Tag Archives: natural selection

Camouflage really does reduce the chances of being eaten

A ground-breaking study has confirmed the long held assumption that camouflage protects animals from the clutches of predators, and offers insights into the most important aspects of camouflage.

The research, by scientists from the Universities of Exeter and Cambridge, investigated the camouflage of ground-nesting birds in Zambia, using sophisticated digital imaging to demonstrate how they would appear from the perspective of a predator. (more…)

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Scholars and scientists explore factors underlying serendipitous discoveries

What do Velcro, Tang, penicillin, the structure of DNA and the World Wide Web have in common?

They all involved serendipitous discoveries—chance discoveries made by alert, curious scientists who were looking for other things when they happened across a fortuitous finding. Rather than ignoring their accidental discoveries, these curious, open-minded scientists harnessed their luck. “Chance favors only the prepared mind,” as Louis Pasteur put it. (more…)

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Carnivorous Plant Throws Out ‘Junk’ DNA

The newly sequenced genome of the carnivorous bladderwort plant contradicts the notion that vast quantities of noncoding DNA are crucial for complex life. UA researchers helped solve the puzzle by providing specialized genome analyses and computational software.

Genes – the bits of DNA that code for proteins – make up about 2 percent of the human genome. The rest consists of a genetic material known as noncoding DNA, and scientists have spent years puzzling over why this material exists in such voluminous quantities. (more…)

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Form, Function and Folding: In Collaboration with Berkeley Lab, a Team of Scientists Move Toward Rational Design of Artificial Proteins

In the world of proteins, form defines function. Based on interactions between their constituent amino acids, proteins form specific conformations, folding and twisting into distinct, chemically directed shapes. The resulting structure dictates the proteins’ actions; thus accurate modeling of structure is vital to understanding functionality.

Peptoids, the synthetic cousins of proteins, follow similar design rules. Less vulnerable to chemical or metabolic breakdown than proteins, peptoids are promising for diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, and as a platform to build bioinspired nanomaterials, as scientists can build and manipulate peptoids with great precision. But to design peptoids for a specific function, scientists need to first untangle the complex relationship between a peptoid’s composition and its function-defining folded structure. (more…)

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Gecko Feet Don’t Stick Around

The lizards have gained and lost adhesive toes many times

Who wouldn’t envy the little gecko as it dashes up a smooth wall or hangs from a ceiling by a toe?

An engineer’s dream, gecko feet combine the best of duct tape and Post-It® Notes: They stick, but they don’t stay stuck.

The drive to duplicate gecko feats technologically is a hot area of research. Would-be designers of such a technology should note a new study of geckos’ evolutionary history that could simplify their task immensely. (more…)

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Evolution of Earliest Horses Driven by Climate Change

*The hotter it gets, the smaller the animal?*

When Sifrhippus sandae, the earliest known horse, first appeared in the forests of North America more than 50 million years ago, it would not have been mistaken for a Clydesdale.

It weighed in at around 12 pounds–and it was destined to get much smaller over the ensuing millennia.

Sifrhippus lived during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a 175,000-year interval of time some 56 million years ago in which average global temperatures rose by about 10 degrees Fahrenheit. (more…)

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Biologically Best

*The U’s active learning biology courses garner attention*

What if you could remove lead from a person’s blood with a bacterial protein that snags the toxic metal?

Or treat spinal cord injury by shutting off a gene that prevents nerve regrowth?

Ideas like these used to be the exclusive province of practicing biologists. But they are among 14 ideas conceived and presented recently by students in the University of Minnesota’s introductory biology course. (more…)

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MSU Researchers Show How New Viruses Evolve, And in Some Cases, Become Deadly

EAST LANSING, Mich. — In the current issue of Science, researchers at Michigan State University demonstrate how a new virus evolves, which sheds light on how easy it can be for diseases to gain dangerous mutations.

The scientists showed for the first time how the virus called “Lambda” evolved to find a new way to attack host cells, an innovation that took four mutations to accomplish. This virus infects bacteria, in particular the common E. coli bacterium. Lambda isn’t dangerous to humans, but this research demonstrated how viruses evolve complex and potentially deadly new traits, said Justin Meyer, MSU graduate student, who co-authored the paper with Richard Lenski, MSU Hannah Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. (more…)

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