Science Frontiers
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About Science Frontiers

Science Frontiers is the bimonthly newsletter providing digests of reports that describe scientific anomalies; that is, those observations and facts that challenge prevailing scientific paradigms. Over 2000 Science Frontiers digests have been published since 1976.

These 2,000+ digests represent only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The Sourcebook Project, which publishes Science Frontiers, also publishes the Catalog of Anomalies, which delves far more deeply into anomalistics and now extends to sixteen volumes, and covers dozens of disciplines.

Over 14,000 volumes of science journals, including all issues of Nature and Science have been examined for reports on anomalies. In this context, the newsletter Science Frontiers is the appetizer and the Catalog of Anomalies is the main course.


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Compilations of back issues can be found in Science Frontiers: The Book, and original and more detailed reports in the The Sourcebook Project series of books.

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Search results for: mimicry

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... Science Frontiers ONLINE No. 52: Jul-Aug 1987 Issue Contents Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Aggressive Mimicry Field studies have revealed that bolas spiders can mimic the odor of female moths, thus attracting for consumption the male moths. More specifically, the hunting adult female spider, Mastophora cornigera , releases volatile substances containing three moth sex pheromone compounds. (Stowe, Mark K., et al; "Chemical Mimicry: Bolas Spiders Emit Components of Moth Prey Species Sex Pheromones," Science, 236:964, 1987.) Comment. As in many other cases of mimicry, one wonders how the spider's capability developed by chance and in small steps. From Science Frontiers #52, JUL-AUG 1987 . 1987-2000 William R. Corliss ...
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... Science Frontiers ONLINE No. 61: Jan-Feb 1989 Issue Contents Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Egg Mimicry In Cuckoos In Britain, cuckoos mainly parasitize five species of smaller birds. They do this by laying their eggs in the hosts' nests. After hatching, the young cuckoos grow much faster than the young of the host species. Soon the cuckoo is able to eject the host's young from the nest and get all the food brought by the parents. Actually, the cuckoo is so aggressive in this business of parasitization that, when it finds a host nest with eggs so far along in incubation that parasitization is impractical, it destroys the whole nest. This usually forces the host birds to lay fresh eggs, giving the cuckoo a chance to parasitize the nest. The most remarkable thing about cuckoo parasitism is the birds' ability to match the eggs of the host species in size, spottedness, background color, and darkness. The eggs of all five species commonly parasitized in Britain are much smaller than a bird the size of the cuckoo would normally lay; but the cuckoo still manages to lay eggs of just the right size. When the bona fide eggs of the five parasitized species are placed side-by-side with the mimics layed by the cuckoos, the matches are uncanny - except in the case of the dunnock, which the cuckoo doesn't try to mimic at all. The question, of course, is how the cuckoos do it. American cuckoos rarely parasitize the nests of other ...
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... Science Frontiers ONLINE No. 41: Sep-Oct 1985 Issue Contents Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects The deceitful she-males "In many diverse taxa, males of the same species often exhibit multiple mating strategies. One well-documented alternative male reproductive pattern is 'female mimicry,' whereby males assume a female-like morphology or mimic female behavior patterns. In some species males mimic both female morphology and behavior. We report here female mimicry in a reptile, the red-sided garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis). This form of mimicry is unique in that it is expressed as a physiological feminization. Courting male red-sided garter snakes detect a female-specific pheromone and normally avoid courting other males. However, a small proportion of males release a pheromone that attracts other males, as though they were females. In the field, mating aggregations of 5-17 males were observed formed around these individual attractive males, which we have termed 'she-males.' In competitive mating trials, she-males mated with females significantly more often than did normal males, demonstrating not only reproductive competence but also a possible selective advantage to males with this female-like pheromone." In the competitive mating trials, the she-males were successful in 29 out of 42 trials. The normal males won out in only 13! The authors ask the question: Why aren't all males she-males given such an advantage? (Mason, Robert T., and Crews, David; "Female ...
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... Science Frontiers ONLINE No. 54: Nov-Dec 1987 Issue Contents Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Honest, this is the last "plant" item!In the September issue of Scientific American, S.C .H . Barrett presents an excellent review of mimicry in the plant world. All sorts of wondrous mimicry are described, involving form, color, odor, texture and even synchrony of life cycles. Plants mimic insects, stones, other plants, and substrates (backgrounds). Repeatedly, Barrett asserts that all of these remarkable developments are the consequence of small, randome mutations guided by the forces of natural selection. To Barrett, plant mimicry is proof positive that evolution is true. It should not surprise the readers of Science Frontiers that this very same article is a goldmine of biological anomalies, that is, data that seem to challenge ruling paradigms. (Barrett, Spencer C.H .; "Mimicry in Plants," Scientific American, 257:76, September 1987.) Comment. Evolution, like beauty, must be in the eye of the beholder! At this point, we could easily launch into a lengthy harangue about why it seems highly improbable that a plant, through chance mutations, could hit upon just the right combination of form, color, odor, and flowering time to dupe an insect pollinator -- even with the aid of natural selection and a billion years. The point we wish to stress here is that the author of this paper sees the same facts and comes to ...
