Posts by Emily Coyte

8 famous figures you didn’t know were vegetarian

Why be a veggie? According to a 2008 poll, the top three reasons American people gave for their lifestyle choice were: reservations about animal welfare, a desire to improve overall health, and environmental concerns. In India, where 40% of people are vegetarian, religious and cultural reasons play a far more significant role.   Vegetarianism is certainly not … Continued

Beyond X and Y: The strange world of sex strategy in the animal kingdom

For the most part our biological sex is decided by the combination of our genes. As a species we have two types of sex chromosomes—X and Y—which pair together as XX for women and XY for men. But across the vast spectrum of life, the essential processes of sex and reproduction can get a whole … Continued

The natural word: Coprolites

Definition: fossilised faeces Bones are all well and good, but there’s plenty to be learned from certain things that ancient creatures left behind, from their behind. Coprolites are lumps of faeces that have been preserved well enough to have mineralised into rocks and become fossils. The largest known ancient coprolite almost certainly came from a … Continued

The natural word: Halteres

Definition: small modified wing structures which aid flight control in true fly species Flies can seem both incredibly stupid and incredibly smart. They buzz inanely around the room, intermittently bashing into window panes. Yet they seem to have a preternatural ability to avoid being swatted. Before your hand gets anywhere near, the fly somehow veers … Continued

The natural word: Salps

Definition: a family of marine invertebrate filter feeders which form long chains as part of their life cycle. When walking along a beach or by the water’s edge you may come across a transparent blob washed up on the shore or floating in the shallows. If your first thought is ‘jellyfish’, then you might be … Continued

The natural word: Ecdysis

Definition: the process of shedding an exoskeleton during a moult or transformation Having a skeleton on the outside can be great, this tough waterproof body armour having served arthropods like insects and crustaceans well for over millions of years. However exoskeletons can be problematic when it comes to the small matter of getting bigger. Our … Continued

The natural world: Arboreal locomotion

Definition: movement within and between trees Some of us are better at it than others, but on the whole the human species remains pretty rubbish when it comes to the task of climbing trees. With a bit of courage we may be able to scramble up a trunk with conveniently spaced branches, but jumping from … Continued

The natural word: Spyhopping

Definition: a primarily cetacean information-gathering behaviour involving rising vertically out of water. Whales, dolphins and porpoises may spend most of their time submerged, but many love to poke their noses (and often much more) out of the water. These creatures, collectively known as cetaceans, do this in a variety of ways and not just to … Continued