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  • May 26, 2010
  • 04:47 PM

how evolution shapes brains and microchips

by Greg Fish in weird things

What do brains and computer chips have in common? Not that much. Sure both use electricity, but in neurons the origin of electrical pulses is chemical while for computer chips it comes from electrical currents. Neurons are highly plastic, rearranging their connections to adapt to new information while computer chips are locked in their arrangement for their entire existence. But one thing they do share is the pattern of connections in their overall structure, [...]... Read more »

  • May 26, 2010
  • 03:40 PM

Tahitian Tree Snail Avoid Extinction by Heading for the Mountains

by Kevin Zelnio in The Online Laboratory of Kevin Zelnio

Partula spp. from Society Islands. Photo Credit: Marc Agren
In a short, but sweet, paper by Lee et al. published in the Current Biology, there is a “glimmer of hope” for montane tahitian tree snails (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Partulidae, Partula spp.). They examined the mitochondrial haplotype diversity of tree snail specimens locked away [...]... Read more »

LEE, T., BURCH, J., JUNG, Y., COOTE, T., PEARCEKELLY, P., & OFOIGHIL, D. (2007) Tahitian tree snail mitochondrial clades survived recent mass extirpation. Current Biology, 17(13). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2007.05.006  

  • May 26, 2010
  • 01:20 PM

Graffiti and Poetry in a Synthetic Genome

by Lucas in thoughtomics

Last week, the world learned of the first living organism that carries a synthetic genome. That that same genome contains the nucleic equivalents of both graffiti and poetry is less known…
Unless you’ve been avoiding all science news since last week, you’ve been bombarded by news of the creation of the first ’synthetic cell’ by scientists [...]... Read more »

Gibson, D., Glass, J., Lartigue, C., Noskov, V., Chuang, R., Algire, M., Benders, G., Montague, M., Ma, L., Moodie, M.... (2010) Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.1190719  

  • May 26, 2010
  • 12:16 PM

The Promise of a Near-Miss

by Rob Mitchum in ScienceLife

A critical step in the design of any clinical trial is picking the right primary endpoint, the result that will usually make or break the study. That’s more difficult than it sounds - one’s hope is to cure a disease or relieve a patient’s symptoms, but choosing the best specific measure for those goals is [...]... Read more »

  • May 26, 2010
  • 12:00 PM

Fish was fossil frog's last meal

by Laelaps in Laelaps

The skeleton of Palaeobatrachus from Lake Enspel, Germany. From Wuttke and Poschmann, 2010.

In On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin said of the fossil record:

For my part, following out Lyell's metaphor, I look at the natural geological record, as a history of the world imperfectly kept, and written in a changing dialect; of this history we possess the last volume alone, relating only to two or three countries. Of this volume, only here and there a short chapter has been preserved; an........ Read more »

  • May 26, 2010
  • 11:52 AM

The Forest Gives Back

by Journal Watch Online in Journal Watch Online

Protected areas can improve local economies

... Read more »

  • May 26, 2010
  • 09:46 AM

Ballistics experts of the bug world

by Katie Kline in EcoTone

Meet the ballistics experts of the bug world: A quick draw beetle that fires volatile liquids with the pulse of a Tommy Gun, aphids that self-combust at the threat of a predator and a double-pistoled worm that sprays its victim with streams of goo. Of course, these insects are not the only invertebrates carrying chemical artillery—bees are maybe the most famous projectile-launching bugs around. The below insects, however, give a unique look into chemical warfare on a small scale.

... Read more »

Eisner, T. (1999) Spray aiming in the bombardier beetle: Photographic evidence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 96(17), 9705-9709. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.96.17.9705  

Kazana, E., Pope, T., Tibbles, L., Bridges, M., Pickett, J., Bones, A., Powell, G., & Rossiter, J. (2007) The cabbage aphid: a walking mustard oil bomb. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 274(1623), 2271-2277. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2007.0237  

Benkendorff, K., Beardmore, K., Gooley, A., Packer, N., & Tait, N. (1999) Characterisation of the slime gland secretion from the peripatus, Euperipatoides kanangrensis (Onychophora: Peripatopsidae). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part B: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 124(4), 457-465. DOI: 10.1016/S0305-0491(99)00145-5  