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... Asymmetries BBA2 Female Hawks Larger Than Males BBA3 Skewed Sex Ratios of Offspring BBA4 Vividly Colored and Highly Patterned Avian Plumages and Ornaments BBA5 Plumage Polymorphism BBA6 Females with Male Plumage BBA7 Molting before Hatching BBA8 Unusual Diversification and Conservation in Plumage BBA9 Complexity and Sophistication of Feathers BBA10 Complexity and Sophistication of Feather Color-and-Pattern-Generation Mechanisms BBA11 Unusual Plumage-Color Changes BBA12 Feather Curiosities BBA13 Neoteny in Feathers BBA14 Tooth Substitutes in Modern Birds BBA15 Birds Lacking Egg Teeth BBA16 Extreme Sexual Dimorphism in Bills BBA17 Bill Polymorphisms BBA18 Avian Bills: Unusual Adaptations BBA19 Wing Claws BBA20 Wing Spurs BBA21 The Alula or Bastard Wing BBA22 Some Curiosities of Avian Feet BBA23 Inherited Callosities BBA24 Unusual Pouches on Birds BBA25 Luminous Birds BBA26 Odoriferous Birds BBA27 Egg Complexity and Sophistication BBA28 Bird Eggs: Color, Pattern and Size Curiosities BBA29 Egg Mimicry BBA30 Mimicry of Other Species and the Environment BBA31 Remarkable Convergences of Appearance and Habits BBA32 Frightmolt BBA33 The Hollow in the Back of the Young Common Cuckoo BBB AVIAN BEHAVIOR BBB1 Avian Intelligence BBB2 Complexity and Sophistication of Avian Mental Processes BBB3 Enigmas of Instinct BBB4 Anomalous Altruism: Hard to Find BBB5 The Aesthetic Sense in Birds BBB6 Calculated Deception: Birds That Cry "Wolf" BBB7 Avian Play BBB8 Anomalous Aerial Tumbling and Erratic Flight BBB9 Leks: Why Did They Evolve? BBB10 Cooperative Displays on Leks BBB11 Enigmatic Dancing, Flying, Singing BBB12 Anting BBB13 "Hangers"; Upside-Down Birds BBB14 Curious Automatisms BBB15 Handedness (" Footedness") in Birds BBB16 Unusual Aerial Transportation Techniques BBB17 Unusual Forms of Terrestrial Locomotion BBB18 Unusual Hunting Strategies BBB19 Cooperative Hunting BBB20 Prey-Handling Puzzles BBB21 Avian Prey and ...
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... Science Frontiers ONLINE No. 8: Fall 1979 Issue Contents Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Convergent evolution or chance look-alikes Why should caddis fly larvae and a species of aquatic snail look alike? Mimicry is rather common in nature for it often confers some sort of advantage to one or both of the species in the turmoil of evolutionary pressures. Or so the theory goes. Most examples of convergent evolution involve closely related species. In the present case, though, the species are in different phyla. The caddis fly larva builds its snail-like shell by cementing grains of sand together with a silk-like secretion, while the snail's shell is a calcareous excretion. One would expect a strong advantage to be conferred on one or the other species, especially in the matter of predation. Using brook trout as predators, how ever, proved perplexing, for the trout would eat only the snails, avoiding the carbon-copy larvae. (Berger, Joel, and Kaster, Jerry; "Convergent Evolution between Phyla...." Evolution, 33:511, 1979.) Comment. This is a remarkable case of mimicry. One wonders how the caddisfly larvae know exactly what snails look like, and how the unique shell constructing methods were coded into its genes by evolution. Or did the snail emulate the larvae? From Science Frontiers #8 , Fall 1979 . 1979-2000 William R. Corliss ...
