Biology

Category: Biology


The 375 million-year-old fossil lycopod Leclercqia scolopendra, described and beautifully rendered by UC Berkeley graduate student Jeffrey Benca.
Jeff Benca is an admitted über-geek when it comes to prehistoric plants, so it was no surprise that, when he submitted a paper describing a new species of long-extinct lycopod for publication, he ditched the standard line drawing and insisted on a detailed and beautifully rendered color reconstruction of the plant. This piece earned the cover of March's centennial issue of the American Journal of Botany.

New research from scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School shows that fruit flies are secretly harboring the biochemistry needed to glow in the dark —otherwise known as bioluminescence.

Stunning images of a 305-million-year-old harvestman fossil reveal ancestors of the modern-day arachnids had two sets of eyes rather than one.


This image shows the dorsal view of Fuxianhuia protensa.
An international team of researchers from the University of Arizona, China and the United Kingdom has discovered the earliest known cardiovascular system, and the first to clearly show a sophisticated system complete with heart and blood vessels, in fossilized remains of an extinct marine creature that lived over half a billion years ago. The finding sheds new light on the evolution of body organization in the animal kingdom and shows that even the earliest creatures had internal organizational systems that strongly resemble those found in their modern descendants.


UC Davis scientists have learned why zebras, like these plains zebras in Katavi National Park, Tanzania, have stripes.
Why zebras have black and white stripes is a question that has intrigued scientists and spectators for centuries. A research team led by the University of California, Davis, has now examined this riddle systematically. Their answer is published April 1 in the online journal Nature Communications.


The two partial limb fossils from the ancient sea turtle Atlantochelys mortoni fit together perfectly, leaving little room for doubt that they are from the same bone.
"As soon as those two halves came together, like puzzle pieces, you knew it," said Ted Daeschler, PhD, associate curator of vertebrate zoology and vice president for collections at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.

How does the Arctic tern (a sea bird) fly more than 80,000 miles in its roundtrip North Pole-to-South Pole migration? How does the Emperor penguin incubate eggs for months during the Antarctic winter without eating? How does the Rufous hummingbird, which weighs less than a nickel, migrate from British Columbia to Mexico? These physiological gymnastics would usually be influenced by leptin, the hormone that regulates body fat storage, metabolism and appetite. However, leptin has gone missing in birds - until now.


This is an example of the horned pollinaria found in South American milkweed.
Rutting stags and clawing bears are but two examples of male animals fighting over a mate, but research in New Phytologist has uncovered the first evidence of similar male struggles leading to the evolution of weaponry in plants.


Ohio University scientists have found the oldest definitive fossil evidence of modern, venomous snakes in Africa, according to a new study published March 19 in the journal PLOS ONE
Ohio University scientists have found the oldest definitive fossil evidence of modern, venomous snakes in Africa, according to a new study published March 19 in the journal PLOS ONE.


A leatherback turtle equipped with a satellite tag crawls off the tagging vessel, the F/V Sea Holly
A first-of-its-kind satellite tagging study of migrating New England leatherback turtles in the North Atlantic offers a greatly improved understanding of their seasonal high-use habitats, diving activity and response to key ocean and environmental features in relation to their search behavior. Leatherbacks are considered endangered species in all the world's oceans.


The protector species, the weaver ant Oecophylla smaragdina, can also turn predator of the associate species, the jumping spider Phintella piatensis.
A timid jumping spider uses the scent of ants as a secret weapon to save itself from becoming the somewhat soggy prey of the predatory spitting spider. The downside to this plan is that jumping spiders are also a favorite snack of its very own saviors. To overcome this additional hazard, the spider has made yet another plan in the form of an ant-proof nest, writes Ximena Nelson of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and Robert Jackson of the University of Canterbury and the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Kenya, in Springer's journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.


This shows the North Atlantic tracking routes of 17 juvenile loggerhead sea turtles.
A new study satellite tracked 17 young loggerhead turtles in the Atlantic Ocean to better understand sea turtle nursery grounds and early habitat use during the 'lost years.' The study, conducted by a collaborative research team, including scientists from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, was the first long-term satellite tracking study of young turtles at sea.


Papilio polytes, an Asian swallowtail butterfly species also known as the Common Mormon, possesses distinctive mimicry patterns (left). The same species also has non-mimetic forms (right).
A single gene regulates the complex wing patterns, colors and structures required for mimicry in swallowtail butterflies, report scientists from the University of Chicago, March 5 in Nature. Surprisingly, the gene described, doublesex, is already well-known for its critical role in sexual differentiation in insects.

Why does a mouse's heart beat about the same number of times in its lifetime as an elephant's, although the mouse lives about a year, while an elephant sees 70 winters come and go? Why do small plants and animals mature faster than large ones? Why has nature chosen such radically different forms as the loose-limbed beauty of a flowering tree and the fearful symmetry of a tiger?

