. Predators of the duck-billed platypus include foxes, crocodiles, as well as large fish and birds.  Humans hunted platypuses until an Australian law was passed in 1912 to protect the species.|E

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    Ginkgo biloba


    Ginkgo biloba|Ginkgo||At 150 million years old, the Ginkgo biloba, or Maidenhair tree, is considered to be one of the oldest tree species on Earth. It is debated whether the tree species would exist today without Buddhist monks in Japan and China cultivating ginkgo trees for about 1,000 years. Ginkgo, taken from the Japanese word ginkyo meaning “silver apricot”, describes the small fruit of the tree. The ginkgo tree is also considered a living fossil, meaning fossils of the tree are identical to the living trees today. The ginkgo tree can live for thousands of years. Ginkgo trees that were 1-2 km from the bombing of Hiroshima were one of the few living things to survive the blast. Today, the ginkgo is listed as an endangered species. Typically growing to about 120 feet (36 meters), the ginkgo tree has fan-shaped leaves on long stems, with inconspicuous male or female green and yellow flowers. The leaves of the ginkgo tree turn a bright yellow in the fall. The fruit of the ginkgo tree is round and yellow, with edible gametophytes, or plant organs that produce gametes, in the center of the fruit. The gametophytes of the maidenhair tree are commonly used in Japanese and Chinese dishes. The ginkgo tree is native to China, Japan, Turkey, and Taiwan, though the tree has flourished in regions of North America and Europe since it was introduced in the 1700s. Chinese medicine has used the leaves of the ginkgo tree for thousands of years. Ginkgo extract is the most commonly used in herbal medicine in Europe to increase blood flow, treat allergies, asthma, and bronchitis. Studies have suggested that ginkgo extract increases memory and has positive effects on dementia patients. |E

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    Mus musculus

    House Mouse

    Mus musculus|House Mouse||Mus musculus, also known as the house mouse, is a member of the order Rodentia. Native to Central Asia, the house mouse was accidently introduced to North America through the settlers. House mice live in close association with humans, typically taking up residence in parts of houses and buildings as well as outdoors in fields or amongst crops. House mice weigh about half of an ounce and can be up to 7 inches long, including the 3-4 inch tail. Though nocturnal creatures, house mice can be seen during daylight hours scavenging for food. The incredible reproductive system of house mice can produce up to 13 litters per year, with each litter containing 6 mouse pups. House mice collect scraps of paper or other materials they can get ahold of to create a nest in a sheltered location. Capable of surviving in small areas with limited food and water, house mice have adapted well alongside humans. House mice eat grasses as well as some small insects, as well as glue and soap, but alongside humans, house mice will eat anything that humans eat. House mice are used for biological and scientific experiments because of their fast reproductive systems, especially in mammalian research. House mice can help diseases such as murine typhus, rickettsial pox, tularemia, salmonella, and bubonic plague spread to humans. To prevent house mice from entering human areas, eliminate any holes or gaps in which the mice could squeeze in through. The small size of house mice makes preventative measures fairly difficult. Areas with poor sanitation attract house mice. House mice are capable of surviving in desert and tundra areas that they normally would not be capable of living in without dependency on humans.|E

    Ballenger, Liz. "Animal Diversity Web." ADW: Mus Musculus: INFORMATION. University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web, 1999. Web. 22 May 2013. .
    Timm, R. M. "How to Manage Pests." House Mouse Management Guidelines--UC IPM. UC Davis, 2012. Web. 22 May 2013. .
    Davis, William, and David Schmidly. "House Mouse (Mus Musculus)." House Mouse (Mus Musculus). N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2013. .
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    Arabidopsis thaliana

    Thale Cress

    Arabidopsis thaliana|Water-Cress||Arabidopsis thaliana, also known as water-cress or mouse-earred cress, is native to North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Water-cress is a member of the mustard family, which also includes cabbage and radish. Arabidopsis thaliana is best known for having its five-chromosome genome comprising of approximately 20,000 to 25,000 genes sequenced in the year 2000. Researchers may have used Aribidopsis thaliana for genetic sequencing due to the small size of the plant’s genome, rapid growth, and the plants ability to either self-pollinate or be cross-polinated. The plant is widely used for research in molecular biology and genetics due to the natural variation in Arabidopsis thaliana populations. The earliest record of a water-cress mutation was in 1873. Water-cress can be easily cultivated, and the plant produces seeds frequently. It takes about six weeks for water-cress to grow from seed to germination. About 8 inches tall (20 cm), Arabidopsis thaliana has very small (2-3 mm) white flowers with yellow stamen in the center of the flower and broad leaves at the base of the plant. In many instances, Arabidopsis thaliana is considered a weed. Scientists admire Arabidopsis thaliana for scientific use because of the small number of genes the organism has, as well as the short life cycle of the plant and large amount of seeds that the plant produces.|E

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    Homo sapiens


    Homo sapiens|Human||Originating about 200,000 years ago, Homo sapiens derived from the latin meaning “wise man”. Also known as modern humans, Homo sapiens are closely related to chimpanzees and gorillas. The difference between earlier humans and modern humans is the lighter shape of the skull along with smaller teeth and a lighter jaw. Evolving from archaic humans in East Africa, earlier forms of modern humans are called “anatomically modern Homo sapiens.” Humans can be found in all terrestrial habitats worldwide, including Antarctica. Humans use bipedal locomotion, or walking on two feet, to move around. Humans have very large brains, about 1300 cubic centimeters, which accounts for increased mental abilities. Homo neanderthalensis, also known as neanderthals, are genetically the closest relative to humans and had a brain size slightly larger than the human brain. Humans are typically omnivores; however they also use fungal colonies such as yeast for a food source. Homo sapiens developed agriculture about 10,000 years ago. Humans have a wide variety of mating practices. The gestation period of humans is approximately 40 weeks. One of the most unique attributes of Homo sapiens is behavioral changes that separate them from other primate species, such as broad range of prey and use of tools. Neanderthals are the only species other than humans to display behavior such as marking the graves of their dead.|E

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    Sequoiadendron giganteum

    Giant Sequoia

    Sequoiadendron giganteum|Giant Sequoia||Sequoiadendron giganteum, also called giant sequoia, is a coniferous evergreen present in California along the Sierra Nevada.  Giant sequoias have also been planted in parts of Europe.  When fully grown, the giant sequoia can reach heights up to 295 feet (90 meters) and 36 feet wide (11 meters).  The oldest giant sequoia recorded was 3,266 years old.  Giant sequoia seeds can germinate after two years, though they may be able to germinate after a decade.  Today, the conservation status of giant sequoias is listed as vulnerable. Giant sequoia seedlings require bare soil and full sunlight in order to germinate. Since the wood of giant sequoias is very brittle, when giant sequoias are logged, the wood splinters and becomes useless for construction Sequoias require fires to burn the forest floor, which clears material and exposes the bare soil. Only one of three species of the Sequoioideae subfamily to survive the Ice Age, fossils from the Jurassic period suggest that an ancestor of the giant sequoia was present in North America, Greenland, and parts of Europe. After the discovery of the giant sequoia, there was mounting pressure to cut most of these large trees down.  Sequoia National Park, the second national park to ever be created in the United States, was created in 1890 to protect the giant sequoias.  In the 1970s, giant sequoias were used to repopulate areas of Southern California that had been burned.   Today, millions of tourists visit the Sierra Nevada to see witness the beauty and size of giant sequoia trees.|E

