Kelsey MacDonald

Welcome to Kelsey's Biology Wiki!


Natural Disasters

Tornadoes are known as natures most violent storms. They have the possibility of occuring anywhere across the globe, but are most frequent in the USA, east of the Rocky Mountains.Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air extending from a thunderstorm, all the way to the ground. The most violent and severe tornadoes are capable of wrecking havoc and causing destruction with wind speeds of 250mph, and causing damage paths that are one mile wide and 50 miles long.


The word "tsunami" comes from the Japanese words tsu (harbor) and nami (waves), which basically tells us what a tsunami is: a wave or series of waves in the ocean, that span hundreds or thousands of miles across and reach heights of 100 feet, and exceed that tremendously once they reach land. They are often referred to as "walls of water", and it is proven that they can outrun commercial jets.


10 Deadliest Natural Disasters of the past 100 years

1931 - China floods (death toll = 2 500 000)
1976 - Tangshan earthquake (death toll = 779 000)
1970 - Bhola cyclone (death toll = 500 000)
1920 - Haiyuan earthquake (death toll = 234 000)
2004 - Indian Ocean tsunami (death toll = 230 210+)
2010 - Haiti earthquake (death toll = 222 570)
1923 - Great Kanto earthquake (death toll = 142 000)
2008 - Cyclone Nargis (death toll = 138 000+)
1991 - Bangladesh cyclone (death toll = 138 000)
1948 - Ashgabat earthquake (death toll = 120 000)

"Ten deadliest natural disasters of the past century." Wikipedia n. pag. Web. 9 Jun 2011. <>.
Tornadoes." PREPAREDNESS GUIDE n. pag. Web. 9 Jun 2011. <>.
"How Tsunamis Work." How Stuff Works n. pag. Web. 9 Jun 2011. <>.

The aurora is a natural light display in the sky, usually in polar regions, that is caused by the collision of charged particles directed by the Earth's magnetic field. Auroras are more visible at night, however they can also be seen during the day. They can be spotted all throughout the world, and even on other plants!, but they are most commonly seen closer to the poles due to the longer periods of darkness and the intensity of their magnetic field.

These amazing sights are commonly visible between 60 and 72 degrees north and south latitudes, which place them in a circular ring just within the Arctic and Antarctic polar circles. They can occur deeper within the polar regions, but are not able to be seen by the naked eye.

Aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, are famously known to light up the northern horizon in a greenish glow or faint red, appearing as though the Sun was rising from a different/unusual direction. They commonly occur near the equinoxes, and are extremely high overhead in the sky.

The Aurora from TSO Photography on Vimeo.

"Aurora, Northern Lights." Atmospheric Optics n. pag. Web. 5 Jun 2011. <>.

Weird Allergies
1) Water
An allergy twater.jpgo water is also known as Aquagenic urticaria, which is extremely rare and creates biological havoc on whoever suffers from it. If those who are allergic to water come in contact with it, the result will be painful hives, lesions, welts, and severe rashes all over the body. These symptoms can last for anywhere from 15 minutes, to several hours. To treat these symptoms, capsaicin creams is generally used. Experts believe that people who suffer from this allergy have ultrasensitive skin which reacts to the additives in the water moreso then the water itself.

2) Vibrations
Vibrations arVibration.jpge one of the rarest types of allergies. This allergy involves an episode of urticaria, induced by vibrations from cars or other forms of machinery. Just like other prolific allergies, it's caused by the body unknowingly mistaking everyday, harmless contact as dangerous attacks... and the immune system responding to it, usually in rashes, welts, or other forms of skin irritation. It generally sets in within 5 minutes of the contact, and can last for hours, or even days. It can be treated with antihistamines, corticosteroids, and calamine lotion.

3) Kissing
The sole act okiss.jpgf kissing does not carry an allergic risk, but it does act as a pathway for other allergies to appear and attack. People who are very allergic and react very strongly to certain foods, medications and cosmetics may become seriously ill if their partner has been in contact with their particular "poison". In 2005, a 15 year old girl from Quebec with a lethal peanut allergy, Christina Desforges, suffered anaphylactic shock and died after kissing her boyfriend, who had eaten a peanut butter sandwich for lunch earlier that day, and unknowingly exposed the remains to his girlfriend. Usually, instances like this results in illness or injury, not death... but clearly it's possible. Therefore, kissing can be considered an allergy!

"20 Weird Allergies That Actually Exist." Online Nurse Practitioner Schools (2010): n. pag. Web. 23 May 2011. <>.

