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As they age, hermaphrodite worms run out of sperm. Males can somehow sense this and find these older, sperm-depleted hermaphrodites to be very sexy indeed.... Read more »
Morsci, N., Haas, L., & Barr, M. (2011) Sperm Status Regulates Sexual Attraction in Caenorhabditis elegans. Genetics. DOI: 10.1534/genetics.111.133603
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Did you know that diatoms have sex? I didn’t. ... Read more »
Sato, S., Beakes, G., Idei, M., Nagumo, T., & Mann, D. (2011) Novel Sex Cells and Evidence for Sex Pheromones in Diatoms. PLoS ONE, 6(10). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026923
The largest group of cichlid species is the haplochromine cichlids (roughly 1500 species). A feature of many haplochromines are the colorful “egg spots” on the anal fin of males. Tons of studies have been done trying to pin down exactly what these spots are used for. Some studies have suggested that females prefer males with more egg spots, for various potential reasons, but this is still an unsettled issue.
Now, a paper by Anya Theis, Walter Salzburger, and Bernd Egger from the U........ Read more »
Theis, A., Salzburger, W., & Egger, B. (2012) The Function of Anal Fin Egg-Spots in the Cichlid Fish Astatotilapia burtoni. PLoS ONE, 7(1). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029878
Female frogs (Xenopus laevis) release their eggs out into the water, where they wait for some lucky sperm to come along and fertilize them. But they don't wait very long. Frog eggs are ticking time bombs that self-destruct after only a few hours if not fertilized. Previously, how this happened was a mystery. Now, new research from Kobe University and (in a separate paper) CNRS in France has found that the eggs die by a well-known mechanism: programmed cell death.... Read more »
Tokmakov, A., Iguchi, S., Iwasaki, T., & Fukami, Y. (2011) Unfertilized frog eggs die by apoptosis following meiotic exit. BMC Cell Biology, 12(1), 56. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2121-12-56
Du Pasquier, D., Dupré, A., & Jessus, C. (2011) Unfertilized Xenopus Eggs Die by Bad-Dependent Apoptosis under the Control of Cdk1 and JNK. PLoS ONE, 6(8). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023672
Male fiddler crabs wave their giant claws to get the attention of females. Females prefer males that wave a lot, in line with a common theme in female choice: making the male work for it. Waving that big thing around is more than just an advertisement. The thing is heavy to lift, so the male has to be in good shape to keep up all that waving. It’s also dangerous. The more he waves that big sign saying, “Hey, look at me!” the more predators will take notice.
How do males dete........ Read more »
Milner, R., Jennions, M., & Backwell, P. (2011) Keeping up appearances: male fiddler crabs wave faster in a crowd. Biology Letters. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.0926
Each of us has over 3 billion base pairs of DNA in every one of our cells. And every time a cell divides, there is a risk of making a critical mistake in a few bases that can eventually lead to cancer. That’s why our cells have lots of fail-safes to make sure that we don’t turn into one big tumor by the time we hit puberty. Damaged DNA triggers a response by the gene p53, known as the “guardian of the cell” by some. If p53 decides the damage is too great, it orders the de........ Read more »
Chen, D., Zheng, W., Lin, A., Uyhazi, K., Zhao, H., & Lin, H. (2012) Pumilio 1 Suppresses Multiple Activators of p53 to Safeguard Spermatogenesis. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.01.039
Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m using this paper as an excuse to post pymy hippopotamus pictures. They’re so cute! But, besides the cuteness of miniature hippos, the science in this paper is also really cool. Joseph Saragusty and colleagues at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, along with Tim Bouts of the Zoological Society of London discovered that male pygmy hippos can control the ratio of female-to-male offspring they father. The paper was published in the Februar........ Read more »
Saragusty, J., Hermes, R., Hofer, H., Bouts, T., Göritz, F., & Hildebrandt, T. (2012) Male pygmy hippopotamus influence offspring sex ratio. Nature Communications, 697. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1700
Males of many species “guard” females after they’ve mated, presumably to prevent them from mating with other males. But in the cricket Gryllus campestris, males have a more noble intent when they guard their mate: to save her from being eaten.... Read more »
Rodríguez-Muñoz, R., Bretman, A., & Tregenza, T. (2011) Guarding Males Protect Females from Predation in a Wild Insect. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.08.053
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I recently wrote about a paper describing a protease in worm seminal fluid that helps activate male sperm in a species with males and hermaphrodites. Now, another group has published a (sort of) follow-up. They found a protease inhibitor that blocks the protease found in the first paper (Try-5), but in a different species of worm. They also show that it has two roles: one in turning sperm on, the other in turning them off. The research was published ahead of print in PNAS January 31, 2012.... Read more »
Zhao, Y., Sun, W., Zhang, P., Chi, H., Zhang, M., Song, C., Ma, X., Shang, Y., Wang, B., Hu, Y.... (2012) Nematode sperm maturation triggered by protease involves sperm-secreted serine protease inhibitor (Serpin). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(5), 1542-1547. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1109912109
I recently read this paper about fig wasps. The paper by Hui Yu and Stephen G. Compton was published in PLoS One. But it’s more than just a scientific paper. It’s a love story: fig and wasp, destined to be together and mutually dependent on each other for continued survival. It’s also about the love of a mother for her sons. And every love story has its tragedy. In this case, it’s the free-loading enemy wasps that kill the love-children of the wasp/fig romance and force t........ Read more »
Yu, H., & Compton, S. (2012) Moving Your Sons to Safety: Galls Containing Male Fig Wasps Expand into the Centre of Figs, Away From Enemies. PLoS ONE, 7(1). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030833
Wolbachia are a type of bacteria that live inside the cells of many animals, but mostly insects. They are passed on from mother to child through the mother’s eggs.