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    Crassostrea gigas

    Miyagi Oyster

    Crassostrea gigas|Giant Oyster||Crassostrea gigas, also known as Pacific oyster or giant oyster, is a mollusc native to Southeastern Asia and the marine waters of Japan.  Pacific oysters have been introduced to different areas around the world to be farmed.  They oysters have white shells with some purple streaks.  The inside of the shell is white with no other coloring.  The pacific oyster is very similar to another species under the same genus. Since pacific oysters can attach themselves to any hard surface, it makes it difficult to exclude the species in any aquatic environment.   Pacific oysters will attach themselves to any hard substrate or even to other oysters.  The organisms live in the intertidal zone of the Pacific Ocean.  Pacific oysters can change sex during their lives, usually affected by environmental factors.  Some oysters are hermaphroditic, meaning they have both female and male reproductive organs.  During the breeding season, the reproductive organs of male and female pacific oysters compose about 50 percent of their mass.  Female pacific oysters can produce up to 30 to 40 million eggs per spawning.  The larvae of pacific oysters are free-swimming until they reach a hard surface to grow on.   The two valves that enclose the oyster are unequal in size, with the lower valve being more convex and also In some marine environments, pacific oysters exclude the native marine species by limiting the food supply or available space.|E

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    Strongylocentrotus purpuratus

    Purple Urchin

    Strongylocentrotus purpuratus|Purple Sea Urchin||Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, or purple sea urchins, are invertebrate organisms that live along the coast of the Pacific Ocean from Mexico to Alaska.  Purple sea urchins are members of the phylum Echinodermata, meaning “spiny skin” that encompasses urchins, sea stars, sea cucumbers and sand dollars.  These urchins prefer rocky areas which give the urchins a region to latch on to.  Purple sea urchins feed on forests of giant kelp, and often can expand to an enormous population size and decimate entire forests of kelp.  Sea urchins are also considered pests for kelp farmers because they frequently destroy their crop.  Sea otters, which are the natural predators of purple sea urchins, have purple bones and teeth because of the pigmentation in the spines of the purple sea urchin.  Other predators of the purple sea urchin include sea stars, sunflower stars, and a species of marine fish called California sheephead. Purple sea urchins will attack predatorial sea stars with their pinchers, but will retreat if a sunflower star comes near.  The purple sea urchin is ectothermic, meaning that it relies almost entirely on the temperature of the ocean to maintain its own body temperature.  Purple sea urchins have a protective shell, also known as a test or “skeleton” that is covered by spikes. The mouth, or oral region faces the ocean floor, and the opposite end of the urchin is what would be considered the “top” of the animal. Covering the spikes of the urchin are cilia, tiny hairlike structures that produce a current which moves food towards the urchin and keeps waste from collecting. Typically living to about 20 years, sea urchins become sexually active after 2 years.  Sea urchins usually reproduce between January and March.  Offspring are created through external fertilization where both the male and female parents release their gametes into the ocean. |E

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    Drosophila melanogaster

    Common Fruit Fly

    Drosophila melanogaster|Common Fruit Fly||Drosophila melanogaster, also known as the common fruit fly, is a 3-millimeter long-winged insect.  Drosophila melanogaster means “black-bellied dew lover” in Latin.  The fruit fly has a lifespan of two weeks; First growing from an egg that hatches within 24 hours, spending three days as a larva, four days as a pupa, and finally molting as an adult.  The mating ritual of the fruit fly begins when a male fruit fly uses his leg to tap the female to sense whether female pheromones are present. If the male detects female pheromones, he will begin to vibrate his wings and “sing”.  “Singing” will make the female more receptive to mating and will spur the other males around the singing male to also begin courtship rituals.  The male fruit fly then mounts the female and will begin mating if the female accepts her mate.   The fruit fly is best known for its use in research, specifically in genetics and behavioral research.  Research on these insects is ideal because of their short life cycle, small size, and small genome.  One of the most prominent experiments done on fruit flies was done by Nobel laureates Edward Lewis, Christiane Nusslein-Volhard, and Eric Wieschaus. Their experiment’s goal was to discover how genes affect embryonic development on complex organisms.  The fruit fly has four pairs of chromosomes containing 14,000 genes.  In comparison, humans have about double that amount at 25,000 genes.  The genome of Drosophila melanogaster has been completely sequenced.|E

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    Magnolia grandiflora

    Southern Magnolia

    Magnolia grandiflora|Southern Magnoloia||Also called Southern Magnolia or ‘young gem”, Magnolia grandiflora is a perennial native to North America, but is also found in Great Britain where it was introduced in 1734.  The southern magnolia is located in the Midwest to southeastern part of the United States and can grow to be 60 to 80 feet high (18.2 to 24.3 meters).  The southern magnolia has white flowers and red seeds that attract birds and leaves that are elliptical in shape.  The bark of Magnolia grandiflora is smooth and grey in color. The fruit of the southern magnolia is cylindrical in shape with bright red seeds hanging from the fruit. Southern magnolias bloom white flowers about eight to ten inches in diameter (20 to 25 centimeters) in late spring, though the trees typically do not bloom until they have reached seven years of age.  Optimum seed production for the southern magnolia is around age 25. The southern magnolia is also somewhat fire resistant because of a cork layer underneath the bark that is heat resistant. Southern magnolias are commonly used in landscaping both in the United States and in Great Britain because of its beautiful flowers and resistance to fire. It is argued that the best state to grow these trees is Connecticut and Massachusetts.   Magnolia grandiflora grows best in loamy moist soils often found near swamps.|E

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    Amanita muscaria

    Fly Agaric

    Amanita muscaria|Fly Agaric Mushroom||Amanita muscaria is a mycorrhizal basidiomycete fungus. Amanita muscaria is the classic European fairytale mushroom, bearing white gills and white warts on a typically bright red cap. It is known to contains several toxic, psychoactive compounds. This species was originally described from Europe and recent genetic and mophological evidence suggests that there are a number of distinct species worldwide that have been lumped under this name. |E

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    Bos taurus


    Bos taurus|Domestic Cattle||Bos taurus, also known as domesticated cattle or cows, are found throughout most of the world. With the largest population of cattle being in India at 281 million, Bos taurus is derived from the Latin meaning “personal moveable property”.  Domestic cattle have arisen from 80 ancestors 10,500 years ago in parts of Turkey and Iraq.  Since then, the world population of Bos taurus is about 1.3 billion.  Weighing about 600 to 1000 pounds and covered with short hair in black, white, reddish brown, or brown, cows are about 50 inches in height.  Cows also have spot patterns in their hair, with no two cows having the same pattern of spots.  Cows have a 60 degree depth perception compared to the 180 degree depth perception of humans.  They are unable to see the colors red or green.  Typically cows have a lifespan of 20 years and become sexually mature after one year.  Cows are social animals who live in herds for protection.  Cows are able to digest tough material by cutting grass with their bottom teeth and having a stomach with four compartments to break down tough plant material with digestive enzymes. Cattle share 80 percent of their genes with humans.  Cows also share 1000 genes with dogs and rodents, though none of which are found in the human genome. Humans use cows for multiple purposes, including a food source (beef, veal, and dairy products), creation of leather, dung used for fuel and manure, and to perform physical labor.  Male cows, also called bulls, are used in bullfighting and rodeos. Cows can carry Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, also called “Mad Cow Disease”, which can be spread to humans through their meat.  Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy causes degeneration of the brain and is fatal in both cows and humans.  The United States Food and Agriculture Administration says that 18% of greenhouse gas emissions are due to livestock.| E

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    Saccharomyces cerevisiae

