It’s that time of year – Nobel Prize season! This year, the Chemistry Nobel prize was awarded to three scientists: one half to Frances Arnold “for the directed evolution of enzymes,” and the other half to George Smith and Sir Gregory Winter “for the phage display of peptides and antibodies.” What exactly are these award-winning technologies and how have they impacted society? ‘Directed evolution of … Continue reading The Chemistry Nobel: Evolving proteins into better medicines and biofuels
by Francesca Tomasi figures by Olivia Foster Rhoades Argonaut. Idéfix. Flamenco. These words invoke movement: the ancient Greek Argonauts were a band of adventurous sailors famous for their epic quests. Meanwhile, Idéfix is the name of an adventure-loving dog in the French Astérix comic book series. And finally, flamenco conjures images of vivacious dancers. You would think the similarities between Greek mythology, French comic books, and … Continue reading Transposons: Your DNA that’s on the go
Prior to the discovery of antibiotics, bacterial infections were the leading cause of death worldwide. Now, treating infections is often a routine procedure – simply requiring a doctor’s visit and a prescribed antibiotic. However, this simple routine has become marred by the emergence of antibiotic resistance. The misuse and overuse of antibiotics is fueling the rise of resistant bacteria. In response to antibiotic exposure, bacteria have evolved … Continue reading Expanding the Antibiotic Arsenal: A New Drug of Last Resort
Scientists may have found an explanation for why the first amphibious fish moved from water to land. On a small island in the South Pacific Ocean, four species of blennies spend half their time in water and half on land. To test whether predation could be driving the transition to land, researchers created blenny mimics and dispersed them throughout the blennies’ habitats. They found that the aquatic mimics were attacked at a much higher frequency than the terrestrial mimics were, making predation a viable cause for the water-to-land transition. Continue reading Scientists show predators could drive fish to colonize land
Antibiotics are powerful drugs used to treat bacterial infections. Recently, however, a growing number of bacterial infections have developed resistance to many commonly used antibiotics. In fact, the World Health Organization has pegged antibiotic resistance as one of the world’s biggest threats to global health! Bacteria acquire antibiotic resistance by changing in a way that reduces drug effectiveness. In a recent article, a research team … Continue reading New technology lets researchers visualize the evolution of antibiotic resistance
by Tauana Junqueira Cunha If we could travel back in time 540 million years, what would the first animals look like? This is one of the longstanding questions scientists aim to answer in the study of how animals evolved and became distinct from their unicellular relatives. To answer it, we need to know how modern animals are related to each other, what order they appeared … Continue reading Were the First Animals Sponge-Like?: Complexity in the animal tree of life
by Patty Rohs figures by Anna Maurer New technology is allowing scientists to investigate natural history museum specimens in ways that we never thought were possible. To the public eye, these museums may seem like an unchanging archive of life on earth. But behind the scenes, the very same institutions are centers for cutting-edge research. Curators, who are highly experienced in research and are often … Continue reading What’s hiding in the museum?
by Heather Landry Summary: The vast diversity in gene sequences are what create the large variety of plants and animals we see today. Genetic diversity is crucial for adapting to new environments, as more variation in genes leads to more individuals of a population having favorable traits to withstand harsh conditions. Low genetic diversity, on the other hand, can be very problematic during changing environments, … Continue reading Challenging Evolution: How GMOs Can Influence Genetic Diversity
Many animals have been known to take advantage of the Earth’s magnetic field, often for migration (sometimes even for more rudimentary functions). Until recently, little was known about how animals are able to sense this magnetic field. Researchers at University of Texas at Austin have discovered an internal structure in the brain of a worm, C. elegans, which allows it to orient itself to … Continue reading Navigating with an internal compass
Take a moment to consider the complexity of the human eye. Now, envision a single-celled organism that also contains this extremely complex and sophisticated organ. Far from imaginary, the warnowiid fits this exact description. Warnowiids are dinoflagellates, a type of single-celled organism known for their diversity and complexity. In a recent study, scientists utilized microscopy and several types of DNA analysis to understand the evolutionary … Continue reading How does a single-celled organism evolve an eye?