Biology – Why Are Penguins Birds If They Can’t Fly?

Everyone knows what a bird is, right? If I ask my seven-year-old son what a bird is, he’ll respond with something like “a bird is an animal that has a spine, wings, two feet, hollow bones, and can fly.” Or, if her remembers the little military chant his dad made for him, he might say, “hollow bones and scaly feet, feathered wings and goes tweet tweet.”

Well, penguins can’t fly. They have wings, feathers, two feet, and a spine, and they swim well but they cannot fly. Ostriches can’t fly either, but both penguins and ostriches are considered birds. How is that possible? What’s the deal?

It’s all in the definition

There’s a difference between the common usage of the word “bird” and the scientific use of the word. The common definition is based on features of the animal you can see with your eyes and discern with your other senses like feathers, wings, number of legs, and being warm-blooded. My seven-year-old son knows the common definition of the word “bird.”

Scientists use a slightly different definition.

Evolutionary birds

The scientific taxonomy of birds is a bit different than common usage. The scientific groups are made based on fossil evidence and other biological evidence such as DNA and mitochondrial DNA when the DNA can be obtained. Birds are in the Domain Eukaryotes, the Phylum Chordata meaning vertebrates, and the Class Avians. Avians have descended from theropod dinosaurs. More specifically, birds have descended from Archaeopteryx, which existed in the late Jurassic period.

Many scientists think of birds as the only type of dinosaur that didn’t go extinct 65 million years ago. In fact, my daughter who is obsessed with dinosaurs, calls birds “tiny dinosaurs.”

Scientifically, birds today are descended from dinosaurs, have feathers, a beak with no teeth, and they lay eggs with hard shells. Birds have a high metabolic rate, meaning they need to eat a lot to maintain their body temperature. (Some refer to them as warm blooded.) They have a four-chambered heart (like mammals), and they have lightweight, strong skeletons. Most birds can fly, but flying isn’t a requirement to be a bird.

And that’s the crux of it. The scientific definition of “bird” does not require the ability to fly.

How Teachers Influence The Performance Of Biology In High Schools

Biology plays a key role in industrialization and other sectors of the economy. Biology is a practical subject, which equips students with concepts and skills that are useful in solving the day-today problems of life. The study of biology aims at providing the learner with the necessary knowledge with which to control or change the environment for the benefit of an individual, family or community.

In general, the importance of biology to humanity can be outlined as follows:

(i) The learning of biology helps us to know how to use natural resources more efficiently in industry e.g. in bio-technology, food production, building and textile and paper industries.

(ii) The learning of biology helps us to understand changes in the environment and the factors affecting these changes, in order to know how human needs are influenced.

(iii) The learning of biology is important in helping mankind to find effective ways of preventing, treating and curing diseases and home management techniques e.g. better methods of food preservation, efficient food preparation and care of the family

(iv) The learning of biology is important in helping the improvement of agricultural yields through scientific research.

There has been public outcry and concern by parents, teachers, educationists in Kenya about poor performance in science subjects and mathematics in national examinations.

But do you know the biology teacher has a role to play in this poor performance?

Biology as a science subject requires an integration of both theoretical and practical work to make it easily understood by the students. The largest proportion of teachers still use the conventional lecture method while teaching biology.

Teacher expectations have a bearing on the attitude and science anxiety levels of the learners particularly when the learners are aware of the level of expectation the teacher has of them.

In relation to the teaching and learning of biology, attitudes begin to develop on the first encounter between the teacher and the learner, once formed they play a key role in determining students’ learning and performance in biology.

Authoritarian and impersonal teacher- student interaction in class could be the major factor that contributes to negative attitude of the students towards learning biology. On the other hand, democratic and personal teacher-student interaction in class elicits positive attitude towards learning biology

The teaching approach, methodology and how the professional skills and practices of the teacher are displayed may be dependent on the level of science anxiety the biology teacher has.

A teacher who suffers from career dissatisfaction is likely to contribute negatively in terms of performance of the learners in biology; this is because the teacher will have lower self-efficacy and high levels of anxiety. This kind of teacher is likely to develop negative attitude towards the students and his/her interaction with the students will be negative and this may contribute to a negative attitude of the students towards biology with the likelihood of the students developing high levels of anxiety towards the subject.

Therefore, teacher perceptions, teaching methods applied, the type of teacher -pupil classroom interactions, teacher expectations of students in terms of performance and science anxiety levels of the teachers- partly contributed by lack of job dissatisfaction or satisfaction are the key factors that influence performance in biology in Kenyan secondary schools.

How to Maximize Learning Biology With Your Own Biological Microscopes

So you are a sophomore or a junior in high school or probably you are a Biology major in the university? And you have a few or more biology subjects requiring the use of biological microscopes. Imagine all of the self-study and experiments you can finish faster if you just had one at your disposal.