    Baker's Yeast, Brewer's Yeast

    Saccharomyces cerevisiae|Baker's Yeast||Also known as Baker’s Yeast or Brewer’s Yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a single-celled fungus that consumes sugar.  The name Saccharomyces cerevisiae even means “sugar fungus of the beer”. Baker’s yeast can 'breathe' with or without oxygen, which is also called aerobic respiration (breathing with oxygen) and anaerobic respiration (breathing without oxygen).  When baker’s yeast 'breathes' using oxygen and sugar, the yeast will release carbon dioxide, water and energy.  This is useful for making bread, hence the name baker’s yeast, because when yeast is added to dough and baked, the yeast will release the carbon dioxide gas that makes the dough rise.  When yeast is deprived of oxygen, it will take glucose and convert it into carbon dioxide gas, energy, and ethanol.  This is useful for producing alcoholic beverages such as beer or wine, because ethyl alcohol, is the form of alcohol that is used in alcoholic beverages.  Researchers are trying to make a more efficient yeast cell that produces ethanol even more efficiently, which would drive the costs of producing alcoholic beverages down. There is some production of alcohol in bread, but the ethanol is usually burn off due to the high baking temperatures. Creating alcohol in anaerobic respiration is an efficient mechanism for baker’s yeast, because not only does it allow the organism to survive in environments with or without oxygen, but the alcohol, which is deadly for many microbes, keeps a lot of microorganisms from getting too close to their food source.  This is an advantage for brewers as well, since the presence of brewer’s yeast means their beverages will not be contaminated by bacterial organisms. Baker’s yeast can reproduce through sexual or asexual reproduction.  If the environment the yeast is in has enough nutrients, the number of yeast cells can double within 100 minutes.|E

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    Olea europaea


    Olea europaea|Olive Tree||As the oldest known cultivated tree, olive trees have grown by humans in the Mediterranean for over 5,000 years. Olea Europaea can grow to be 25 to 30 feet tall, producing white hermaphroditic flowers in the spring.  Olive trees can live for over 100 years and begin to produce fruit after six years.  Olive trees grown for their fruit are pruned, which produces more olives per tree.  Olives are used for food and medicine, though the primary product of olives is olive oil, which is sold around the world for various uses.   Though the olive tree is native to Europe, Africa and Asia, it can also be found in California. Extra virgin olive oil is made by cold-pressing the olive seed without the use of chemicals or heat.  It is believed that olive oil reduces circulatory diseases.  Olive seeds are unique because they are the only seed to contain albumin, a water-soluble protein.  The olive oil pressed from olive seeds is suggested to be a medical treatment for a variety of illnesses.  Ancient Greeks used olive branches to crown Olympic game winners. Olive trees have become symbols for peace, wisdom, and victory in many human cultures.|E  

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    Helianthus annuus

    Common Sunflower

    Helianthus annuus|Common Sunflower||Also known as the common sunflower, Helianthus annuus is derived from the greek words “helios” meaning sun and “anthos” meaning flower.  The common sunflower can range from 1.5 feet to 8 feet tall (0.5-2.4 meters).  Common sunflowers are native to dry, open spaces and require full sun.  They are known for following the sun, starting from the east and by the end of the day, facing the west as the sun sets.  The common sunflower has a large flower with bright yellow petals.  In the center of the flower are thousands of brown flowers called “florets” that bear no petals.  Flowers of the common sunflower bloom between the months of July to October.  The seeds of sunflowers are devoured by many species of wild birds. The seeds, which contain 25-32 percent oil, are used to make sunflower oil.  Sunflower oil is used as frying oil as well as an ingredient in cosmetics. Russia is the world’s largest sunflower oil producer. Sunflowers only live for one season and are considered to be annuals.  The stems of sunflowers have hairy bristles that prevent water loss.  Sunflowers can be found in all 50 states as well as parts of Canada.  Sunflowers are tolerant of both high and low temperatures, and prefer wet, disturbed areas to grow in. Sunflower petals are sometimes used to create yellow dye. Many variants of the common sunflower have been developed through cross-breeding and hybridization.|E

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    Triticum aestivum

    Bread Wheat

    Triticum aestivum|Bread Wheat||Triticum aestivum, also known as common wheat or bread wheat, is an annual grass used commonly in the production of the staple food grains. The grains are then made into flour, straw or hay, or sometimes used in the production of alcoholic beverages.  In some cases, Triticum aestivum is considered to be a weed or invasive species.  In the United States, common wheat can be found in every state except for North Dakota.  Common wheat was believed to have originated in 9,000 B.C. from the hybridization of another wheat Triticum urartu and an unknown grass.  Common wheat grows best in fertile, nitrogen-rich soil and does not grow well under heat and humidity.  Tolerant of high pH, drought and disease, the common wheat can grow under less than optimal conditions for most plants.  Common wheat can grow up to four feet tall (1.2 m).  Triticum aestivum is only known in cultivation - the exact origin of the plant is still largely unknown.   As humans evolved from a hunter-gatherer society to an agrarian lifestyle, studies have shown that grains also gained size and the seeds became stronger and less likely to shatter. |E

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    Vitis vinifera

    Wine Grape

    Vitis vinifera|Common Grape Vine||Vitis vinifera, also known as the common grape vine, is a deciduous perennial that can grow up to 50 feet tall (15 meters).  The common grape is used for its fruit, which is then sold as is, juice, jelly, or cultivated into various types of wine.  The fruit is round or oval in shape and can range from yellow, green, red, or purple in color depending on the variety. The seeds from grapes can be used to make soap and the oil is used for lighting.  The common grape vine prefers damp woods or riverbanks to grow, and requires a soil pH of about 6.5.  Vitis vinifera produces pale-green sweet-smelling hermaphroditic flowers that bloom from May to July.  Considered to be a European grape, the common grape vine is also widely cultivated in California. Since Vitis vinifera is less resilient to cold than American grape varieties, it is much harder to cultivate in colder regions. Chardonnay is one of the largest varieties of Vitis vinifera cultivated for wine.|E 

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    Musa acuminata


    Musa acuminata|Plantain||Musa acuminata, also known as the Banana plant or Plantain, is considered an herb and grows to be about 10-20 feet tall after just one year.  There are eight subspecies of Musa acuminate. Banana blossoms ripen into bananas after three to four months.  The trunk of the banana plant is made from sheets of leaves, rather than bark.  This mechanism conserves water, and since banana plants are 90 percent water, it is crucial.  Banana plants are native to India, Southern Asia and Australia, though they have been successfully grown for commercial use in the Americas such as the state of California.  Bananas are the fourth largest fruit crop in the world.   The banana plant is a perennial that prefers moist, well-drained soils and can grow in partial sunlight or full sunlight.  The banana is 12 inches long and 2.5 centimeters wide.  The herb has reddish purple flowers that can either be male or female.  The banana plant flowers year-round.  Trees typically will not produce either fruit or flowers until the second or third year.|E

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    Marchantia polymorpha

    Green-tongue Liverwort

    Marchantia polymorpha|Green-tongued Liverwort||Musa acuminata, also known as the Banana plant or Plantain, is considered an herb and grows to be about 10-20 feet tall after just one year.  There are eight subspecies of Musa acuminate. Banana blossoms ripen into bananas after three to four months.  The trunk of the banana plant is made from sheets of leaves, rather than bark.  This mechanism conserves water, and since banana plants are 90 percent water, it is crucial.  Banana plants are native to India, Southern Asia and Australia, though they have been successfully grown for commercial use in the Americas such as the state of California.  Bananas are the fourth largest fruit crop in the world.   The banana plant is a perennial that prefers moist, well-drained soils and can grow in partial sunlight or full sunlight.  The banana is 12 inches long and 2.5 centimeters wide.  The herb has reddish purple flowers that can either be male or female.  The banana plant flowers year-round.  Trees typically will not produce either fruit or flowers until the second or third year.|E

