Biology News

Crabs are killing New England saltmarshes Monday, April 28, 2014 - 11:20

Two newly published studies by a team of Brown University researchers provide ample new evidence that the reason coastal saltmarshes are dying from Long Island to Cape Cod is that hungry crabs, left unchecked by a lack of predators, are eating the cordgrass.

 

Personalised medicine in space? Animal studies suggest some astronauts at risk for cognitive impairment Friday, April 25, 2014 - 10:48

A study on rats exposed to proton irradiation, simulating that experienced by astronauts on two-year planetary missions, indicates that some astronauts may be at risk of cognitive impairment. A substantial sub-group of the radiation-exposed rats displayed decreased accuracy, increased premature responding, increased attention lapses and slower reaction times in a rodent version of the human psychomotor vigilance test (PVT). This appears to be due to changes in the dopamine transporter system. The study, from researchers in Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is published in the current issue of the journal Radiation Research.

 

Researchers Build New "Off Switch" to Shut Down Neural Activity Thursday, April 24, 2014 - 13:23

Nearly a decade ago, the era of optogenetics was ushered in with the development of channelrhodopsins, light-activated ion channels that can, with the flick of a switch, instantaneously turn on neurons in which they are genetically expressed. What has lagged behind, however, is the ability to use light to inactivate neurons with an equal level of reliability and efficiency. Now, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) scientists have used an analysis of channelrhodopsin’s molecular structure to guide a series of genetic mutations to the ion channel that grant the power to silence neurons with an unprecedented level of control.

 

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity Thursday, April 24, 2014 - 06:49

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live in the oceans, forming the base of the marine food chain and occupying a range of ecological niches based on temperature, light and chemical preferences, and interactions with other species. But the full extent and characteristics of diversity within this single species remains a puzzle. 

 

“Citizen scientists” effective in monitoring shark numbers Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - 10:50

Use of ‘citizen scientists’ in monitoring populations of marine wildlife is an approach that often meets with scepticism in the scientific community. However, a new study published in the journal PLoS One shows that such citizen scientists, in this case experienced dive guides, can match an automated tracking tool in monitoring numbers of shark species. The study was carried out by researchers in the University of Western Australia, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Micronesian Shark Foundation.

 

Brain size matters in evolution of self-control Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - 10:42

A new study from a large multi-national group of scientists suggests that absolute brain size is key in evolution of cognition and self-control. The study, published in early edition in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined 36 animal species in two problem-solving tasks measuring self-control. It found that absolute (not body size- relative) brain size and dietary breadth were the major predictors of species differences in self-control.

Male Vagina and Female Penis - Insects of Brazilian Caves with Reverse Sex Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 18:04

A sea slug discards its penis after copulation, the fish, Phallostethus cuulong, has its penis sprouting from its head. However in some insects from Brazilian caves, females are equiped with the penis and vagina in the males,  according to a new study.

 

Neural cooperation essential for resetting circadian rhythms Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 10:16

Circadian behavioural responses to light input in fruit flies (Drosophila) depends on two groups of neurons, called the morning and evening oscillators ‘talking’ to each other. Previously it had been thought that these groups of neurons worked autonomously in scheduling peaks of activity at dawn and dusk, but a new study proves that they cooperate. The study published in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports on April 17th comes from researchers in the University of Massachusetts.