Immortal Jellyfish

Turritopsis nutricula

The immortal Jellyfish is one of the most unique animals within the entire animal kingdom. It's somehow been able to accomplish the ability that all other animals are envious of... the ability to continuously cheat death, and live forever. Although the Turritopsis nutricula has the same process of reproduction as the majority of other species of jellyfish, that is where the commonalities stop. After reproducing sexually, the Immortal Jellyfish is able to return to the polyp stage, through the process of transdifferentiation (a cell development process, which means that he is able to alter the differentiated state of the cell and instead, transform it into a new cell). In this process, the medusa of this remarkable little guy is transformed into the polyps of a new polyp colony.

The Process:
1) The "umbrella" reverts itself.
2) Tentacles and mesoglea get resorbed.
3) Reverted medusa attachs to the substrate (which had originally been at the opposite end of the umbrella).
4) New polyps start giving rise to form the new colony.
... Theoretically, this process can go on forever, which would make the jellyfish immortal.

"Turritopsis nutricula (Immortal jellyfish)." Jellyfish Facts (2001): n. pag. Web. 17 May 2011. <>.


How Long Does It Take To Digest Gum?

As a kid, I bet you were told not to swallow your gum, because it would take 7 years for it to exit your body. Maybe you were even told that your body won't be able to digest it at all. However, these are simply ancient wives tales!

Generally, it takes 6 to 12 hours for your body to completely digest food. But since gum isn't technically "food", you don't alter the mass or break it down while you chomp on it, which makes it resistant to your digestive system's ability to dissolve it and digest it. Gum is made up of approximately 15 to 30 % gum base (could be synthetic or natural) which is the rubbery consistency of your gum, glycerin to keep it moist, artificial sweeteners, artificial colorings, sugar, preservatives and corn syrup. Out of those ingredients, the gum base is the only one that your body and intestines cannot break down, as it resists effects of saliva, stomach acid and digestive enzymes. This means that the gum goes directly to the colon, which will eventually turn it into waste for your body to... get rid of. The entire process is said to take, on average, about 48 hours if you accidentally swallow a piece of chewing gum.

"David Milov wrote of one 4-year-old boy who swallowed five to seven pieces of gum daily and consequently experienced chronic constipation for two years. Doctors had to use suction to remove a "'taffy-like' trail of fecal material" to restore his body to normal digestive health." - Journal Pediatrics

Rutter, James. "How Long Does It Take To Digest Gum?." n. pag. Web. 8 May 2011. <>.

Health Benefits of Smiling and Laughter

I'm sure you've all always been told to "turn that frown upside down", "a smile my way will brighten my day" or even the corny "never frown, because you never know who's falling in love with your smile". The truth is, you should smile, as much as possible. Not only will it make you happier, but it will make you healthier! The same rule goes for laughing. Therefore, if you are a happy, joyful person with laughter-filled days, you're bound to be healthy!


Smiling Boosts Your Immune System

Smiling is said to help make your immune system stronger. One theory for this is that when you smile, you are immediately more relaxed, which improves your immune function!

Smiling Lowers Your Blood Pressure

When you show those pearly whites, it's proven that there is a measurable reduction in your blood pressure.

Smiling Releases Endorphins to Make You Feel Great!

It's been proven that when you smile, you release endorphins, natural pain killers and serotonin, which make you feel GOOD! Smiling is a free, easy-to-use and safe drug... you can never go wrong!

Laughter Relaxes Your Entire Body

A true belly laugh has proven to relieve stress and physical tension, which can leave your muscles feeling relaxed and renewed for up to 45 minutes after the laughing has stopped!

Laughter Boosts Your Immune System

Since laughter relieves stress, it obviously decreases stress hormones. Not only that, but it increases the production of immune cells and antibodies (which fight off our nasty infections), which overall improves our resistance and immunity!

Laughter Releases Feel-Good Chemicals

Just like smiling, laughter releases endorphins, which are the body's own "feel good" chemicals. It is said endorphins can even temporarily relieve pain, which will make you feel happier even on the worst days imaginable.

Laughter Protects Your Heart

Laughter helps improve the function of blood vessels and increases the use and frequency of blood flow, which will help protect you against many/most cardiovascular problems (Such as a heart attack!).

Other Benefits of Laughter and Smiling...

