The evolution of beer yeasts, seedy pants and vampire bat venom-turned medicine

Beer yeasts: Researchers at Lund University in Sweden tracked the history of two yeasts—Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Dekkera bruxellensis—used in alcohol fermentation to pinpoint their role in ethanol production. They found that, around 150 million years ago, competition with other microbes, and the overall increase in sugar-rich fruits, encouraged the yeasts to withstand high ethanol concentrations—an adaptation that would allow them...

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From the Community: shark science, reconciliation ecology and Biodiversity 100

An analysis of Shark Week, research on reconciliation ecology from ESA’s annual meeting, flowers that are genetically predisposed to adapting to climate change, endangered, purring titi monkey species found in Colombia  and the details on the antibiotic-resistant “superbug.” Here is the latest in ecological science from the second week in August. Shark science: August ushered in Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, and with it, an...

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From the Community: Giant monitor lizard, seafloor scavengers and fruit fly aerodynamics

Climate change prompts migratory birds to stay home, Simpsons’ writer talks conservation and the U.K. announces newest and largest MPA. Here’s what is happening in ecology from the second week in April. Fruit flies in flight: Scientists analyze the locomotion of fruit flies and determine the key to their quick turnaround is simply a 9 degree wing-tilt difference (see above). Read more at “High-Speed Video Shows How Flies Change...

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The phrenologist’s guide to ecological competence

Since Darwin, scientists have been theorizing as to why there is variation in brain size between species and individuals. Does a larger brain, in say humans, indicate advanced cognitive abilities and complex language processing? Or is a smaller brain, such as the Olive-backed thrush’s, adapted to weigh less to accommodate lengthy flights?   In psychology, the field of phrenology has generally been dissolved, and with it, the idea that...

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Large seeds take the advantage in stressful conditions

The coconut tree’s large seed is better adapted to drought and shade than smaller seeds. It is generally believed that, when competing for the same resources, large plant seeds beat out small seeds regardless of the growing conditions. But according to researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, large seeds actually have the advantage in stressful conditions—such as during a drought or in the shade—while small seeds...

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Sunbathing: good for your bones (if you’re a lizard)

Cold-blooded animals don’t produce their own heat, and thus they must sunbathe, basking in the sun’s rays to raise their body temperatures so they have eonugh energy to  go about their business. But for some ectotherms, the sun isn’t just a source of heat.  A new study shows that in the panther chameleon, native to Madagascar, basking behavior also controls production of essential vitamin D. In reptiles, vitamin D3...

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Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin

Today we mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of the most influential thinker in biology, Charles Darwin, renowned as the founder of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Publications worldwide have commemorated the day by publishing news articles on Darwin’s life and work and the current state of affairs in evolutionary theory.  Here’s a selection of impressive ones. Darwin Speaks, Scientific American. An...

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