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    Helix aspersa

    Garden Snail

    Helix aspersa|Garden Snail||Also known as garden snail or common brown European snail, Helix aspersa is a smaller pale brown snail from the phylum Mollusca.  The garden snail’s shell is dark brown and round with a spiral towards the center of the shell.  Garden snails are nocturnal and typically do not emerge into the daylight unless it is raining.  Their diets consist largely of plants, fruits, dead animal tissue, and paper products.  Garden snails are considered a pest in many gardens, as they consume most vegetation.  Plants that grow low to the ground are reported to get the most damage, as they are easier for garden snails to get to.  However, height does not deter garden snails from climbing to higher plants in search of food.  Like all snails, the garden snail is hermaphroditic, meaning that one snail has both male and female reproductive organs.  Though garden snails can self-fertilize, they mostly reproduce through mating with another snail.  When two garden snails mate, each snail will produce and lay eggs, which will hatch within two to four weeks. Garden snails can have up to 430 offspring in one year. It takes about two years for a garden snail to mature into an adult.   Garden snails are edible to humans.  Snail farms, which have risen in popularity in Great Britain, are largely successful.  Native to Europe, South Africa and Turkey, garden snails were introduced to the United States and have proliferated there.|E

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    Opuntia ficus-indica

    Argentine Pricklypear

    Opuntia ficus-indica|Prickly Pear||Opuntia ficus-indica, also known as barbary fig or prickly pear, is a cactus crop that is found in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, the Mediterranean and Puerto Rico.  Plants in the Opuntia family are often referred to as 'succulents' because of their overly-thick leaves and stems which are used to store water. The prickly pear is about 15 feet tall (4.5 meters) and about 10 feet wide (3 meters).  The cactus has large pads about 10 inches long and some spikes.  Yellow or orange flowers grow on these pads and blossom in spring or early summer months.  The prickly pear needs full sun, and if water is scarce, the pads of the prickly pear will shrivel in order to conserve water.  Both the fruit and pads of the prickly pear cactus are edible, and the sweet purple fruit of the prickly pear, also known as 'tunas', is sold in markets worldwide. Some dishes that are made with prickly pear pads include putting the pads in salads, grilling the pads and serving them with eggs, or using the pads for soups.|E

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    Plasmodium falciparum

    Falciparum Malaria Parasite

    Plasmodium falciparum| Malaria Parasite||One of five malaria parasites, Plasmodium falciparum causes nearly 85 percent of malaria cases around the world.  P. falciparum is the most deadly and common of the five parasites.  Despite constituting the majority of malaria cases, only 30 to 40 species of Anopheles mosquitoes carry the parasite out of 400 species. Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, enlargement of the spleen or liver, mild jaundice and nausea.  If a pregnant woman becomes infected by the P. falciparum parasite and it goes untreated, the infection could result in premature birth of the baby.   Plasmodium falciparum residing in the saliva of a mosquito will enter humans when female mosquitoes seek a blood host.  Once inside the human host, the immature Plasmodium falciparum will go straight to the liver, where it will then infect liver cells. After developing into a hepatic schizont, the liver cell will burst and release more of the parasites into the bloodstream.  From there, Plasmodium falciparum will infect red blood cells and consume the insides of the cells.  At stages where large numbers of red blood cells are infected, there will likely be a fever present that can last for up to 48 hours.  The red blood cells of the human host will burst, releasing the parasite where more red blood cells will continue to become infected.  In the two-host life cycle, the mosquito, also known as a vector, will become re-infected with Plasmodium falciparum when taking blood from a vertebrate host such as a human. Plasmodium falciparum is known as an endemic because there is a steady rate of malaria cases in Africa.  Although Plasmodium falciparum is known worldwide, the number of malaria cases is not as high as the ones in Africa.  There is no “true” vaccine for malaria, although the disease can be treated and cured.  In some cases the parasite may be resistant to drugs.  Bed nets are a preventative measure against malaria, as it removes the mosquito vector from transmitting the parasite to a human host.|E

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    Macrocystis pyrifera

    Giant Kelp

    Macrocystis pyrifera|Giant Kelp||Macrocystis pyrifera, also known as giant kelp, is found in North America along the west coast as well as South America, South Africa, and Australia. Since the plant can grow so tall, giant kelp grows to the water’s surface and shades the ocean floor below, causing growth of algae and aquatic plants to slow in growth because large amounts of sunlight have been blocked off. Giant kelp can grow up to 196 feet (60 meters), and when large amounts are present, underwater ‘forests’ of kelp are formed. The plant grows on rocky surfaces and is anchored there by the plant’s holdfast, a type of root structure. Sometimes, the plant will drift away after intense storms rip the holdfast from the surface it was anchored in. The stipe, or aquatic plant version of a terrestrial plant’s stem, is very flexible and strong. The stipe grows blades that conduct photosynthesis for the kelp. Special cells called trumpet cells transport materials from the very top of the kelp plant all the way down to the holdfast. One of Macrocystis pyrifera’s common predators is the sea urchin, which can devour entire kelp forests. Sea otters, which are the natural predators of sea urchins, will prevent giant kelp forests from being eaten. Giant kelp is often harvested for alginates, which are used as thickeners and as a waterproofing substance. Alginate is derived from the cell walls of brown algae such as Macrocystis pyrifera.|E

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    Nematostella vectensis

    Starlet Sea Anemone

    Nematostella vectensis|Starlet Sea Anemone||Also known as the starlet sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis is a 15 millimeter long sea anemone.  Like other members within the phylum Cnidaria, the starlet sea anemone has nematocysts, or stinging cells, that are used to sting prey.  Starlet sea anemones bury themselves in shallow water and prefer fine sand.  They will bury themselves so that only the oral disc and tentacles are exposed to the surface of the sand or dirt they are buried in.  Starlet sea anemones eat nematodes, snails, crustaceans, and insects by using its tentacles and ingesting their prey through the oral disc.  However, if the starlet sea anemone is threatened, its exposed tentacles will retreat back into the dirt or sand so that very little of the organism is exposed.  Starlet sea anemones prefer brackish lagoons along the east coast of the United States and Canada, as well as California and the south and east coast of England. Starlet sea anemones reproduce sexually during summer months where water conditions are good and food is available, but will reproduce asexually year round.  Starlet sea anemones reproduce sexually by releasing their gametes (egg or sperm) into the water, where new starlet sea anemones will start to develop.   Starlet sea anemones have been used to study fundamental genetics and ecology.  Researchers have also been interested in studying their complex nervous systems.   The International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified this species as vulnerable.  Starlet sea anemones are threatened because populations are usually in very small clusters, which can easily be damaged or eliminated by pollution and development.  Starlet sea anemones are very sensitive to pollution, which is why the species is a good indicator of low oxygen conditions.|E

