Tag Archives: evolutionary biology

How Beetles Hack Into Ant Colonies

Pretending to be one of them, ant-nest beetles trick ants to rear their brood — and then reward their hosts by devouring them. UA entomologists have discovered that the beetles evolve at an astonishing rate.

We’ve all heard the story of the Trojan horse, when unsuspecting Trojans opened their city’s gate to a giant wooden horse, only to find themselves ambushed by the Greek soldiers hiding inside. (more…)

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Earliest birds lacked wide diversity of modern descendants, study finds

Birds come in astounding variety—from hummingbirds to emus—and behave in myriad ways: they soar the skies, swim the waters and forage the forests. But this wasn’t always the case, according to research by scientists at the University of Chicago and the Field Museum.

The researchers found a striking lack of diversity in the earliest known fossil bird fauna—a set of species that lived at about the same time and in the same habitat. “There were no swans, no swallows, no herons, nothing like that. They were pretty much all between a sparrow and a crow,” said Jonathan Mitchell, a PhD student in the Committee on Evolutionary Biology and lead author of the new study, published May 28 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B(more…)

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MU Researchers Find Rare Fossilized Embryos More Than 500 Million Years Old

Study methods may help with future interpretation of evolutionary history.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The Cambrian Period is a time when most phyla of marine invertebrates first appeared in the fossil record. Also dubbed the “Cambrian explosion,” fossilized records from this time provide glimpses into evolutionary biology when the world’s ecosystems rapidly changed and diversified. Most fossils show the organisms’ skeletal structure, which may or may not give researchers accurate pictures of these prehistoric organisms. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found rare, fossilized embryos they believe were undiscovered previously. Their methods of study may help with future interpretation of evolutionary history. (more…)

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Forest model predicts canopy competition

Scientists use measurements from airborne lasers to gauge changes in the height of trees in the forest. Tree height tells them things like how much carbon is being stored. But what accounts for height changes over time — vertical growth or overtopping by a taller tree? A new statistical model helps researchers figure out what’s really happening on the ground.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Out of an effort to account for what seemed in airborne images to be unusually large tree growth in a Hawaiian forest, scientists at Brown University and the Carnegie Institution for Science have developed a new mathematical model that predicts how trees compete for space in the canopy. (more…)

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Obesity-Related Gut Bacteria Higher in People in Northern Climes

People living in northern latitudes have more gut bacteria linked to obesity compared with people living in southern latitudes, a new study has found.

People living in cold, northern latitudes have bacteria in their guts that may predispose them to obesity, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Arizona and the University of California, Berkeley. (more…)

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Q&A: What studying networks can tell us about the world and ourselves

There was an opening ceremony on Feb. 5 for the Yale Institute for Network Science (YINS), dedicated to exploring fundamental properties of networks as they appear throughout the biological, physical, and social sciences.

The interdisciplinary institute will be led by co-directors Nicholas Christakis, the Sol Goldman Family Professor of Social and Natural Science, and Daniel Spielman, the Henry Ford II Professor of Computer Science and Mathematics.

Christakis and Spielman recently met with YaleNews to discuss the nature of networks and the institute’s mission. The following is an edited version of the conversation. (more…)

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With Fewer Hard Frosts, Tropical Mangroves Push North

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Cold-sensitive mangrove forests have expanded dramatically along Florida’s Atlantic Coast as the frequency of killing frosts has declined, according to a new study based on 28 years of satellite data from the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Md.

Between 1984 and 2011, the Florida Atlantic coast from the Miami area northward gained more than 3,000 acres (1,240 hectares) of mangroves. All the increase occurred north of Palm Beach County. Between Cape Canaveral National Seashore and Saint Augustine, mangroves doubled in area. Meanwhile between the study’s first five years and its last five years, nearby Daytona Beach recorded 1.4 fewer days per year when temperatures fell below 28.4 degrees Fahrenheit (-4 degrees Celsius). The number of killing frosts in southern Florida was unchanged. (more…)

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