Biology

Look at those feet! Early evolution of rodents and lagomorphs

Rodents and lagomorphs form Glires, a group of gnawing mammals with enlarged ever-growing incisors. In the beginning, Glires were neither ‘true’ rodents nor lagomorphs; we call them basal or stem taxa. Species from this incredibly successful group had different heel structures to suit different lifestyles. Fast running or jumping requires different heel shapes compared to slow clambering or climbing. Dr […]

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Biology

New theories expand cognition to fungi

Consciousness is an elusive concept. Professor Nicholas Money of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio has argued for a new philosophy of cellular consciousness and suggests that fungi have minds. When we explore the sensitivity of fungi and other microbes and recognise their ability to interpret and respond to their environment, it seems logical to extend the definition of consciousness to […]

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Biology

Understanding tomato plant metabolism for sustainable production

Historically, crops have been domesticated without limiting their access to nutrients or water. Since these varieties did not need efficient nutrient absorption and distribution mechanisms, they are poorly adapted to a sustainable agricultural system which limits the need for excess fertiliser. Drs Laura Carrillo and Joaquin Medina of the Centre of Biotechnology and Genomics (CBGP) in Madrid, Spain, investigated the […]

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Biology

Green cleaning of heavy metals in water

Many anthropogenic activities have resulted in pollution of water with heavy metals, and pose a huge health risk for humans and animals. Some plants, however, can extract and accumulate these metals from soil and water without any toxic effects. Plant flavonoids are compounds that have the chemical ability to bind to heavy metals. Recent work by Dr Robert Luckay and […]

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Biology

Blotches and spots: Understanding blemishes of faba bean

Over the last decade, grain legumes such as faba beans have been cultivated widely in the Nordic and Baltic countries. Faba bean is the world’s second-highest grain-yielding legume, yet the occurrence and spread of specific diseases of faba bean grown in Europe have not been studied in great detail. Dr Biruta Bankina and colleagues Dāvids Fridmanis, Gunita Bimšteine, Jānis Kaņeps, […]

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Biology

Rethinking the Tree of Life with new tools

Professor Sung-Hou Kim and his colleagues from the University of California, Berkeley, have applied a new way of thinking to the Tree of Life, a concept that has been around since Darwin’s time. Drawing from their collective expertise, they applied an Information Theory-based non-alignment method to compare whole-proteome sequences, the protein sequences coded by all genes of each organism. Their […]

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Biology

The Platform: A novel non-invasive fish monitoring method

Estuary environments are incredibly variable, both spatially and temporally, which can make fish monitoring using traditional sampling gear difficult. Dr Joseph Merz, of Cramer Fish Sciences, has developed a new non-invasive sampling gear for this purpose. The Single-Platform Aquatic Species and Habitat Sampling System (or The Platform) is able to monitor fish communities and their habitat interactions across various habitat […]

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Biology

Antibiotic resistance in enterobacteria from pigs

Antibiotic resistance is a global threat affecting humans, pets, livestock and plants. As antibiotic usage to prevent infections is commonplace in livestock farming, there is a significant pressure to adopt alternative farming practices. Dr Dominic Poulin-Laprade and her colleagues at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, investigated how antibiotic-free farming practices affected the presence of […]

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Biology

Protecting bottlenose dolphins from coastal construction

Professor Ann Weaver of Good-Natured Statistics Consulting, USA, has studied dolphins living free at sea for 20 years. Her numerous scientific discoveries about dolphin behaviour yield ample evidence of intelligence and of sophisticated social behaviour at sea. Drawing from many years of intensive studies in primates, she undertook an impressive 18-year ethological study of the social behaviour and impact of […]

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Biology

Moisture regulation in finger pad ridges can ensure optimal grip

The ridges on the pads of our fingers, and the fingerprints we produce, have several benefits, including identification purposes. However, this was not the evolutionary purpose of ridged skin on the finger pad, and it is more likely to have evolved to optimise grip and touch. Professor Gun-Sik Park, Seoul National University, has explored how the finger pad has its […]

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