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    Caenorhabditis elegans


    Caenorhabditis elegans|Nematode||Caenorhabditis elegans is a species of non-parasitic multicellular roundworm that lives in most areas of the world.  This one millimeter long eukaryotic organism consumes bacteria such as E. coli, and can be found in soils with adequate moisture and oxygen as well as decomposing plant life.  Caenorhabditis elegans has no females; instead, the species comprises of mostly hermaphrodites that can self-fertilize and males.  Male Caenorhabditis elegans make up a very small percentage of the total population.  Caenorhabditis elegans hermaphrodites reproduce by self-fertilization, which results in offspring genetically identical to the parent. However, hermaphrodites can also mate with males, which results in offspring with combinations of genes from both parents.  About 12 hours after the eggs have been fertilized, they will hatch.  Caenorhabditis elegans have a total lifespan of two to three weeks. Caenorhabditis elegans have a nervous system, and like some nematodes, C. elegans does not have a segmented body structure. In 1963, Caenorhabditis elegans was introduced into the scientific community as an ideal organism to be used for research.  This nematode is still being used today in research, especially for genetics testing and is commonly referenced to as ‘the worm’.  Since the organism reproduces in large numbers with one hermaphrodite producing up to 350 eggs at one time, it is easier to use the organism to test the application of one gene.  Caenorhabditis elegans was also the first multicellular organism to have its genome completely sequenced.  About 40 percent of the Caenorhabditis elegans genome is homologous to the human genome.  This similarity in genome between Caenorhabditis elegans and Homo sapiens could indicate a common ancestor. In a study conducted by University College London, Caenorhabditis elegans was used to study cell death. In the study, the death of one Caenorhabditis elegans triggered a calcium chain, eventually spreading through the rest of the organism and according to David Gems, co-author of the study, the death of the neighboring cell is triggered.|E

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    Escherichia coli

    E. Coli

    Escherichia Coli|E. Coli||Gut bacteria are rod-shaped. Many are found the intestines of animals, including humans. Many strains of E. coli normally live in the human large intestine and cause no harm. A few strains, however, can cause serious illness, including severe diarrhea and kidney failure. |B

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    Pontosphaera huxleyi

    Pontosphaera huxleyi|coccolithophore||No Description Available|E

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    Cryptophyta|Cryptomonads||Cryptophyta are a phylum of unicellular algae that are oval-shaped with two flagella.  Cryptophyta, also recognized by the name Cryptophytes, are mostly photosynthetic organisms that produce their own food, but some species are heterotrophic and will obtain food from another source, similar to humans. Some Cryptophytes are even considered mixotrophs, meaning they obtain energy from more than one source.  Cryptophytes have one flagellum that is longer than the other.  The longer flagella will have two rows of mastigonemes, or short hairs that assist in movement.  Cryptophyta are said to resemble Russian dolls by the fact that one large cell encompasses four smaller organisms.  There are freshwater and marine species of Cryptophyta, and in the spring the species may produce blooms that are visible in the Chesapeake bay, arctic, Great Lakes and Antarctic.  These organisms can appear green, red, blue, or olive in color and are typically very small.    Cryptophyta have a nucleus located at the back end of the cell, while the contractile vacuole where food is taken in and wastes are removed is located at the front of the cell.  One interesting fact about Cryptophyta is that along the tubular gullet the organism has ejectosomes, or ribbon-like organelles that are rolled up and will expel all of the material inside the cell if the organism is under any form of stress. The Cryptophytes are similar in cell structure and color to a phylum of sometimes parasitic organisms called dinoflagellates. Cryptophytes do not have a cell wall or spindle fibers that are normally present during mitosis of the cell.  Organisms that hunt Cryptophytes include dinoflagellates and plankton. Cryptophyta reproduce mainly asexually, although sexual reproduction has just recently been documented in a few species.|E

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    Mnemiopsis leidyi

    Sea Walnut

    Mnemiopsis leidyi|Comb Jelly||Mnemiopsis leidyi, also known as sea walnut or comb jellyfish, is a ctenophore that is native to the north and south coasts of the Americas.  The comb jellyfish was accidentally introduced to the Black Sea through ballast water, or water put in ships to make sailing more stable. Since accidental introduction of comb jellyfish to certain areas, it has destroyed local ecosystems and has continued to expand to regions of the Mediterranean. Since the comb jellyfish was introduced to the Black Sea, the region has experienced decreased biological diversity of species and a decrease in biomass, especially for some fish species where their eggs have been eaten by comb jellies. A predator of comb jellyfish as well as an invasive species and ctenophore Beroe ovata was introduced to the Black Sea, where today both the comb jellyfish and Beroe ovata populations have stabilized. The word ctenophore comes from the Latin word “ctena” meaning comb-bearer, referring to the four rows of cilia.  Comb jellyfish are not true jellyfish because they do not have stinging cells, also called nematocysts, which means that comb jellyfish cannot sting.  Rather, they are distantly related to true jellyfish.  Comb jellyfish are nearly transparent and bioluminesce at night if they are disturbed.  They can live in oxygen-poor areas and they are not dangerously affected by pollution. Comb jellyfish are filter-feeders that eat zooplankton, fish eggs and larvae.  Sea nettles are the primary predators of sea jellyfish and keep populations of comb jellyfish in check.  Comb jellyfish are hermaphroditic and can self-fertilize, but under good environmental conditions, comb jellyfish will prefer sexual reproduction and spawn, releasing thousands of eggs into the ocean for external fertilization. Under harsh environmental conditions, comb jellyfish will reproduce asexually.|E

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    Haptophyte Alga

    Haptophyta|Prymnesiophytes||Haptophyta is a unicellular division of algae that also goes by the name Prymnesiophyceae or coccolithophorids.  Along with having two flagella and in most cases being photosynthetic, the cell membrane of Haptophyta has the appearance of scales.  These scales, also known as coccoliths, are made in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) of the cell and have been shown in the fossil record even before Haptophytes had been discovered.  There are about 500 species in the division Haptophyta, with some being marine and others being freshwater species.  Haptophytes typically have a golden color. Haptophyta are found around the world and can live in icy cold temperatures or in tropical areas depending on the species.  They can form blooms, some of which are toxic and have caused severe environmental problems like suffocating fish by clogging their gills with the algae in areas like Sweden and Norway.  These blooms also produce a compound called dimethyl sulfide, which has a particularly potent smell that forces fish to take alternate migration routes. Haptophyta use a flagella-like organelle called a haptonema.  Once mistaken to be a third flagellum, the organism will leave the haptonema outstretched to collect food particles. Once a substantial amount of food has been collected, the haptonema will deposit the collected food on the surface of the cell, where the organism will then ingest the food particles through phagocytosis.  In some instances, there is an eyespot that is located near the chloroplast.  An eyespot functions as a photoreceptor, allowing the organism to sense light intensity. Haptophyta are very closely related to the Cryptomonads, a phylum of unicellular algae. Haptophyta have been found in the fossil record dating back to the Jurassic period.|E

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    Ustilago maydis

    Corn Smut

    Ustilago maydis|Corn Smut||Corn smut (Ustilago maydis) is a pathogenic plant fungus that causes smut disease on maize and teosinte (Euchlena mexicana). The fungus forms galls on all above-ground parts of corn species, and is known in Mexico as huitlacoche; it is eaten, usually as a filling, in quesadillas and other tortilla-based foods, and soups.|E

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    Dictyostelium discoideum