  • Attracts others to us
  • Strengthens relationships
  • Improves mood
  • Adds joy to life
  • Enhances resilience
  • Eases anxiety and fear

Stibich, Mark. "Top 10 Reasons to Smile." (2010): n. pag. Web. 2 May 2011. <>.
Ryan, John. "How Laughing is Good For Your Health." World of Good Health (2006): n. pag. Web. 2 May 2011.

Butterflies... How they find their perfect mates!


Butterflies are very visual insects, who rely on their keen eyesight to find appropriate mates... simply by examining/comparing the patterns and colours on their wings. There are many variations in wing colours and patterns among these little guys, depending on which season it was while they were trapped in their cocoon, or stuck being caterpillars. Based on the different aspects of their wings, they can find their perfect mate. Another aspect the butterflies rely on to find a suitable mate is by their pheromones (scents).

It is said that female caterpillars that are raised in cold and dry environments become adult butterflies that court the male butterflies, instead of the other way around. This is referred to gender reversal behavior, and was first observed in butterflies located in Malawi: the Bicyclus anynana. Not only do these risky females court the males, but they also possess flashier eyespots on their wings. Eyespots are the circular designs located on the wings, and they are the "sexual ornament" that male butterflies use to attract and impress the females, and vice versa. During a recent study at the University of Buffalo, it is said that the size of the eyespots doesn't impress the ladies... it's the sparkle of them. That "sparkle" is created by the ultraviolet reflectivity of the white circles in the middle of the eyespots, also known as the pupil.


Husted, Kristofor. "Gender-bending butterflies observed in Yale study." Medill Reports Chicago (2011): n. pag. Web. 2 May 2011. <>.
"Female Butterflies Go for Sparkle -- Not Size -- When Choosing to Mate." ScienceDaily (2005): n. pag. Web. 2 May 2011. <>.

El Pico del Teide
El Pico del Teide is the Mountain with the highest elevation in all of Spain, and the highest point in the Atlantic Ocean. Not only that, but it has the 3rd largest volcano in the world located at its base (in Hawaii). At the top of the mountain, it is considered one of the best places in all the world to view the stars, as you are actually above the clouds. Terje Sorgjerd, a photographer, has recently been to the top of El Pico to capture the true natural beauty of the world around us. He spent 8 days filming, day and night, capturing shots of the clouds, starts, mountain scenery and sandstorms. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen... I hope it blows your mind, like it blew mine!

The Mountain from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

Sorgjerd, Terje, Dir. The Mountain. Dir. Terje Sorgjerd." Vimeo: 2011, Film. <>.

Slow Lorises

Slow lorises are strepsirrhine primates, found in both Western Indonesia and Southeast Asia. Presently, there are five species of slow lorises recognized: Bengal slow loris, Sunda slow loris, Pygmy slow loris, Javan slow loris and Bornean slow loris. In relation to other animals, slow lorises are most closely connected with other lorisids (slender lorises, pottos, angwantibos), lorisiforms, and the
lemurs of Madagascar.

Slow lorises have a wet nose, scientifically known as a rhinarium, which is a sense organ. They have a toothcomb, which is used for grooming as well as for feeding, and a toilet-claw, which is also used for grooming. They have a long trunk that allows them to twist and hop to nearby branches with ease. Along with those characteristics, have a narrow snout, round head, arms and legs that are nearly equal in length, and large, beady eyes.

Rslowlor.jpgesearchers are still trying to figure out the slow lorises social structure, because all that is known so far is that they communicate by scent marking (mainly urine), therefore their vocal exchanges are limited to keep safe. They are also said to move extremely slowly and cautiously, making a minimal amount of alarm or distress calls. They sleep during the day, and spend most of the night exploring alone, or with their family. When they feel threatened, they freeze and become docile. Males are known to be highly territorial of their infants, which explains why their infants are always either being carried on their backs, or parked on branches with the males nearby.

Slow lorises possess a rare trait among mammals... they have a toxic bite. This toxin is produced by licking a certain gland located on their arm, and the secretion mixes with their saliva to form this rare toxin. The use of this toxin is for protection and security, but also for the protection of their infants during grooming.

All species of slow lorises are listed as either Vulnerable or Endangered on the IUCN Red List. The two greatest threats they face are habitat loss and exotic wildlife trade. Although there are laws trying to protect them, they are frequently sold in animal markets in Southeast Asia and smuggled to countries all over the world. This is because of the demand for exotic pets, and for testing traditional medicine. When slow lorises are domesticated, they have to have their teeth pulled out (on account of their toxic bite) which usually leads to infection and a major loss of blood, which eventually leads to their death. Also, when in the pet trade or being tested for new medicines, they are poorly handled and malnourished, which will also lead to an untimely death.