  • May 26, 2010
  • 08:34 AM

Tip of the Week: The Cancer Genome Workbench

by Jennifer in OpenHelix

In today’s tip I’d like to introduce you to the Cancer Genome Workbench, or CGWB. The workbench gathers cancer information from a wide variety of projects including Johns Hopkins University and GlaxoSmithKline Cancer Cell Line Genomic Profiling Data, NCI’s Therapeutically Applicable Research to Generate Effective Treatment (TARGET), NHGRI’s Tumor Sequencing Project (TSP), The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), and the Sanger Center’s COSMIC initiative and presents the cum........ Read more »

Zhang, J., Finney, R., Rowe, W., Edmonson, M., Yang, S., Dracheva, T., Jen, J., Struewing, J., & Buetow, K. (2007) Systematic analysis of genetic alterations in tumors using Cancer Genome WorkBench (CGWB). Genome Research, 17(7), 1111-1117. DOI: 10.1101/gr.5963407  

  • May 26, 2010
  • 06:00 AM

An index for assessing the ecological effects of altered river flow

by Rob Goldstein in Conservation Maven

Canadian scientists have developed an index for assessing rivers' ecological health after dams or other human impacts have altered flow patterns. The index is based on the sensitivity of macroinvertebrates to river flow...... Read more »

  • May 25, 2010
  • 05:20 PM

The leaf-cutters are back

by Africa Gomez in BugBlog

A male leaf-cutter has been patrolling in the garden the last few days, when the weather has been quite hot. The male has been circling around the broom and other flowers, in a regular path, landing to bask for no more than two shots in a sunny leaf or flower. Occasionally, he stopped to feed on some bluebells.They are Megachile willughbiella (thank you to eucera from WAB for confirming the ID). The males bear white and golden 'boxing gloves' on their forelegs, which are enla........ Read more »

  • May 25, 2010
  • 05:00 PM

A 3D Digital Atlas of the Honeybee Head-Neck System

by Michael Long in Phased

Richard Berry and Michael Ibbotson (Australian National University) have produced a three-dimensional digital atlas of the honeybee head-neck system, which will facilitate studies aimed at unraveling muscle function in flying insects. This news feature was written on May 25, 2010.... Read more »

  • May 25, 2010
  • 03:34 PM

Evolution of Darwin: Hollywood Style

by avi_wener in American Biotechnologist

According to popular thought, Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species was heavily influenced by his grandfather Erasmus Darwin (1). The impact that a grandparent can have upon an impressionable child should never be underestimated. To what extent do you think that Dana Carvey was influenced by his grandfather?

Dana Carvey is “DARWIN” – watch more funny [...]... Read more »

  • May 25, 2010
  • 01:37 PM

Quetzalcoatlus: the evil, pin-headed, toothy nightmare monster that wants to eat your soul

by Darren Naish in Tetrapod Zoology

By now, it's reasonably well known to interested people what azhdarchid pterosaurs looked like when alive. The answer: sort of like a cross between a giraffe and a stork, though with all of this being over-ridden by uniquely pterosaurian weirdness; membranous wings supported by giant fingers, a large cranial crest, plantigrade feet, and so on. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »

  • May 25, 2010
  • 01:25 PM

Parkinson’s Disease: A Learning Disorder?

by Rob Mitchum in ScienceLife

Occasionally, drugs produce beneficial mysteries - effects that are useful to physicians despite being largely unexplained. Levodopa (L-dopa), the most commonly-used treatment for the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, is meant to replace dopamine, the neurotransmitter lost as the disease progresses to its most severe stages. Clinicians recognize that the benefical effect builds up slowly over [...]... Read more »

Beeler JA, Cao ZF, Kheirbek MA, Ding Y, Koranda J, Murakami M, Kang UJ, & Zhuang X. (2010) Dopamine-dependent motor learning: insight into levodopa's long-duration response. Annals of neurology, 67(5), 639-47. PMID: 20437561  

  • May 25, 2010
  • 12:00 PM

I had no choice but to post this

by Andrew Lyons in The Psych Student

According to biologist Anthony Cashmore’s theory on human behavior, there was no way I wasn’t going to write this blog post. Taking his work to its logical conclusion, it was environmentally and biologically predetermined that I was going to write this sentence and choose these words to do it. When I pause here and there to think about which word expression to use, I’m actually experiencing the illusion of free will. Really?... Read more »

  • May 25, 2010
  • 11:58 AM

Fossil feces from an Indiana sinkhole preserve traces of a meat-eater's meal

by Laelaps in Laelaps

Close up of one of the Pipe Creek Sinkhole coprolites showing structures interpreted as hair (A) and a close-up of a mold in the coprolite thought to have been made by a hair (B). From Farlow et al, 2010.