    Dictyostelium discoideum|Slime Mold||No Description Available|E

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    Entamoeba histolytica

    Entamoeba histolytica|E. Histolytica||Although several protozoan species in the genus Entamoeba colonize humans, not all of them are associated with disease. Entamoeba histolytica is well recognized as a pathogenic amoeba causing amebiasis, which can involve both intestinal and extraintestinal infections. The other Entamoeba species are important because they may be confused with E. histolytica in diagnostic investigations. Two morphologically identical but genetically distinct and apparently largely nonpathogenic species, E. dispar and E. moshkovskii, are now believed to account for most asymptomatic Entamoeba infections in humans. Entamoeba histolytica has a worldwide distribution, with a higher incidence of amebiasis in developing countries. Risk groups in industrialized countries include homosexual males, travelers and recent immigrants (although disease may develop months to years after exposure), and institutionalized populations. Infection by E. histolytica typically occurs by ingestion of mature cysts in fecally contaminated food, water, or hands. Cysts can survive for days to weeks in the external environment. Transmission can also occur through exposure to fecal matter during sexual contact (in this case not only cysts but also the far less durable trophozoite stage could prove infective). Entamoeba histolytica is responsible for an estimated 35 to 50 million cases of symptomatic disease and around 100,000 deaths annually, apparently as a result of parasite destruction of host tissue. The majority of morbidity and mortality occurs in Asia, Central and South America, and Africa. Children are especially vulnerable as they can suffer from malnourishment and stunted growth as a result of repeated infection.Entamoeba hemolytica are generally considered to be anaerobic since they can be grown in vitro only under conditions of reduced oxygen tension. However, metabolically these parasitic protozoa have been found to be microaerobic or microaerophilic, consuming oxygen to a certain extent and produce toxic oxygen derivatives. Given this fact, it is notable that they lack some or all of the usual antioxidant defense mechanisms present in aerobic and other aerotolerant cells, a phenomenon reviewed and discussed by Tekwani and Mehlotra.|E

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    Tyrannosaurus rex

    Tyrant Lizard King

    Tyrannosaurus rex|T. Rex||Tyrannosaurus rex is an extinct species of carnivorous dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period, about 100 million years ago. Tyrannosaurus rex, meaning “tyrant lizard”, has been found in North America and Asia. Fossils show that Tyrannosaurus rex was 40 feet long and reaching to about 20 feet tall. Barnum Brown discovered fossils from this monumental dinosaur in 1898. The skull of the dinosaur is very lightweight and has about 60 teeth used for tearing apart flesh, since the dinosaur was carnivorous. It is believed that since the eyes of Tyrannosaurus rex face front, rather than most other dinosaurs with eyes on the sides of their heads, eye placement makes T. rex a better hunter to judge depth and distance, essential for hunting prey. Despite T. rex's gigantic size, the dinosaur could not run faster than about 10 to 25 miles per hour. Since fossil evidence is all that remains of these magnificent giants, there is some debate as to how fast the dinosaur could go. Tyrannosaurus rex regularly shed their 60 teeth and grow new ones in their place, which is characteristic of a large predator. This trait comes in handy if they lose their teeth in a battle or while attacking prey. Holding the title of “world’s largest predator” to date, Tyrannosaurus rex was able to consume 500 pounds of meat with one bite using cone-shaped teeth designed to rip and tear into flesh. It is possible that Tyrannosaurus rex grabbed prey, but their short arms were not long enough to reach their mouths.|E

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    Vibrio cholerae

    Epidemic Cholera

    Vibrio cholerae|Epidemic Cholera||Vibrio cholerae is a gram-negative bacterium responsible for transmitting Cholera.  The bacterium, which can either be rod-shaped or curved, has a single flagellum to move around and can survive in freshwater or saltwater.  Since Vibrio cholerae does not create a food source, the organism depends on a host to obtain sugars and starches. The relationships Vibrio cholerae can have with a host can be pathogenic, parasitic, or even mutualistic.  Vibrio cholerae is highly sensitive to acid and cannot survive in the cold.  There are over 200 strains of Vibrio cholerae, which can make Cholera difficult to treat with antibiotics. Vibrio cholerae causes Cholera by releasing a toxin in the human body.  Humans infected with the bacterium will have very watery diarrhea and abdominal cramps, coma, as well as effects from dehydration.  Vibrio cholerae enters the human body when water that has been contaminated with fecal matter containing Vibrio cholerae has been drunk.  Cholera can be treated through antibiotics and replenishing lost water. If Cholera remains untreated, death can occur between four to six days.  For children and pregnant mothers, the time span can be a matter of hours.  Vibrio cholerae can also infect fish, birds and herbivores. Cholera is rare in industrialized nations, but it continues to be a problem in areas with poor sanitation.  Sometimes, transmission of the bacterium to humans can occur through eating raw shellfish infected with the parasite. The best way to prevent more Cholera cases is to provide sanitary food and drinking water. Another challenge that makes combatting Vibrio cholerae more problematic is that Cholera conditions become more severe when someone who is malnourished or already has pre-existing health problems contracts the bacterium.|B

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    Scutellinia scutellata

    Common Eyelash

    Scutellinia scutellata|Common Eyelash||Also known as the common eyelash, Scutellinia scutellata is a reddish-brown mushroom that has been recorded on every continent apart from Antarctica.  The common eyelash is 5 millimeters in diameter and prefers a damp habitat such as decomposing wood.  Growing in clusters, this fungus is very common in North America and Europe.  Scutellinia scutellata gets its name from the small, eyelash-like fringes on the circumference of the reddish-orange head of the mushroom.  The purpose of the “eyelashes” is to protect the cap of the mushroom from debris.   Scutellinia scutellata produces sexual spores through meiosis that are stored on the top of the fungus.  These spores are stored in a sac called an ascus.  This distinction typically is found in members of the phylum Ascomycota, or sac fungi.|E

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    Fucus vesiculosus

    Bladder Wrack

    Fucus vesiculosus|Bladder Wrack||Fucus vesiculosus, also known as bladderwrack, is a form of seaweed (or algae) found in the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Baltic Sea. Fucus vesiculosus means “covered in bladders or blisters” in Latin, which refers to the small blister-like sac filled with dioxygen, or O2, which helps the seaweed stay lifted towards the surface of the water. At the base of bladderwrack is a holdfast, or root-like structure which secures the rest of the organism to the floor and keeps it from floating away. The bladderwrack uses photosynthesis to produce its own energy. Bladderwracks also have a chemical called fucoxanthin that makes photosynthesis more efficient by absorbing more sunlight. Bladderwracks have a large amount of predators since it is a primary producer, but over time the organism has evolved mechanisms to keep other organisms from consuming it. The bladderwrack provides organisms such as snails, mussels and small fish shelter. Polysaccharides, or long chains of carbohydrates, prevent the bladderwrack from being damaged by waves or the sun. However, if exposed to sun for too long, the bladderwrack will dry out. Since the bladderwrack is dioecious, each bladderwrack has both male and female parts. Each bladderwrack releases both gametes (eggs or sperm) into the ocean. The gametes will then meet and become fertilized, producing a new bladderwrack. A bladderwrack typically lives for about three years. Although bladderwrack extracts can be used for medicinal purposes, there is still no concrete evidence pointing to its success. Since bladderwrack is from the sea, it contains large amounts of iodine, which is useful for thyroid problems. However, since the amount of iodine in bladderwracks is not constant, it cannot be used effectively. Bladderwrack can also cause severe allergic reactions, and since it comes from the ocean, it may contain arsenic.|E

