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  • March 5, 2014
  • 09:30 AM

Taste And Be Tasted – Fair Is Fair

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Arthropods have the most amazing structures and functions for taste sense. New research is showing that that insects can taste carbon dioxide, as well as DEET repellent. CO2 helps guide blood suckers to victims while DEET flavor keep mosquitoes from landing or biting.

Turnabout is fair play; caterpillars use taste to poison parasitic larvae within their body. The caterpillars switch to toxic plants when infected. On the other hand, plants can taste caterpillar saliva and initiate defensive s........ Read more »

Falik O, Mordoch Y, Quansah L, Fait A, Novoplansky A. (2011) Rumor Has It…: Relay Communication of Stress Cues in Plants. PLoS ONE, 6(11). info:/

Lee Y, Kim SH, & Montell C. (2010) Avoiding DEET through insect gustatory receptors. Neuron, 67(4), 555-61. PMID: 20797533  

Kwon JY, Dahanukar A, Weiss LA, & Carlson JR. (2007) The molecular basis of CO2 reception in Drosophila. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104(9), 3574-8. PMID: 17360684  

  • February 26, 2014
  • 09:10 AM

Strange Insects Taste

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

New research is describing the ways that arthropods use gustatory receptors. Drosophila use a muscular reflex to extend or retract the proboscis, based on the sweet or bitter taste they experience. In silica studies are showing that female behaviors are driving gene duplication and evolution of taste receptor genes, while specific taste receptors are responsible for male female interactions in fruit fly courtship rituals.
... Read more »

Briscoe AD, Macias-Muñoz A, Kozak KM, Walters JR, Yuan F, Jamie GA, Martin SH, Dasmahapatra KK, Ferguson LC, Mallet J.... (2013) Female behaviour drives expression and evolution of gustatory receptors in butterflies. PLoS genetics, 9(7). PMID: 23950722  

  • February 24, 2014
  • 04:57 PM

The bill of the blackbird

by Africa Gomez in BugBlog

This morning I spotted this male blackbird sitting in a bush. It had the brightest orange-pink bill I have ever seen in a blackbird, and it prompted me to finish writing this post that had been for a little while in my drafts folder.Carotenoids are pigments obtained from the diet in animals that give yellow to red hues to many sexually selected ornaments. Carotenoids are antioxidants and have a role in the immune system and if they are supplemented in the diet they often increase the condition, ........ Read more »

  • February 19, 2014
  • 09:05 AM

Who Tastes Best

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

There are links between the function of taste bud receptor cells and solitary chemosensory cells (SCC) that sense nutrients in many animals. New research shows that the evolution of SCC and taste bud receptors were completely independent of one another, even though they share receptors and purinergic signaling systems.... Read more »

Tim Birkhead. (2012) Bird Sense: What It Is Like To Be Bird. Walker Publishing, New York. info:/

  • February 11, 2014
  • 07:52 PM

Dying for sex

by sedeer in Inspiring Science

Unfortunately, I’ve been too busy to attend to Inspiring Science this week. Rather than putting out a rushed post, I …Continue reading »... Read more »

Fisher DO, Dickman CR, Jones ME, & Blomberg SP. (2013) Sperm competition drives the evolution of suicidal reproduction in mammals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(44), 17910-4. PMID: 24101455  

  • February 7, 2014
  • 03:54 PM

The scary bright eyes of the Jackdaw

by Africa Gomez in BugBlog

Jackdaws breed in loose colonies, and unusually for corvids, in cavities in trees, cliffs or buildings. There is often very strong competition for nest sites, and the pair will defend their nest fiercely against conspecifics. Jackdaws are also unusual for having very contrasting, almost white irides. In a recent paper, Gabrielle Davidson and her colleagues from Cambridge and Exeter Universities tested the hypothesis that the bright, contrasting eyes of the Jackdaw serve as a strong warning signa........ Read more »

  • February 5, 2014
  • 09:05 AM

Cats Don’t Taste Sweet, But Dogs Taste Salty

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Taste sense is important in all vertebrates as well as for many invertebrates. Evolutionary pressures rewarded those animals that could distinguish toxins from nutrient source, and physiology has made those things we need taste good to us. But there are differences in taste sense between species and within species.

