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Category: Biology

In the brain, the visual cortex processes visual information and passes it from lower to higher areas of the brain. However, information also flows in the opposite direction, e.g. to direct attention to particular stimuli. But how does the brain know which path the information should take? Researchers at the Ernst Strüngmann Institute (ESI) for Neuroscience in Frankfurt in Cooperation with Max Planck Society have now demonstrated that the visual cortex of human subjects uses different frequency channels depending on the direction in which information is being transported. Their findings were only possible thanks to previous research with macaque monkeys. They might help to understand the cause of psychiatric illnesses in which the two channels appear to be mixed up.


Aegean wall lizard resting on rock
Resting out in the open on rocks can be a risky business for Aegean wall lizards. Out in these habitats they have nowhere to hide and their backs, which show varying shades of green and brown between individuals, are dangerously exposed to birds hunting in the skies above.


Mold growth initially grew on the plant in pillow E in the bottom left corner of the plant mat.
When Scott Kelly tweeted a picture of moldy leaves on the current crop of zinnia flowers aboard the International Space Station, it could have looked like the science was doomed. In fact, science was blooming stronger than ever. What may seem like a failure in systems is actually an exceptional opportunity for scientists back on Earth to better understand how plants grow in microgravity, and for astronauts to practice doing what they'll be tasked with on a deep space mission: autonomous gardening.


This image shows a range of wing pattern combinations in various Heliconius butterfly species. Clockwise from top left: elevatus; contigua; rosina; meriana; malleti.
New research on butterfly genomes has revealed that the genetic components that produce different splotches of colour on wings can be mixed up between species by interbreeding to create new patterns, like a "genetic paint-box".


Two chimpanzees interact in Gombe National Park, Tanzania.
Spending time in close contact with others often means risking catching germs and getting sick. But being sociable may also help transmit beneficial microbes, finds a multi-institutional study of gut microbiomes in chimpanzees.


In addition to their natural beauty, the shells of two deceased specimens of Hawksbill sea turtles hold clues to the growth rates and sexual maturity of the endangered species.
Radiocarbon dating of atomic bomb fallout found in sea turtle shells can be used to reliably estimate the ages, growth rates and reproductive maturity of sea turtle populations in the wild, a new study led by Duke University and NOAA researchers finds.

Widespread failure to reproduce research results has triggered a crisis of confidence in research findings, eroding public trust in scientific methodology. In response, PLOS Biology is launching on January 4th, 2016, a new Meta-Research Section devoted to research on research.

Chameleons are known for sticking their tongues out at the world fast and far, but until a new study by Brown University biologist Christopher Anderson, the true extent of this awesome capability had been largely overlooked. That's because the smallest species hadn't been measured.


This is a photograph of a Tasmanian Devil with facial tumor.
Transmissible cancers -- cancers which can spread between individuals by the transfer of living cancer cells -- are believed to arise extremely rarely in nature. One of the few known transmissible cancers causes facial tumours in Tasmanian devils, and is threatening this species with extinction. Today, scientists report the discovery of a second transmissible cancer in Tasmanian devils. The discovery, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, calls into question our current understanding of the processes that drive cancers to become transmissible.

The diversity of mammals on Earth exploded straight after the dinosaur extinction event, according to UCL researchers. New analysis of the fossil record shows that placental mammals, the group that today includes nearly 5000 species including humans, became more varied in anatomy during the Paleocene epoch - the 10 million years immediately following the event.


These are specimens collected in Rwanda in 2013 by The Cleveland Museum of Natural History during the first formal praying mantis survey conducted in the African country.
A college student working at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History was lead author on the first formal survey of praying mantises in Rwanda, which revealed a 155 percent increase in praying mantis species diversity for the African country. Riley Tedrow, a Case Western Reserve University graduate student pursuing field research for the Museum, participated in two surveys across four locations in Rwanda, including three national parks. The survey was published Oct. 1, 2015 in the journal Zootaxa.

Columns of workers penetrate the forest, furiously gathering as much food and supplies as they can. They are a massive army that living things know to avoid, and that few natural obstacles can waylay. So determined are these legions that should a chasm or gap disrupt the most direct path to their spoils they simply build a new path -- out of themselves.


This image shows the nervous system of about 1 cm-long Hydra revealed here with a fluorescent green marker.
Champion of regeneration, the freshwater polyp Hydra is capable of reforming a complete individual from any fragment of its body. It is even able to remain alive when all its neurons have disappeared. Researcher the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, have discovered how: cells of the epithelial type modify their genetic program by overexpressing a series of genes, among which some are involved in diverse nervous functions. Studying Hydra cellular plasticity may thus influence research in the context of neurodegenerative diseases. The results are published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.


This image shows a mantis shrimp in a defensive position, on its back with its legs, head and heavily armored tail closed over.
Researchers from the Queensland Brain Institute at The University of Queensland have uncovered a new form of secret light communication used by marine animals.

