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Biology versus plastic pollution

Current Biology Feed - Mon, 02/24/2020 - 00:00
There is an increase in materials being labelled ‘biodegradable’, but the label doesn’t guarantee they will disappear if left in the environment. Stringent testing of complete degradability in new materials and recently discovered microbial strains may be used to improve the situation. Genetic engineering of diatoms is also being investigated as a possible way to address the growing crisis of plastic pollution.

John McCutcheon

Current Biology Feed - Mon, 02/24/2020 - 00:00
Interview with John McCutcheon, who uses insects that host intracellular microorganisms as model systems to study symbiosis at the University of Montana.

The catch with global fisheries

Current Biology Feed - Mon, 02/24/2020 - 00:00
Humanity is perhaps only now realizing that we inhabit an ocean planet that is shaping — and being shaped by — every aspect of our lives. Yet many people may only experience the global ocean’s large footprint from the comfort of an airplane, admiring hours and hours of calming seascape below. In fact, this is where I find myself as I read Vanishing Fish by Daniel Pauly, one of the most widely known fisheries scientists of our time. Offering a very personal ‘30,000-foot view’ of our blue planet, this book exposes in detail the transformational effects of fisheries on the global ocean.

Melanin

Current Biology Feed - Mon, 02/24/2020 - 00:00
Melanins are a unique class of pigments found throughout the biosphere with a wide variety of functions, structures, and presentations. Cordero and Casadevall highlight the wide range of places melanins are found and the diverse functions they play in nature.

Utricularia

Current Biology Feed - Mon, 02/24/2020 - 00:00
Whitewoods introduces the plant genus Utricularia.

Epidermal structure and differentiation

Current Biology Feed - Mon, 02/24/2020 - 00:00
In this Primer, Moreci and Lechler follow the lifetime of an epidermal cell from its birth to its ultimate death, and detail how this journey is necessary for epidermal function.

Problems with inferring a lack of competition between Rancho La Brea dire wolves and sabertooth cats based on dental enamel

Current Biology Feed - Mon, 02/24/2020 - 00:00
Van Valkenburgh et al. challenge the conclusions of a recent study by DeSantis et al. that claimed that sabertooth cats and dire wolves did not compete for similar prey.

Reply to Van Valkenburgh et al.

Current Biology Feed - Mon, 02/24/2020 - 00:00
DeSantis et al. respond to the concerns raised by Van Valkenburgh et al. on their original study

Mangroves give cause for conservation optimism, for now

Current Biology Feed - Mon, 02/24/2020 - 00:00
Friess et al. discuss the results of conservation efforts for mangrove forests in recent years.

Gray whales strand more often on days with increased levels of atmospheric radio-frequency noise

Current Biology Feed - Mon, 02/24/2020 - 00:00
Evidence from live gray whale strandings suggests that their navigation may be disrupted by increased radio frequency noise generated by solar storms, suggesting the potential for magnetoreception in this species.

Ultra-gentle soft robotic fingers induce minimal transcriptomic response in a fragile marine animal

Current Biology Feed - Mon, 02/24/2020 - 00:00
Tessler et al. demonstrate that a ‘soft’ robot causes less stress to a jellyfish while handling compared to a traditional ‘hard’ robot.

Insect Neurobiology: Divergent Neural Computations in Predatory Insects

Current Biology Feed - Mon, 02/24/2020 - 00:00
A comparative approach to neuroscience can greatly increase our understanding of how mechanisms map onto behaviour. A new study comparing two predatory insects demonstrates how neurons that are homologous can nonetheless mediate different computations and behaviour.

Evolution: Heterochromatin Diversity in Early-Branching Land Plants

Current Biology Feed - Mon, 02/24/2020 - 00:00
Chromatin profiling of a liverwort genome reveals an epigenomic landscape where the major mark of developmental silencing in later-branching land plants and in animals also targets subsets of transposons in this early-branching land plant lineage.

Plant Biomechanics: No Pain, No Gain for Birch Tree Stems

Current Biology Feed - Mon, 02/24/2020 - 00:00
Allometric relationships between organism size and shape are often described in developmental or evolutionary terms. A new study characterizes a collapsing birch tree mutant and provides a genetic entry point into the biomechanical control of tree allometry.

Insect Vision: Novel Mechanism for Contrast Constancy in Dim Light

Current Biology Feed - Mon, 02/24/2020 - 00:00
A general problem of sensory systems is how to simultaneously encode prevailing input as well as deviations from this baseline. A new study shows how the fly visual system has solved this by using parallel processing.

Cell Extrusion: Crowd Pushing and Sticky Neighbours

Current Biology Feed - Mon, 02/24/2020 - 00:00
Cell extrusion is a highly coordinated process allowing the removal of an epithelial cell from the tissue layer without disrupting its integrity. Two new studies shed new light on the complexity of cell–cell coordination at play during cell extrusion.

Neurobiology: Swimming at the Intersection of Light and Gravity

Current Biology Feed - Mon, 02/24/2020 - 00:00
Many animals use gravity as a spatial reference to help navigate their surroundings, but how they do so is not well understood. A new study reveals that a representative of our closest invertebrate relatives, the tunicate Ciona, processes light and gravity cues through a simple neural circuit to decide when and how to swim.

Chromosome Segregation: Evolving a Plastic Chromosome–Microtubule Interface

Current Biology Feed - Mon, 02/24/2020 - 00:00
Despite a conserved requirement in mediating chromosome segregation, kinetochores display remarkable plasticity in their structure and composition. New work in holocentric insect species highlights the molecular rewiring that occurs when key structural components of the kinetochore are lost and centromere structure is changed.

Evolution: Two Domains of Life or Three?

Current Biology Feed - Mon, 02/24/2020 - 00:00
That Bacteria, Archaea and Eukarya (eukaryotes) represent three separate domains of Life, no one having evolved from within any other, has been taken as fact for three decades. Recent work shows this to be untrue. Eukarya arose from well within Archaea and are specifically related to newly discovered archaeal species with eukaryote-like features.

Life History Variation as a Model for Understanding Trade-Offs in Plant–Environment Interactions

Current Biology Feed - Mon, 02/24/2020 - 00:00
Lundgren and Des Marais review the tradeoffs for different life history strategies in plants, and discuss how consideration of annuality and perreniality as syndromes can be applied to crop breeding strategies.

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