Recent research has shown that many obligate carnivores have lost the ability to taste sweet foods, and some are known to have reduced sensitivity to umami tastes as well. Vampire ........ Read more »

Zhao H, Xu D, Zhang S, & Zhang J. (2012) Genomic and genetic evidence for the loss of umami taste in bats. Genome biology and evolution, 4(1), 73-9. PMID: 22117084  

Jiang P, Josue J, Li X, Glaser D, Li W, Brand JG, Margolskee RF, Reed DR, & Beauchamp GK. (2012) Major taste loss in carnivorous mammals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(13), 4956-61. PMID: 22411809  

  • February 1, 2014
  • 09:40 AM

The hissing butterfly | @GrrlScientist

by GrrlScientist in GrrlScientist

If eyespots, famously used in a butterfly's "startle display", are good enough to scare off hungry birds, why then does the peacock butterfly hiss too? ... Read more »

  • January 29, 2014
  • 09:15 AM

Sweet, Salt, Bitter, Sour - They Ain't The Half Of It

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

What are the tastes humans sense? Sweet salt, sour, and bitter – don’t forget umami. Even though it has been around since 1908, umami as a concept has hit it big in just the past decade or so. This makes one wonder, are there more tastes out there? How about fat. New research shows that there are fatty acid receptors in the oral cavity, and they do induce specific physiologic responses. Is this the same as tasting?

Fatty acid receptors may turn out to be especially important for o........ Read more »

Keller KL, Liang LC, Sakimura J, May D, van Belle C, Breen C, Driggin E, Tepper BJ, Lanzano PC, Deng L.... (2012) Common variants in the CD36 gene are associated with oral fat perception, fat preferences, and obesity in African Americans. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 20(5), 1066-73. PMID: 22240721  

Chan KQ, Tong EM, Tan DH, & Koh AH. (2013) What do love and jealousy taste like?. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 13(6), 1142-9. PMID: 24040883  

  • January 22, 2014
  • 11:16 AM

No loss of vigour for protective male macaques

by Aileen Cudmore in Natural Reactions

Male long-tailed macaques spend much of their time safeguarding females during the mating season, yet are still able to maintain their energy levels, despite this extra duty.... Read more »

  • January 22, 2014
  • 09:00 AM

A Taste Of Things To Come

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Taste is a direct chemo-sensing process, wherein water and fat-soluble molecules interact with gustatory receptors for sweet, salt, sour, bitter, or umami. However, there are chemicals that can mimic food chemicals, like artificial sweeteners, while other molecules can alter the perceived sensation in the mouth. Recent studies have started to deduce how miraculin, the active molecule in the miracle berry, is able to make sour foods taste sweet. Miraculin binds the sweet receptor, but sweetness i........ Read more »

Koizumi, A., Tsuchiya, A., Nakajima, K., Ito, K., Terada, T., Shimizu-Ibuka, A., Briand, L., Asakura, T., Misaka, T., & Abe, K. (2011) From the Cover: Human sweet taste receptor mediates acid-induced sweetness of miraculin. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(40), 16819-16824. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1016644108  

  • January 16, 2014
  • 09:53 AM

Can we rely on honeybees for pollination?

by Rebecca Nesbit in The Society of Biology blog

The mismatch between honeybee numbers and pollination requirements raises concern about how effective honeybees are as an insurance against wild pollinator losses or fluctuations.... Read more »

Breeze TD, Vaissière BE, Bommarco R, Petanidou T, Seraphides N, Kozák L, Scheper J, Biesmeijer JC, Kleijn D, Gyldenkærne S.... (2014) Agricultural policies exacerbate honeybee pollination service supply-demand mismatches across europe. PloS one, 9(1). PMID: 24421873  

  • January 15, 2014
  • 06:18 PM

Why you can’t stop – Eating & Addiction

by sedeer in Inspiring Science

Everyone knows sugar-rich, fatty foods are unhealthy, but we keep eating them. The diet industry is booming, but so are …Continue reading »... Read more »

  • January 15, 2014
  • 09:20 AM

Pump Up Your Brain

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Exercise increases brainpower, but do you know how? Many recent studies document the results of exercise on executive function, memory, processing speed, and attention, but some are also investigating just how these changes in cognitive function are brought about.