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... Science Frontiers ONLINE No. 97: Jan-Feb 1995 Issue Contents Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Fruit Dupe Hakea trifurcata is a forlorn-looking shrub growing on rocky terrain in Western Australia, where it reaches a height of 2 meters. The fruits of this plant are enjoyed by the white-tailed black cockatoo -- if it can identify them ! Hakea trifurcata , you see, grows fruit that looks like its leaves, and this is very frustrating to the white-tailed black cockatoo: "This shrub according to plant ecologist Byron Lamont of Curtin University of Technology in Perth, exhibits the first known case of self-mimicry in a plant: to avoid losing valuable seeds to predators, it disguises some of its leaves as fruits. Young plants produce only the long, needle-shaped leaves. But mature five-year-old shrubs also grow broad leaves that cluster around the slightly smaller, almost identical-looking green seed-filled fruits." When offered branches stripped of real leaves and bearing just fruits, the cockatoos quickly demolished them. Normal branches bearing both leaves and fruit were attacked at first -- especially the larger leaves. But when the cockatoos found themselves duped a large proportion of the time, they gave up in obvious frustration. (Anonymous; "Fruit Dupes," Discover, 15:16, August 1994.) Comment. An even more amazing case of plant mimicry occurs among Passiflora species, which craft precise copies of the eggs of a butterfly, whose larvae decimate these plants ...
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... Science Frontiers ONLINE No. 1: September 1977 Issue Contents Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Australian Mistletoes Mimic Their Hosts Many species of Australian mistletoes closely mimic their hosts in leaf form and general appearance, blending deceptively into the host's foliage. Plant mimicry for purposes of protection (for example, stone plants) and for propagation are well known and, in the logic of evolutionists, have evolved because of the advantages conferred on the species. Since the Australian mistletoes are evidently highly palatable to arboreal marsupials, the tenets of evolution hold that it is only natural that these mistletoes should develop so as to resemble their hosts for purposes of protection. This is called cryptic or camouflage mimicry. Australian mistletoes parasitize a wide variety of plants, and it is truly marvelous how they can detect and imitate the leaves and appearances of such a wide variety of hosts. (Barlow, Bryan, and Wiens, Deibert; "Host Parasite Resemblance in Australian Mistletoes," Evolution, 31:69, 1977.) From Science Frontiers #1 , September 1977 . 1977-2000 William R. Corliss ...
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... Science Frontiers ONLINE No. 95: Sep-Oct 1994 Issue Contents Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects The urge to replicate: part i The inside front cover of the March 1944 issue of BioScience displays five pairs of colorful butterflies. Each member of each pair is virtually a duplicate of its partner in shape, design, and colors. Yet, each member of each pair is a different species. Although the pairs are from the same geographical regions, it is not obvious why this astounding mimicry should occur. Here, one cannot invoke the explanation that one species gains an evolutionary advantage by mimicking an unpalatable species, as with mimics of the Monarch Butterfly. That is, there seems to be no evolutionary advantage to looking alike. (Miller, Julie Ann; BioScience, inside front cover, March 1994. Miller's editorial remarks are based upon a later article by H.F . Nijhout, who also supplied the photographs. Nijhout's article explains how butterfly wing patterns may have evolved.) Comment. Cases of remarkable mimicry also occur among geographically separated species. For example, the North American Meadowlarks are dead ringers for the African Yellow-throated Longclaw. "Convergent evolution" names the phenomenon but doesn't tell how or why long chains of random mutations can come up with the same designs where there seems to be no "guidance" by the forces of natural selection. Perhaps genomes contain "subprograms" for those patterns and structures often used in biology. Of course, Sheldrake's idea of ...
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... Science Frontiers ONLINE No. 54: Nov-Dec 1987 Issue Contents Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects The insects' revenge Plants may fool some insects with their mimicry and deter others with toxic chemicals, but the insects have their tricks, too, as seen in the following item from Science: "Many mandibulate insects that feed on milkweeds, or other latex-producing plants, cut leaf veins before feeding distal to the cuts. Vein cutting blocks latex flow to intended feeding sites and can be viewed as an insect counteradaptation to the plants' defensive secretion." (Dussord, David E., and Eisner, Thomas; "Vein-Cutting Behavior: Insect Counterploy to the Latex Defense of Plants," Science, 237:898, 1987.) Comment. Right now, even as we write this, the plants are evolving counterploys -- high-voltage veins perhaps! But this may not work. See the final item in this section. From Science Frontiers #54, NOV-DEC 1987 . 1987-2000 William R. Corliss ...
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... Science Frontiers ONLINE No. 61: Jan-Feb 1989 Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues Last Issue Next Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Contents Archaeology Interproximal grooving of teeth A MAMMOTH FRAUD IN SCIENCE Astronomy Celestial burlesque? Biology Gaia at work under the hudson Celestial crucible Celestial influences Egg mimicry in cuckoos Synchronous rhythmic flashing of fireflies Are you saturated with discussions about the "infinite dilution" Geology Terrestrial maria? Chaos below Geophysics Expanding ball of light (ebl) phenomenon Unusual gust of wind Sodium surges over illinois Psychology Remote, extrasensory description of mineral samples General Spooky stats in maryland A TRULY FORTEAN HOUSE ...