Invasive "crazy ants" are rapidly displacing fire ants in areas across the southeastern U.S. by secreting a compound that neutralizes fire ant venom, according to a University of Texas at Austin study published this week in the journal Science Express. It's the first known example of an insect with the ability to detoxify another insect's venom.


New data from the field in Central Africa shows that between 2002 and 2013, 65 percent of forest elephants were killed.
New data from the field in Central Africa shows that between 2002 and 2013, 65 percent of forest elephants were killed. They are being poached, for their ivory, at a shocking 9 percent per year.


Associate Professor Joan Heath has uncovered a new way that protein production is regulated in development.
Melbourne researchers have made a major step forward in understanding how changes in an essential cellular process, called minor class splicing, may cause a severe developmental disease.


A new study using small Chinook salmon "parr " found the fish use the Earth's magnetic field to orient themselves.
A team of scientists last year presented evidence of a correlation between the migration patterns of ocean salmon and the Earth's magnetic field, suggesting it may help explain how the fish can navigate across thousands of miles of water to find their river of origin.

Sponges are an important animal for marine and freshwater ecology and represent a rich animal diversity found throughout the world, from tropical climates to the arctic poles. For evolutionary biologists, they also present an interesting animal for comparative study because they are simple filter feeders, and lack nervous, digestive or circulatory systems, suggesting that they diverged early from other animals.


A speculative life rendering of the fossil whale Balaenoptera bertae unearthed in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The whale belongs within the same genus as minke and fin whales, indicating... The pre-Ice Age marine mammal community of the North Pacific formed a strangely eclectic scene, research by a Geology PhD student at New Zealand's University of Otago reveals.


Representative diverse origins of multicellularity are shown on a highly redacted and unrooted phylogenetic diagram of the major eukaryotic clades (modified from a variety of sources).
In the beginning there were single cells. Today, many millions of years later, most plants, animals, fungi, and algae are composed of multiple cells that work collaboratively as a single being. Despite the various ways these organisms achieved multicellularity, their conglomeration of cells operate cooperatively to consume energy, survive, and reproduce. But how did multicellularity evolve? Did it evolve once or multiple times? How did cells make the transition from life as a solo cell to associating and cooperating with other cells such that they work as a single, cohesive unit?


One of the most damaging invasive species in history, kudzu, or Japanese arrowroot, found its way from Japan to the southeastern United States.
In 1859 an Australian farmer named Thomas Austin released 24 grey rabbits from Europe into the wild because it "could do little harm and might provide a touch of home, in addition to a spot of hunting."


Gunther's Banded Treefrog, Hypsiboas fasciatus, was believed to have a wide distribution in the Amazon region.
Amazonian biodiversity has been studied for hundreds of years. Early explorers of Amazonian plants and animals included renowned naturalists of the stature of Alexander von Humboldt and A. R. Wallace. Despite this long history of exploration, new studies are resulting in the discovery of a large number of new species. The key of these discoveries lies in the use of advanced new tools for species detection.


This shows two lion cubs in West Africa.
A report published today concludes that the African lion is facing extinction across the entire West African region. The West African lion once ranged continuously from Senegal to Nigeria, but the new paper reveals there are now only an estimated 250 adult lions restricted to four isolated and severely imperiled populations. Only one of those populations contains more than 50 lions.

Great white sharks—top predators throughout the world's ocean—grow much slower and live significantly longer than previously thought, according to a new study led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).


This flower preserved in 100-million-year old amber is one of the most complete ever found.
A 100-million-year old piece of amber has been discovered which reveals the oldest evidence of sexual reproduction in a flowering plant – a cluster of 18 tiny flowers from the Cretaceous Period – with one of them in the process of making some new seeds for the next generation.

Scientists have discovered how plants use steroid hormones to choose growth over defence when their survival depends on it.

BiologyDecember 21, 2013 12:09 PM

Common hippopotami (Hippopotamus amphibius) are vulnerable to extinction in the wild, but reproduce extremely well under captive breeding conditions. Females can give birth to up to 25 young over their 40 year lifespan – evidently too many for zoos to accommodate. Captive populations of hippopotamus must therefore be controlled. Male castration is useful in this respect because it can simultaneously limit population growth and reduce inter-male aggression. However, documented cases of successful hippo castrations are scant. The procedure is notoriously difficult due to problems with anaesthesia and difficulties in locating the testes.

Two teams of researchers, including a scientist from Case Western Reserve University, have announced the discovery of a new species of fossil horse from 4.4 million-year-old fossil-rich deposits in Ethiopia.


This is a view eastward along the spine of the Azorean island of São Jorge, showing the area where the new orchid has been discovered. Image: Rob Poot.
Researchers studying speciation of butterfly orchids on the Azores have been startled to discover that the answer to a long-debated question "Do the islands support one species or two species?" is actually "three species". Hochstetter's Butterfly-orchid, newly recognized following application of a battery of scientific techniques and reveling in a complex taxonomic history worthy of Sherlock Holmes, is arguably Europe's rarest orchid species. Under threat in its mountain-top retreat, the orchid urgently requires conservation recognition.

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