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    Giardia intestinalis

    Giardia intestinalis|Giardia| |The flagellated unicellular parasite Giardia duodenalis (also sometimes known as G. intestinalis or G. lamblia) resides in the intestines of humans and a range of other vertebrates. Giardia lack common eukaryotic subcellular compartments such as mitochondria, peroxisomes, and apparently also a traditional Golgi apparatus. Six Giardia species are currently recognized. Five of these are represented by isolates from amphibians (G. agilis), birds (G. ardeae, G. psittaci), mice (G. muris), and voles (G. microti). Thje sixth species (G. duodenalis, sometimes treated as a species complex rather than a single species) includes Giardia strains isolated from a large range of other mammalian hosts (including humans, domestic dogs, cats, and livestock). Plutzer et al. (2010) reviewed the biology, epidemiology, detection, and control of Giardia. (Plutzer et al. 2010 and references therein; Tangtrongsup and Scorza 2010). Giardia cysts are resistant forms and are responsible for transmission of giardiasis. Both cysts (the dormant, environmentally resistant stage, which measure around 12 microns long and 7 microns wide) and trophozoites (the active, motile stage, which measure around 15 microns long and 8 microns wide) can be found in the feces. The cysts are hardy and can survive several months in cold water. Infection occurs by the ingestion of cysts in contaminated water or food, or by the fecal-oral route (hands or fomites, i.e., inanimate objects or substances capable of transferring pathogens). In the small intestine, excystation releases trophozoites (each cyst produces two trophozoites). Trophozoites multiply by longitudinal binary fission, remaining in the lumen of the proximal small bowel, where they can be either free or attached to the mucosa by a ventral sucking disk. Encystation occurs as the parasites move toward the colon. The cyst is the stage found most commonly in nondiarrheal feces. Because the cysts are infectious when passed in the stool or shortly afterward, person-to-person transmission is possible. Non-human animals are infected with Giardia, but their importance as a reservoir for human infection is unclear. Giardia infects humans worldwide, but is more prevalent in warm climates and in children. (Tangtrongsup and Scorza 2010; Centers for Disease Control Parasites and Health Website)|E

  • Selaginella lepidophylla

    Rose of Jericho

    Selaginella lepidophylla|Rose of Jericho||Selaginella lepidophylla is a species of plant native to dry desert areas. More commonly known by rose of Jericho, resurrection plant, false rose of Jericho, and dinosaur plant. It should be noted however that another species Anastatica hierochuntica is commonly mistaken for this plant and often the two species share common names. Plants in the genus Selaginella are considered primitive plants. About 400 million years ago, ancestors of Selaginella lepidophylla stood about 100 feet tall. Today, this desert plant is only one foot tall and is green and yellow in color. This plant is found in Texas and Arizona to El Salvador and prefers dry environments with little rainfall. The most unique feature about Selaginella lepidophylla is that when the plant’s environment lacks moisture or rain, Selaginella lepidophylla will curl into a tight ball to preserve moisture, as well as slow all metabolic actions to a near stop. This plant can remain in this state of hibernation for over a year and appears to be dead. Once rainfall begins, the plant will almost immediately begin to uncurl and return to regular metabolic rates. This plant does not produce seeds, flowers, or fruit. Instead, Selaginella lepidophylla reproduces through spores. Selaginella lepidophylla is popular with tourists and is often grown in greenhouses because of its unique ability to “come back from the dead”, hence the name resurrection plant. It is also used frequently in classrooms to study desiccation and rehydration.|E

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    Sphagnum fuscum

    Brown Peatmoss

    Sphagnum fuscum|Brown Peatmoss||Sphagnum fuscum, also known as common brown sphagnum, is a species of peat moss that is native to boreal forests of North America.  This peat moss is typically greenish brown in color, although the small leaves can range from a light green color to light pink.  Sphagnum fuscum does not have flowers, but instead reproduces by one of two ways; Sphagnum fuscum can either release spores that eventually become new organisms, or if a piece of the moss is broken off, the broken piece will become a new organism that is genetically identical to its parent.  Preferring very cold temperatures from around freezing to below freezing, Sphagnum fuscum thrives best in bogs or wetland areas, although it can acclimate to most environments.  This moss grows in clumps, sometimes on the surface of water. These dense clumps may be so thick that they can hold up a large moose.   Since Sphagnum fuscum has large amounts of tubular capillaries that are designed to take in water, the moss can absorb more water than a sponge.  However, if the moss becomes dried out, it is very flammable and is often used as kindling by campers.  In some bog areas, Sphagnum fuscum overtakes the location, depleting its environment of nutrients.  The surface of a layer of Sphagnum fuscum is typically alive and photosynthesizing, but since the underside of the moss cannot access sunlight, the bottom of the moss is dead.   This moss is often used in agriculture; where if placed in the soil, the moss will help surrounding plants retain moisture. Sphagnum moss comprises the highest percentage of coal.  Coal is created when peat mosses become compacted over time, eventually creating coal and other fossil fuels. At one time, this moss was used for its absorbency to make baby diapers and menstrual pads.|E

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    Corallina officinalis

    Coral Weed

    Corallina officinalis|Coral Weed||The common coral weed, also known as Corallina officinalis, is an underwater plant commonly considered to be a weed. The common coral weed is found in Australia, Japan, South Africa, China, and along the east coast of the United States. This plant prefers to live on rocky shores, and grows abundantly from Connecticut to Maryland along the eastern coast of the United States. Common coral weed grows about 12 centimeters tall and is pinkish white in color, which is caused by the calcium carbonate deposits that give it a white coloring. Common coral weed has branches that are irregular and very stiff to the touch. The fronds of the common coral weed are oppositely branched, and the branches move flexibly through the water. Like other red seaweeds, the reproductive cycle of the common coral weed is very complex. Common coral weed reproduces sexually, with each plant having either male or female reproductive parts, but not both. After the gametes fuse, the cell settles and begins to grow within about 48 hours. After settling on a rough surface, the new plant will grow about 3.6 micrometers per day until it reaches its full growth in about 13 weeks. Though the common coral weed is a common ocean plant species, researchers are unsure how it will handle ocean acidification, which could be detrimental to the species. This plant also provides other ocean organisms a habitat, and even other seaweed species will grow on top of the common coral weed. Sea urchins will eat the common coral weed, but only if their preferred algae is not available for them to graze on. Common coral weed is also a popular ingredient in cosmetics such as eye creams and moisturizers.|E

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    Trichoplax adhaerens


    Trichoplax adhaerens|Placozoan||Trichoplax adhaerens is an early invertebrate and is considered to be one of the simplest organisms in the kingdom Animalia. What these animals eat and where they live have yet to be discovered, as this organism has never been found in its natural habitat. Trichoplax adhaerens were first discovered in 1883 inside of a laboratory aquarium. The cell body of Trichoplax adhaerens is composed of about 1000 cells with only three cell layers. Its body structure is only made up of four types of cells: cylinder cells that include cilia, gland cells, cover cells located towards the outer region of the organism that also include cilia, and fiber cells that are star-shaped and tend to stretch between the inner and outer layers of the organism. Trichoplax adhaerens is transparent, flat and round. The organism can move around via cilia or by changing its shape. Trichoplax adhaerens will eat Cryptomonas and Chlorella when kept in labs or cultures. The organism has no record of sexual reproduction, but instead will reproduce asexually through binary fission or budding. As only one of two species under the phylum Placozoan, Treptoplax reptans and Treptoplax reptans are considered the “missing link” species that may give more insight to the evolution of animals. The other species under Placozoans, Treptoplax reptans, is speculated to actually be Trichoplax adhaerens. This would technically make T. adhaerens the only species of its phylum. |E

