Biology articlesMit solves gravity-defying bird beak mystery
As Charles Darwin showed nearly 150 years ago, bird beaks are exquisitely adapted to the birds' feeding strategy. A team of MIT mathematicians and engineers has now explained exactly how some shorebirds use their long, thin beaks to defy gravity and transport food into their mouths.
Small primate ancestors had a leg up
Smaller primates expend no more energy climbing than they do walking, Duke University researchers have found. This surprising discovery may explain the evolutionary edge that encouraged the tiny ancestors of modern humans, apes and monkeys to climb into the trees about 65 million years ago and stay there.
Computer game's high score could earn the Nobel prize in medicine
Gamers have devoted countless years of collective brainpower to rescuing princesses or protecting the planet against alien invasions. This week researchers at the University of Washington will try to harness those finely honed skills to make medical discoveries, perhaps even finding a cure for HIV.
Research shines spotlight on a key player in the dance of chromosomes
Cell division is essential to life, but the mechanism by which emerging daughter cells organize and divvy up their genetic endowments is little understood. In a new study, researchers at the University of Illinois and Columbia University report on how a key motor protein orchestrates chromosome movements at a critical stage of cell division.
Female concave-eared frogs draw mates with ultrasonic calls
Most female frogs don't call; most lack or have only rudimentary vocal cords. A typical female selects a mate from a chorus of males and then – silently – signals her beau. But the female concave-eared torrent frog, Odorrana tormota, has a more direct method of declaring her interest: She emits a high-pitched chirp that to the human ear sounds like that of a bird.
Human ageing gene found in flies
Scientists funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have found a fast and effective way to investigate important aspects of human ageing. Working at the University of Oxford and The Open University, Dr Lynne Cox and Dr Robert Saunders have discovered a gene in fruit flies that means flies can now be used to study the effects ageing has on DNA.
Researchers bring new meaning to the term 'computer bug'
US researchers have created 'living computers' by genetically altering bacteria. The findings of the research, published in BioMed Central's open access Journal of Biological Engineering, demonstrate that computing in living cells is feasible, opening the door to a number of applications including data storage and as a tool for manipulating genes for genetic engineering.
World first discovery -- genes from extinct tasmanian tiger function in a mouse
Researchers from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and the University of Texas, USA, have extracted genes from the extinct Tasmanian tiger (thylacine), inserted it into a mouse and observed a biological function - this is a world first for the use of the DNA of an extinct species to induce a functional response in another living organism.
Not living up to their name
In the first experiment to record the electrophysiology of sleep in a wild animal, three-toed sloths carrying miniature electroencephalogram recorders slept 9.63 hours per day - 6 hours less than captive sloths did, reports an international team of researchers working on the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute's Barro Colorado Island in Panama.
How can we measure the emotional states of animals?
Rats housed in standard conditions show a stronger response to the loss of an expected food reward than those housed in enriched conditions, perhaps indicating a more negative emotional state, according to new research by scientists at Bristol University Veterinary School, published in this week's issue of Royal Society Biology Letters.
Researcher finds El nino may have been key factor in Magellan's voyage across the Pacific
A new paper by North Carolina State University archaeologist Dr. Scott Fitzpatrick shows that Ferdinand Magellan's historic circumnavigation of the globe was likely influenced in large part by unusual weather conditions - including what we now know as El Niño - which eased his passage across the Pacific Ocean, but ultimately led him over a thousand miles from his intended destination.
Male seahorses are nature's mr. Mom
Male seahorses are nature's real-life Mr. Moms - they take fathering to a whole new level: Pregnancy.
Bacteria feed on earth's ocean-bottom crust
Seafloor bacteria on ocean-bottom rocks are more abundant and diverse than previously thought, appearing to "feed" on the planet's oceanic crust, according to results of a study reported in the journal Nature.
Rewriting Greenland's immigration history
Thirty-six-year-old Professor Eske Willerslev, University of Copenhagen, and his team of fossil DNA researchers have done it a couple of times before: rewritten world history. Most recently two months ago when he and his team discovered that the ancestors of the North American Indians were the first people to populate America, and that they came to the country more than 1,000 years earlier than originally assumed. And the evidence is, so to speak, quite tangible: DNA samples of fossilised human faeces found in deep caves in southern Oregon.
Did walking on 2 feet begin with a shuffle?
Somewhere in the murky past, between four and seven million years ago, a hungry common ancestor of today's primates, including humans, did something novel. While temporarily standing on its rear feet to reach a piece of fruit, this protohominid spotted another juicy morsel in a nearby shrub and began shuffling toward it instead of dropping on all fours, crawling to the shrub and standing again.
When plants think alike
Biologists have discovered that a fundamental building block in the cells of flowering plants evolved independently, yet almost identically, on a separate branch of the evolutionary tree--in an ancient plant group called lycophytes that originated at least 420 million years ago.
Possible new approach to purifying drinking water
A genetic tool used by medical researchers may also be used in a novel approach to remove harmful microbes and viruses from drinking water.
Memory in honeybees: what the right and left antenna tell the left and right brain
It is widely known that the right and left hemispheres of the brain perform different tasks. Lesions to the left hemisphere typically bring impairments in language production and comprehension, while lesions to the right hemisphere give rise to deficits in the visual-spatial perception, such as the inability to recognize familiar faces.
Simple membranes could have allowed nutrients to pass into primitive cells
When the first cells developed, how could they bring molecules from the environment into their living interior without the specialized structures found on the modern cell membrane? A research team from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has found that the sort of very simple membrane that may have been present on primitive cells can easily allow small molecules - including the building blocks of RNA and DNA - to pass through. Their report will appear in the journal Nature and is receiving early online release.
Cartilage regeneration '20,000 leagues under the sea'
Bioengineers at Rice University have discovered that intense pressure -- similar to what someone would experience more than a half-mile beneath the ocean's surface -- stimulates cartilage cells to grow new tissue with nearly all of the properties of natural cartilage. The new method, which requires no stem cells, may eventually provide relief for thousands of arthritis sufferers.