Scientists have solved a longstanding mystery about how some fish seem to disappear from predators in the open waters of the ocean, a discovery that could help materials scientists and military technologists create more effective methods of ocean camouflage.

In the animal world, if several males mate with the same female, their sperm compete to fertilize her limited supply of eggs. Longer sperm often seem to have a competitive advantage. However, a study conducted by researchers from the Universities of Zurich and Stockholm now reveals that the size of the animals also matters. The larger the animal, the more im-portant the number of sperm is relative to sperm length. That's why elephants have smaller sperm than mice.

New research reveals that two different evolutionary shifts toward camouflage investment occurred in the the charismatic horned praying mantises. The most recent shift in increased accumulation of numerous cryptic features occurred only after the re-evolution of important leg lobes that help disguise the appearance of the mantis from predators.


Independent male ruff at lek with colourful ruff and head tuft.
The ruff is a Eurasian shorebird that has a spectacular lekking behaviour where highly ornamented males compete for females. Now two groups report that males with alternative reproductive strategies carry a chromosomal rearrangement that has been maintained as a balanced genetic polymorphism for about 4 million years.


DNA was extracted from the molar teeth of this skeleton, dating from almost 10,000 years ago and found in the Kotias Klde rockshelter in Western Georgia.
The first sequencing of ancient genomes extracted from human remains that date back to the Late Upper Palaeolithic period over 13,000 years ago has revealed a previously unknown "fourth strand" of ancient European ancestry.


Wing color patterns of butterflies must perform different signalling functions to avoid predators and attract potential mates.
In the natural world, mimicry isn't entertainment; it's a deadly serious game spanning a range of senses - sight, smell and hearing. Some of the most striking visual mimics are butterflies. Many butterflies become noxious and unpalatable to predators by acquiring chemical defences from plants they ingest as caterpillars. Other butterflies mimic the 'aposematic' or warning colouration and conspicuous wing patterns of these toxic or just plain foul-tasting butterflies.

Two captive elephants blast air through their trunks to grasp hard-to-reach food, suggests an initial study published today in Springer's journal Animal Cognition. This behaviour, studied in a zoo population of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus), is altered according to the distance to the food, which may indicate advanced mental ability and awareness of their physical environment.


Eotiaris guadalupensis fossil was discovered by USC's Jeffrey Thompson in the Smithsonian collections.
Researchers have uncovered a fossil sea urchin that pushes back a fork in its family tree by 10 million years, according to a new study.

Millions of years ago, even before the continents had settled into place, jellyfish were already swimming the oceans with the same pulsing motions we observe today.

Alligators and the Everglades go hand-in-hand, and as water conditions change in the greater Everglades ecosystem, gators are one of the key species that could be affected.

Previously, giant sharks had only been recovered from rock dating back 130 million years, during the age of the dinosaurs. The largest shark that ever lived, commonly called "Megalodon", is much younger, with an oldest occurrence at about 15 million years ago. This means the new fossils from Texas indicate giant sharks go much further back into the fossil record.

Electric eels temporarily paralyze their prey by shocking them with electricity using a series of brief, high-voltage pulses, much as a Taser would do. Now, a researcher reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on October 28 has discovered that the eels can at least double the power of their electrical discharge by curling up their bodies. In bringing their tail up and around, the eels sandwich prey between the two poles of their electric organ, which runs most of the length of their long, flexible bodies.

While the anthropogenic impact on global species diversity is clear, the role of ancient human populations in causing extinctions is more controversial. New data presented at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meetings in Dallas, Texas, implicates early humans in the extinction of large mammals, birds and lizards in Australia. More precise dating of these extinction events places them 10 thousand years after the first arrival of humans in Australia, suggesting human predation was the most likely cause.

In 2001, a paleontology field crew from Burpee Museum of Natural History (Rockford, IL) were prospecting for dinosaur fossils near Ekalaka, Montana, when they discovered bones of a half-grown T. rex weathering out from exposures of the Hell Creek Formation. "Jane", as she was later named, turned out to be the most complete adolescent T. rex ever discovered, filling a critical gap between juvenile and adult that had caused decades of scientific debate.

BiologyOctober 27, 2015 06:05 PM


This is Dr. Rowe with a large cod to be tagged and released in Bonavista Corridor.
Once an icon of overfishing, mismanagement, and stock decline, the northern Atlantic cod is showing signs of recovery according to new research published today in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.


The researchers demonstrated that social insects, including bees, ants and wasps, are more complex than previously was thought.
Chemical signaling among social insects, such as bees, ants and wasps, is more complex than previously thought, according to researchers at Penn State and Tel Aviv University, whose results refute the idea that a single group of chemicals controls reproduction across numerous species.

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