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    Anopheles gambiae

    African Malaria Mosquito

    Anopheles gambiae|African Malaria Mosquito||Anopheles gambiae is a group of seven very closely related species of mosquito that are nearly impossible to distinguish apart from one another.   Female mosquitos are dependent on a source of blood during breeding times, and often rely on a human host to feed from.  Using their sense of smell to detect a host, females become parasitic during only the breeding period. After female mosquitos lay their eggs on the surface of water, the eggs will incubate for a period of 48 hours while breathing underwater.  Then the eggs hatch, with the organisms will then enter a larval stage where they live underwater but breathe oxygen.  Next, after the larval stage comes the pupal stage that lasts for about two days where the pupas do not move or eat as they grow into adult mosquitos.  Once a mosquito has reached adulthood, it is capable of mating immediately.   Anopheles gambiae are yellowish brown in color with a pair of wings and six legs on the thorax.  Male mosquitos have more setae, or bristles, located on their antennae than females.  Males will then use their setae to locate females for mating purposes. Bats, birds, frogs and lizards eat Anopheles gambiae. Some species in the complex Anopheles gambiae prefer water with high salt content while others prefer freshwater for breeding. This complex of mosquito is the largest species responsible for transmitting the lethal malaria parasite (Plasmodium falciparum) to humans.  In the United States where malaria has been irradicated, Anopheles gambiae is largely considered to be just a pest.  However, in Africa, Anopheles gambiae has become a serious problem for humans because of high malaria rates. Even with just breeding females searching for human hosts, a person in Africa may be bitten between 50 to 100 times per night.|E

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    Pseudoceros dimidiatus


    Pseudoceros dimidiatus|Flatworm||The brightly colored Pseudoceros dimidiatus is a small two to three inch long flatworm native to the great barrier reef of Australia, North Sulawesi in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Also known as the Sulawesi flatworm or divided flatworm, this organism is highly toxic and uses its bright yellow appearance to warn predators that they are dangerous. With one wide orange band that encircles the edge of the flatworm, the organism also has bright yellow and black “zebra-like” stripes. These flatworms only live for one to two years and are born sexually mature. Divided flatworms can usually can reproduce immediately after being born. Divided flatworms consume algae as well as small invertebrates like snails, crustaceans and small worms. Like all members of the phylum Platyhelminthes, divided flatworms have no circulatory system and only one gastrovascular cavity. They get oxygen by diffusing oxygen through their skin. Divided flatworms also have about 100 eyespots located in the same general region that make up one cerebral cluster of spots.|E

  • 14536_88_88 Fungi > Tremella Pers. 1794

    Tremella mesenterica

    Witches Butter

    Tremella mesenterica|Witches Butter||Widely recognized by its yellow jelly-like shape, Tremella mesenterica or witches’ butter is a fungus that grows on decaying deciduous wood and sometimes on other fungi. This fungus appears on trees and wood after rain, and will be bright yellow in color. If there has been a lack of rain or moisture for some time, the fungus will appear shriveled and dark yellow or orange in color. If it rains again, the fungus will return to its regular yellow jelly-like state. Like most members of phylum Basidiomycota, Tremella mesenterica is considered a “jelly-fungus”. About 2.5 to 10 centimeters wide and 3 centimeters tall, this fungus can be found in North America, Europe, China, Japan and Taiwan and is most common in late Fall. There is an old European legend that if this fungus grows on the entranceway of a house, a witch has casted a spell on the people in that house. As the legend goes, the only way to remove the spell is to prick the witches’ butter, leaking out the internal fluids of the fungus and thereby killing the fungus but removing the spell. Witches’ butter has also been used in Asia as a remedy for lung ailments, however a recent study showed that ethanol extract from Tremella mesenterica decreased cell viability. Tremella mesenterica has been studied as an alternative source of fuel. The process the fungi uses to decompose lignin, a chemical compound in wood, involves two steps of saccharification and then fermentation. The product of these two steps is fuel ethanol. A possible source of fuel could come from bioengineering the fungus to produce mass quantities of ethanol for commercial consumption.|E

  • 74477_88_88

    Puccinia graminis

    Wheat Rust

    Puccinia graminis|Wheat Rust||No Description Available|E

  • 04093_88_88

    Yersinia pestis

    Bubonic Plague

    Yersinia pestis|Bubonic Plague||Yersinia pestis is a rod-shaped bacterium that is responsible for causing the Black Death in 1350 CE that killed nearly 200 million people. This bacteria is considered to be a virulent pathogen and can be transmitted to humans through fleas and rats. Unable to move by itself inside of a host, Yersinia pestis relies on living in the blood of a host. Once inside of a flea, Yersinia pestis will block the gut of the flea, cutting off the flea’s nourishment. The flea, in response, will attempt to take even more blood from a host. Instead, the flea only infects a rat or human with the bacteria while trying to take a blood meal. Once a rat or human is infected, the bacteria will live in the blood. The immune system of the organism cannot suppress the bacteria because Yersinia pestis produces two antigens that prevent the organism from being consumed by white blood cells. It can also create an anti-phagocytic slime, which makes it even more difficult for white blood cells and the host’s immune system to suppress the bacterium. Without treatment, the mortality rate of the bubonic or pneumonic plague this organism causes is nearly 100 percent. The pneumonic plague arises when Yersinia pestis moves to the lungs. If a human is infected with the pneumonic plague, it is possible to infect another human via person to person contact. Yersinia pestis still causes the plague around the world. There is a temporary vaccine available, but it is typically only given to those who could be working with the bacterium or will be visiting places with poor sanitation. The entire Yersinia pestis genome has been sequences in order to identify related bacteria in the future and prevent further outbreaks caused by this organism.|B

  • 75751_88_88

    Trypanosoma brucei

    African Sleeping Sickness Trypanosome

    Trypanosoma brucei|African Sleeping Sickness Trypanosome||Trypanosoma brucei is a unicellular parasite that is responsible for causing African Sleeping Sickness. This protozoan causes 10,000 cases of African Sleeping Sickness per year, although the number could be higher with the number of unreported cases per year. Trypanosoma brucei uses the tsetse fly as a vector host, where it will then be transferred to a human host when the fly takes a blood meal from a human. Once the parasite enters the bloodstream, it enters stage one of the disease, where the organism begins to reproduce through binary fission. After some time, Trypanosoma brucei will migrate to the central nervous system, where mental functions will begin to deteriorate along with other neurological functions. The rate of progression of the disease depends on the subspecies. If untreated, African Sleeping Sickness can be fatal. Death occurs sometime between six months and six to seven years. There are about 10,000 reported cases of African Sleeping Sickness every year, although the actual number of cases may be significantly greater. There is no vaccine to prevent the spread of African Sleeping Sickness. Trypanosoma brucei have circular DNA called a kinetoplast that is similar in structure to mitochondrial DNA. This ring form is considered to be a very primitive form of DNA compared to the “ladder structure” found in higher organisms, Trypanosoma brucei has flagellum that it uses to move and is unicellular. One of the ways to prevent infection from Trypanosoma brucei is by wearing long sleeve clothing to prevent the tsetse fly from finding a place to bite.|E

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    Rhizopus stolonifer

    Rhizopus stolonifer|Black Bread Mold||This is one of the important species in genus Rhizopus. It is recognized as black bread mold also because it generally attacks the bread and produces the black colored sporangium and spore. In fact it has the whole mycelium of black color. Rhizopus stolonifer was first established in 1818 by the (Ehthrenberg) Vuillemin. Even he was the first person to discover the genus Rhizopus. This fungus is worldwide in distribution. They are mostly saprophyte growing on various things like bread, jams, pickles, cheese, moist food stuffs, leather goods, soft fruits and vegetables. This fungus is regarded as opportunist pathogen of human being as it causes the parlous disease called zygomycosis in which fungal infection are seen in face and oropharyngeal cavity. This plant pathogen is responsible for causing disease in many vegetables and fruits and recognized as pathogen with wide host range|E

  • 02861_88_88

    Meloidogyne incognita

    Southern Root-knot Nematode

    Meloidogyne incognita|Southern Root-knot Nematode||No Description Available|E