Microscope and the Layman

What are biological microscopes? A microscope is a scientific instrument used to see objects too minute for the naked eye to see without any help. It comes from the Greek word “mikros” meaning small and “skopein” meaning to look or see. The study of investigating small objects or life forms using such an instrument is called microscopy.

Biological microscopes are microscopes specifically dedicated for the study of tiny “microscopic” organisms and or parts of plants or animals like tissue samples or blood samples. These microscopes are not only used for biology classes and studies but also the science in general.

Maximizing the Benefits of Your Own Biological Microscopes

Why spend long and tiring hours doing your experiments and making your science homeworks using your school’s microscope? Well not anymore. Biological microscopes come in many shapes, sizes, forms and models. The most important things to remember when you wish to purchase such an item are two things: how much do they cost and how often will you be using it for your school work? If you have this tool readily available you can do your homework or experiments anytime, anywhere you want. However, remember these devices are not really cheap so when you do succumb to the idea of buying one, you really really must need it or you could split the costs with your classmates.

To maximize the benefits for your biological microscopes, you should make sure that your school’s courseworks, whether it be homeworks or science experiments, are plentiful and that in most of them, that you can work on. If it is not enough, you can just probably resort to renting it. But if you do have that much science school work to do, it would be prudent to have such instrument lying just around to use at your own time and volition.

These microscopes are not only used for testing or examining animal or plant tissue samples. It is also basically useful for other science experiments and tests such as examining grains of sand or rocks or soil. It can also be used to examine different kinds of seeds and cross-sections of plant leaves or stems.

All in all, there are different applications of the uses of microscopes in your courseworks at school. The whole idea behind buying or renting one is to rid the dependency to go to back to your schools or universities science labs just to use their equipment. There isn’t also enough of them to go around for all the students. So make your choice. Dependence on what the school has? Or independence and finish all your school work way before the deadline arrives?

CanScope – complete solution for all your microscopy needs.
Contact: 1-877-56SCOPE(72673) or [email protected]

The Biology of Belief by Bruce H Lipton, Ph D

Books about how new findings of science support "New Age" beliefs have been common since at least since the Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism by Fritjof Capra was first published many years ago. The most popular example is the movie "What the Bleep Do We Know?"

However, the emphasis has been on physics, especially quantum physics. This book examines cell biology instead, though he also tries to rope in quantum physics. The author is a cell biologist with impressive credentials.

His central thesis – on the scientific level – is that our cells (and therefore ourselves) are not controlled by our DNA or genes. Rather, they react to their environment.

He doesn't spell this out, but I must assume there are genetic limits or boundaries. Our cells can't suddenly decide to change our eye color from blue to brown. If we're fully grown, I don't believe they can grow our skeletons even if we decide we wish to be professional basketball players.

This is a direct challenge to most of biology, which reveres our DNA and genes as the control mechanisms over who and what we are.

However, in recent years there's been a new branch of biology called epigenetics, which studies how our cells can choose to read or not read certain parts of our genes.

For example, the presence of certain genes are correlated with the possibility of developing certain cancers later in life. Newspaper stories make it sound as though women with the gene are "fated" to get breast cancer.

Lipton points out that depending on their environment, cells can choose to read or not read these genes, and therefore develop cancer – or not.

I find this quite reasonable. I believe I first encountered the term "epigenetics" when I read a book on resveratrol, the polyphenol found in grapes and grape products (such as red wine). The research into resveratrol suggests that it helps our cells to express the healthy parts of our genes while ignoring the unhealthy parts.

But here's where the author's case breaks down. He says the cell's environment includes electrical energy (true enough), and implies this is controlled by our beliefs.

And he brings in quantum mechanics to explain how our brains communicate with our cells to determine their actions.

It's not easy to follow, because he is a good writer and uses many scientific details, but this process is simply not explained in the same step by step detail he gives to cell biology. He makes many logical jumps.

I'm no expert, but I don't believe quantum physics even applies to the molecular level on which our biology is based. I thought it applied only to subatomic particles. By the time atoms combine to form molecules, they are matter and behave according to the laws of biochemistry.

In one chapter he goes into great detail about the importance of parents programming their children positively, starting with their own health. He cites many statistics showing that children exposed in the womb to alcohol and tobacco suffer health problems later on.

He seems to shift from rejecting determinism by genes to adopting determinism by parental influence.

At the end, he really cops out by acknowledging that he doesn't have a way to change our subconscious programming – which controls our beliefs.

Instead, he redirects us to check out a program for that created by someone else.

There's a lot of interesting material here. I believe it raises lots of interesting and valuable questions, but it doesn't make its case.