Time and again I have stressed that every fossil bone tells a story, and, in a different way, so do coprolites. They are small snapshots of a moment in the life of an organism, often preserving bits of their meals, and while they may not get top billing in museum halls, they are among the........ Read more »

James O. Farlow; Karen Chin; Anne Argast;Sean Poppy. (2010) Coprolites from the Pipe Creek Sinkhole (Late Neogene, Grant County, Indiana, U.S.A.). Journal of Verterbrate Paleontology, 30(3), 959-969. info:/10.1080/02724631003762906

  • May 25, 2010
  • 10:16 AM

Mapping the Human Brain

by avi_wener in American Biotechnologist

The Allen Institute for Brain Science initiated the Allen Brain Atlas in 2003 with a goal to create a genomic map of the mouse brain. The mouse brain atlas was successfully completed in 2006 using 85 million images containing 600 terabytes of data and identifying 21,000 active genes in the mouse brain. The atlas has [...]... Read more »

Lein, E., Hawrylycz, M., Ao, N., Ayres, M., Bensinger, A., Bernard, A., Boe, A., Boguski, M., Brockway, K., Byrnes, E.... (2006) Genome-wide atlas of gene expression in the adult mouse brain. Nature, 445(7124), 168-176. DOI: 10.1038/nature05453  

Jones AR, Overly CC, & Sunkin SM. (2009) The Allen Brain Atlas: 5 years and beyond. Nature reviews. Neuroscience, 10(11), 821-8. PMID: 19826436  

  • May 25, 2010
  • 10:13 AM

Molecular biology and globsters: dashing cryptozoologists’ dreams

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

On July 29th 2008, the day I turned 21 years, I received the best thing I could ask for: a birthday gift from Poseidon. I was living in Newport, OR at the time.  After a long morning of observing nesting seabirds through a telescope, I returned home for what I presumed to be a long [...]... Read more »

  • May 25, 2010
  • 09:13 AM

New Study: 'Celebrity Endorsements' Sway Chimps, Too

by David Berreby in Mind Matters

Human beings give their attention readily to people who already have it. It doesn't matter if a guy won fame for his action movies, people will listen to his advice on carbon sequestration, and go out an buy his brand of shoe. That's not logical, but it does follow a predictable rule, which is that being famous, "cool" and/or prestigious gives you ready access to the minds of others. That bias may have evolved a very long time ago, according to this paper in the journal PLoS One last w........ Read more »

Horner, V., Proctor, D., Bonnie, K., Whiten, A., & de Waal, F. (2010) Prestige Affects Cultural Learning in Chimpanzees. PLoS ONE, 5(5). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010625  

  • May 25, 2010
  • 08:34 AM

A shot in the arm for antimalarial drug discovery?

by The Curious Wavefunction in The Curious Wavefunction

While heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's continue to grab the headlines, malaria and tuberculosis continue to quietly do their deadly work behind the scenes. Diseases that disproportionately affect sub-Saharan Africa are not exactly priorities for drug companies. But they pose a tremendous unmet need. Especially malaria, which kills an unbelievable 800,000 people every year, has fought back against almost every traditional drug. The fight against the disease has boiled down to one class of dr........ Read more »

Guiguemde, W., Shelat, A., Bouck, D., Duffy, S., Crowther, G., Davis, P., Smithson, D., Connelly, M., Clark, J., Zhu, F.... (2010) Chemical genetics of Plasmodium falciparum. Nature, 465(7296), 311-315. DOI: 10.1038/nature09099  

Gamo, F., Sanz, L., Vidal, J., de Cozar, C., Alvarez, E., Lavandera, J., Vanderwall, D., Green, D., Kumar, V., Hasan, S.... (2010) Thousands of chemical starting points for antimalarial lead identification. Nature, 465(7296), 305-310. DOI: 10.1038/nature09107  

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