Centre, Duke Lemur. "Slow Loris." Duke Lemur Centre: Studying & Caring for Lemurs (2011): n. pag. Web. 3 Apr 2011. <>.

Fragile X Syndrome

Fragile X Syndrome is caused by a change in the FMR1 gene, or in other words, it is a genetic condition that contains mutations in certain portions of the X chromosome. In males, it is the most frequent cause of inherited mental retardation (1 in 1000), and in females, it is a common cause of inherited mental retardation. The reason it is more common in males is because since they only have one X chromosome, any injury to it would cause more severe consequences then it would to a female, who has two X chromosomes, and are therefore less fragile. In FXS, the CGG portion of the genetic code is repeated, once or multiple times. It is repeated on the vulnerable area of thte X chromosome, and the more times it is repeated, the more likely there is to be a problem. When there is a problem with the FMR1 gene, which normally produces the exact amount of a certain protein that your brain needs to grow and develop properly, the defect will either produce too little of the protein, or even none at all. FXS is not hereditary, therefore a child can get it even if their parents don't have it, however a relative somewhere in their family (most likely male) will have had it. Autism and related disorders are said to be caused from FXS, however not all children with FXS have these types of conditions. An estimated 10% of children suffering from FXS have an associated seizure disorder.

Behavior/Developmental Problems Associated With Fragile X Syndrome involve:
- Speech/Language delay
- Delay in crawling or walking
- Hyperactive behavior
- Avoid eye contact often
- Hand clapping/Hand biting
- Mental retardation

syndrome.gifPhysical Signs:
- Long face
- Large forehead or large ears with prominent jaw
- Soft skin
- Large body size
- Low muscle tone
- Flat feet
*- In females, extreme shyness may be the only indicator and symptom of the problem.

Sadly, there are no specific treatments available for Fragile X Syndrome. Training and education are used to help the affected children, so they can function as high level citizens and become as functional as possible. Since Fragile X Syndrome is not considered rare, there are many educational approaches that have been developed over the years, and tested profusely.
PubMed Health, . "Fragile X Syndrome ." PubMed Health 12 May 2010. n. pag. Web. 4 Mar 2011. < >.

Homework Post #2 - Apoptosis
Apoptosis is otherwise known as "programmed cell death". It occurs regularly in the health and development of multicellular organismes. In apoptosis, cells die in a controlled, almost planned out way. It is often referred to as "cell suicide", because the cells play an active role in their own death.

The opposite of apoptosis is necrosis, in which cell deaths aren't controlled and can be spontaneous... Necrosis could potentially cause serious health issues, originating from lysis of cells, inflammatory responses, etc.

Dash, Phil. "Apoptosis." Reproductive and Cardiovascular Disease Research Group n. pag. Web. 3 Mar 2011. <>.

Homework Post #1 - Anton van Leeuwenhoek


Anton van Leeuwenhoek is universally credited for the invention of the microscope, while at the same time being named a very “unlikely scientist”. Born into a family of tradesmen, people assumed that Leeuwenhoek had little to offer the science world, because of his lack of money and lack of high education or university degrees. However, because of his never-ending curiosity, outstanding skill and persistence, he succeeded in making a few of the most important and well-known discoveries in the history of biology.

Robert Hooke was the inventor of the first microscope, in 1595, almost 40 years before Leeuwenhoek was even born. He had built compound microscopes, which, because of the technical difficulties involved with building them, were considered not to be practical. They could only magnify objects twenty to thirty times their actual sizes. Leeuwenhoek’s microscopes could magnify up to 200x, much more then Hooke’s could, and produced much clearer and brighter images then any of the other scientists at the time could achieve. Although Leeuwenhoek’s microscopes were much more practical and well-built, Hooke should still be credited with creating the first microscope, because he did. Period.

Leeuwenhoek has contributed greatly to the field of science. In addition to the impressive skills he used to grind lenses and create simple microscopes, he also discovered bacteria, protists, sperm cells, blood cells, microscopic animals and much more. He recorded his observations through written word and illustrations, which are still instantly recognizable to most. His letters written to the Royal Society of London, primarily describing what he had observed through his microscopes, were later translated and submitted in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. He is said to have “discovered many secrets of Nature, now famous throughout the whole philosophical World.”

Ford, B. J. 1991 The Leeuwenhoek Legacy. Biopress, Bristol, and Farrand Press, London. <>

external image moz-screenshot.png