In particular a 2013 study shows that preadolescents who begin exercise score better on a cognitive assessment not unlike an IQ test. They also perform better on a math test, even though no additional math instruction was given. On ........ Read more »

  • January 12, 2014
  • 07:06 PM

Case-spinning, aquatic, snail-eating caterpillars

by helikonios in The view from Helicon

Let me begin by admitting that when I worked in Hawai`i, I didn’t pay much attention to the tiny moths that I sometimes scared out of the moss. So this is a post about what I missed. Hawai`i, being remote and geologically active, is famous for its endemic, explosive evolutionary radiations: a single founding population, […]... Read more »

Rubinoff D, & Haines WP. (2005) Web-spinning caterpillar stalks snails. Science (New York, N.Y.), 309(5734), 575. PMID: 16040699  

Rubinoff D, & Schmitz P. (2010) Multiple aquatic invasions by an endemic, terrestrial Hawaiian moth radiation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107(13), 5903-6. PMID: 20308549  

  • December 14, 2013
  • 12:46 PM

ASD and inflammation: more than just a correlation

by EE Giorgi in CHIMERAS

There has been a lot of speculation, lately, about vaccines possibly being harmful and, in particular, causing autism. You know I work on HIV vaccine design, so there's no need to say where I stand on the need of vaccinations. No link has been found between the incidence of autism and vaccination. Of course, medicine is not an exact science. Outliers will always exist. The U.S. seem to be a special case, as the vaccination schedule in this country requires a high number of vaccine doses, yet the........ Read more »

Hsiao EY, McBride SW, Chow J, Mazmanian SK, & Patterson PH. (2012) Modeling an autism risk factor in mice leads to permanent immune dysregulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(31), 12776-81. PMID: 22802640  

  • December 11, 2013
  • 09:25 AM

Is There Anything Fat Can’t Do?

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Phospholipids are just one type of lipid in all cells. The fatty acids are the precursor to all kinds of lipids, but in some cases they have been modified to such a degree that they are not identifiable. The fatty acids are showing interesting functions, such as a new study showing that the levels of odd chain fatty acids can be used to monitor rumen health in cattle. The omega fatty acids are also becoming important in the treatment and prevention of depression. A new study shows that in Ameri........ Read more »

Beydoun MA, Fanelli Kuczmarski MT, Beydoun HA, Hibbeln JR, Evans MK, & Zonderman AB. (2013) ω-3 Fatty Acid Intakes Are Inversely Related to Elevated Depressive Symptoms among United States Women. The Journal of nutrition, 143(11), 1743-52. PMID: 24005610  

Li Z, Thiel K, Thul PJ, Beller M, Kühnlein RP, & Welte MA. (2012) Lipid droplets control the maternal histone supply of Drosophila embryos. Current biology : CB, 22(22), 2104-13. PMID: 23084995  

Vlaeminck B, Dufour C, van Vuuren AM, Cabrita AR, Dewhurst RJ, Demeyer D, & Fievez V. (2005) Use of odd and branched-chain fatty acids in rumen contents and milk as a potential microbial marker. Journal of dairy science, 88(3), 1031-42. PMID: 15738238  

  • December 4, 2013
  • 04:37 PM

Treecreepers and mixed flocks

by Africa Gomez in BugBlog

As winter sets in, small, resident insectivorous birds including Long-tailed tits, Great Tits and Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Goldcrests and Treecreepers join in loose, vocal mixed-species flocks that travel and forage together. Why do they eschew from following the saying 'birds of a feather flock together'? Well, first, their small bodies lose heat easily and the days are short, so they need to obtain as much food as possible. On the other hand, the leafless trees makes them more exposed to predatio........ Read more »

J. E. Arévalo and A. G. Gosler. (1994) The behaviour of Treecreepers Certhia familiaris in mixed-species flocks in winter. Bird Study, 41(1), 1-6. info:/10.1080/00063659409477190

  • December 3, 2013
  • 09:00 AM

The Proof is in the Field Notes: Cottonmouths Rarely Bask in Trees --Guest Post--

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

    Some observations come before you realize how important they are. Only later do you slap your forehead and realize that you should have taken more detailed notes, because the likelihood of you seeing such a thing again is slim. This is why I encourage everybody interested in wildlife to take down field notes. 

    When I was in high school, every afternoon when I got home I would take a ... Read more »

  • November 18, 2013
  • 09:00 AM

An Unstoppable Anaconda Invasion in Florida? What Slate Got Wrong.

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

Photo By Dave Lonsdale, Wikimedia

    Last week Slate ran a piece in their Wild Things blog
entitled, “Green Anacondas in the Everglades: The Largest Snake in the World has Invaded the United States.” Obviously the sensational headline caught my attention as did the subtitle, which refers to this invasion as "unstoppable." However, after reading the actual article I realized that it was ... Read more »

Dorcas ME, Willson JD, Reed RN, Snow RW, Rochford MR, Miller MA, Meshaka WE Jr, Andreadis PT, Mazzotti FJ, Romagosa CM.... (2012) Severe mammal declines coincide with proliferation of invasive Burmese pythons in Everglades National Park. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(7), 2418-22. PMID: 22308381  

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