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... Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Murder In The Nest In a recent issue of BioScience, R.B . Payne authored an excellent review of brood parasitism in birds. Brood parasites lay their eggs in the nests of other species, which then incubate the eggs and raise the alien chicks. The parent parasites are thus free to forage, hang out, and parasitize more nests. Brood parasitism is such a successful and easy way of life that 136 species of cuckoos, 5 species of cowbirds, 20 finches, and South America's Blackheaded Duck have adopted it. Brood parasitism fascinates ornithologists because it involves war between the parasites and their hosts. Since host species may eject parasite eggs or fail to nurture parasite chicks, brood parasites have evolved mimicry as a powerful weapon in these battles. Mimicked are host eggs, host nestlings, and host vocalizations. But the most insidious weapons of all involve the outright murder of host chicks. To this end, parasite chicks have evolved some special weapons and behaviors. Some cuckoo chicks evict host eggs or chicks by squirming under them and positioning them in a specially configured hollow on their backs. Then, pushing upward and outward to the rim of the nest, they dump their cargo over the edge. Other brood parasites are more direct and bloodthirsty. "Nestling African honeyguides have bill hooks to stab and kill their nestmates and the brood parasitic American striped cuckoos have independently evolved hooks and pincers to kill." (Payne, Robert B.; "Brood Parasitism in Birds: Strangers in the ...
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... Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Two-faced indians trick tigers A significant hazard for fishermen and forest workers in western Bengal is a tiger attack. As these Indians go about their fishing, wood chopping, and honey gathering, tigers are wont to sneak up from behind, spring, and carry off a good-sized meal. But in recent experiments, some 900 volunteers have been wearing human masks on the backs of their heads. This strategem has cut ti-ger attacks drastically. The idea is that tigers, trailing a potential supper, see that human face and figure that the person is alert and watchful. In fact, tigers have been known to track maskwearers for hours without attacking. Pretty clever! How long before the tigers catch on? (Anonymous; "Protective Mimicry in Humans," BioScience, 39:750, 1989.) From Science Frontiers #68, MAR-APR 1990 . 1990-2000 William R. Corliss ...
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... Science Frontiers ONLINE No. 5: November 1978 Issue Contents Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Fish Creates Fish A Philippine anglerfish, looking for all the world like a rock or shell, waves before its maw a piece of bait resembling small fish found in this region. The bait, which is part of the anglerfish's body, has fins, a tail, and black spots for eyes. The waving about of the bait attracts predatory fish close enough for the anglerfish to snap them up. The authors surmise that the anglerfish evolved this realistic bait (and rod and reel) in order to save energy in acquiring food. (Pietsch, Theodore W., and Grobecker, David B.; "The Complete Angler: Aggressive Mimicry in an Antennariid Anglerfish," Science, 201:369, 1978.) Comment. One wonders how many unfishlike baits were evolved before just the right shape and coloration were achieved. From Science Frontiers #5 , November 1978 . 1978-2000 William R. Corliss ...
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... Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Beetles Make Scents Termite nests frequently host foreign species that seem to be accepted as fellow termites. Can't termites recognize the invaders? The authors believe that termites probably recognize one another by specific hydrocarbon labels synthesized on their cuticles. If the alien species were to be somehow marked with similar chemical identifiers, the blind termites might not know the difference. Howard et al think this may be the case with a species of beetle often found integrated into termite society. By chemi-cally analyzing beetle and termite cuticles, they have found both wearing the same hydrocarbon labels. Furthermore, the beetles synthesize their own chemical masks. This is an astounding instance of parallel or convergent evolution between remotely related species. (Howard, R.W . et al, "Chemical Mimicry as an Integrating Mechanism....," Science, 210:431, 1980.) Comment. Synthesizing exactly the right hydrocarbons was certainly a great stroke of good fortune for the beetles! From Science Frontiers #14, Winter 1981 . 1981-2000 William R. Corliss ...
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... Science Frontiers ONLINE No. 52: Jul-Aug 1987 Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues Last Issue Next Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Contents Archaeology Costa rica's neglected stone spheres The calico debate, plus a little editorializing Astronomy Small icy comets and cosmic gaia Carbon in a new comet Meteorites also transport organic payloads Supernova confusion and mysteries "COMPACT STRUCTURES": WHAT NEXT? Biology Nose news Checklist of apparently unknown animals New vertebrate depth record Aggressive mimicry Parasites control snail behavior Geology Do large meteors/comets come in cycles? Complexities of the inner earth Geophysics Concentrated source of lightning in cloud More carolina waterguns More moodus sounds Inside a texas tornado Ship enveloped by false radar echo Psychology Dowsing skeptics converted Do dreams reflect a biological state? ...
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