They can often be bad for the insect host: they might kill all male offspring, destroy the host’s gonads, or make it harder for the host female to make eggs with sub-par blood. This is why Wolbachia has been pursued as a potential tool for reducing mosquito populations that carry dangerous human pathogens like Dengue virus and ........ Read more »
Fast, E., Toomey, M., Panaram, K., Desjardins, D., Kolaczyk, E., & Frydman, H. (2011) Wolbachia Enhance Drosophila Stem Cell Proliferation and Target the Germline Stem Cell Niche. Science, 334(6058), 990-992. DOI: 10.1126/science.1209609
More often than you might expect, new genes become male-specific and play important roles in male fertility. These genes get fast-tracked, becoming quickly “fixed” in the population because of the advantage they give to the boys in that age-old competition: who can make the most babies. New research into a group of newly evolved sperm genes in Drosophila melanogaster shows just how quickly new genes can become indispensable. The research was published last week in Proceedings of the ........ Read more »
Yeh, S., Do, T., Chan, C., Cordova, A., Carranza, F., Yamamoto, E., Abbassi, M., Gandasetiawan, K., Librado, P., Damia, E.... (2012) Functional evidence that a recently evolved Drosophila sperm-specific gene boosts sperm competition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(6), 2043-2048. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1121327109
If you’ve perused the other posts on this site, you may have noticed that I have a thing for seminal fluid. That’s because semen is awesome: it’s full of proteins, lipids, sugars, and who knows what else, all of which plays some role in fertility.
Exactly what all that stuff is doing is still a total mystery (except for a very few rare cases).
Unfortunately, just picking out one protein and asking, “what happens if I break this?” doesn’t seem to work in ........ Read more »
Smith, J., & Stanfield, G. (2011) TRY-5 Is a Sperm-Activating Protease in Caenorhabditis elegans Seminal Fluid. PLoS Genetics, 7(11). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002375
Well, hello again imaginary reader of this blog. I'm ready to dust this site off and finally start adding some new posts, after a long hiatus. Since the last post, I've written my doctoral dissertation, and will be defending it in just 2 days!
I've also gotten engaged, which is why I was so interested in this article: "The Puzzle of Monogamous Marriage", written by researchers at the University of British Columbia. The authors provide evidence from many studies of hum........ Read more »
In some plants, multiple gametophytes can develop in a single ovule and compete for the chance to be fertilized. This may have been an ancient strategy in plants to ensure the most fit eggs were used to make seeds, but it was lost in most plant species that survive today. ... Read more »
Bachelier, J., & Friedman, W. (2011) Female gamete competition in an ancient angiosperm lineage. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1104697108
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A review of the pros and cons of antidepressant medication for treatment of major depression appeared this past week in the journal Frontiers in Evolutionary Psychology. The authors, Paul W. Andrews, J. Anderson Thomas Jr., Ananda Amstadter, and Michael C. Neale, use an evolutionary perspective combined with medical data to evaluate whether prescribing antidepressants should be the first choice of doctors to treat depression, as it currently is. They conclude that antidepressant medication can d........ Read more »
Andrews PW, Thomson JA Jr, Amstadter A, & Neale MC. (2012) Primum non nocere: an evolutionary analysis of whether antidepressants do more harm than good. Frontiers in psychology, 117. PMID: 22536191
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