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Updated: 6 min 51 sec ago

Chemosensation: Hate Mosquitoes? Peel Beetroots!

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 00:00
Finding the right lure for trapping pest insects is difficult. The typical smell of rain and humid soil, geosmin, now turns out to be a strong attractant for the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti.

Evolution: The Two Faces of Plant-Eating Dinosaurs

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 00:00
Plant-eating dinosaurs evolved varied feeding strategies. A new study demonstrates convergent evolution of their skulls and teeth towards two distinct functional optima, one resembling advanced mammalian herbivory and the other echoing herbivory in birds and other reptiles.

Genetic Variation: Harmful Recessive Mutations Have Unexpected Effects on Variation

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 00:00
New data are causing the standard model for the effect of selection on linked neutral variation in low recombination regions, combining the effects of background selection and selective sweeps, to be refined to include harmful recessive mutations creating associative overdominance.

Sensory Processing: Visual Sensitivity Gets High at Night

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 00:00
Every day and night, the retina undergoes dramatic changes in its physiology and function. The prevailing view is that these daily changes affect the retinal output and thereby visual perception. Recent evidence suggests that modifications in higher-order processing centers, and not in retinal computations, account for variations in visual sensitivity.

Plant Seasonal Growth: How Perennial Plants Sense That Winter Is Coming

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 00:00
How do perennial plants adapt their growth to seasonal changes? A new study in the hybrid aspen reveals that, in short days, repression of a growth-promoting genetic pathway leads to upregulation of the BRANCHED1 genes, which in turn induce growth cessation.

Phagocytosis: Mechanosensing, Traction Forces, and a Molecular Clutch

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 00:00
The forces driving membrane protrusion during phagocytosis are poorly understood. A recent study describes how integrins in the phagocyte membrane provide a molecular clutch to enable the exertion of force by actin polymerizing at the leading edge of the pseudopods. These results explain the mechanosensitivity of phagocytic cells.

Naturalistic Behavior: The Zebrafish Larva Strikes Back

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 00:00
Two recent studies show that zebrafish larvae alternate between two behavioral modes: exploration and hunting. Both behaviors are structured on multiple time scales, and require the integration of internal and external cues to generate sequences of stereotyped swimming movements.

Infectious Diseases: Antiviral Wolbachia Limits Dengue in Malaysia

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 00:00
Vector-borne viral diseases pose an urgent public health challenge, particularly in the tropics. Field releases of mosquitoes carrying bacterial symbionts that reduce vector competence are ongoing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Early results show that wAlbB Wolbachia can persist in mosquitoes in urban settings and decrease dengue incidence in humans.

Paleoecology: The Functional Uniqueness of Ancient Megafauna

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 00:00
Reconstructing prehistoric animal communities is important for understanding the emergence of modern ecosystems and the environmental context of human evolution. A new study of African fossils spanning seven million years shows that ancient large-herbivore assemblages were functionally distinct from those that exist today.

Decision Making: How Is Information Represented in Orbitofrontal Cortex?

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 00:00
Classically, specific orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) neurons are thought to represent attributes of specific decision options. A new model proposes instead that OFC neurons represent whichever option is currently attended. A recent study, however, tests these two models and rules out the ‘current-focus-of-attention’ model.

What Is REM Sleep?

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 00:00
Blumberg et al. describe REM sleep during different times of development and across various species, arguing for a more biologically grounded developmental-comparative approach to understanding REM sleep and its components. They make the case that the diversity observed should be embraced and leveraged to better understand this sleep state.

Horizontally Transmitted Symbionts and Host Colonization of Ecological Niches

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 00:00
(Current Biology 23, 1713–1717; September 9, 2013)

DNA Replication Initiation Is Blocked by a Distant Chromosome–Membrane Attachment

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 00:00
(Current Biology 25, 2143–2149; August 17, 2015)

Gap Junction Coupling Shapes the Encoding of Light in the Developing Retina

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 00:00
(Current Biology 29, 4024–4035.e1–e5; December 2, 2019)

A Feedforward Circuit Regulates Action Selection of Pre-mating Courtship Behavior in Female Drosophila

Thu, 01/02/2020 - 00:00
Ishimoto and Kamikouchi report on a subclass of dopaminergic neurons that drive a feedforward circuit comprising cholinergic and GABAergic neurons that regulates the pre-mating behavior of virgin females in Drosophila. A glutamate/NMDAR and NO retrograde signal modulates the circuit function to abolish the rejection response toward the males’ attempts to copulate.

The Initiation of Meiotic Sex Chromosome Inactivation Sequesters DNA Damage Signaling from Autosomes in Mouse Spermatogenesis

Thu, 01/02/2020 - 00:00
Abe et al. demonstrate that tyrosine 142 of histone variant H2AX is required for the initiation of meiotic sex chromosome inactivation (MSCI). Based on new genetic evidence, the study proposes a novel biological function for MSCI: MSCI sequesters DNA damage signaling from autosomes to permit timely progression of male meiosis.

Changing Climate Drives Divergent and Nonlinear Shifts in Flowering Phenology across Elevations

Thu, 01/02/2020 - 00:00
Using 33 years of data, Rafferty et al. test whether flowering times have diverged for neighboring communities comprising 590 species across an elevational gradient. Divergent and nonlinear shifts in flowering time are related to elevation-specific changes in temperature and precipitation and will likely alter species interactions and gene flow.

Mechanotransduction-Dependent Control of Stereocilia Dimensions and Row Identity in Inner Hair Cells

Thu, 01/02/2020 - 00:00
Krey et al. show that actin cores of mouse cochlea stereocilia grow in stages that correlate with the acquisition of transduction. Blocking transduction using mouse mutants or channel blockers leads to altered stereocilia dimensions, and in both cases, proteins that specify the length of row 1 are distributed more broadly in the hair bundle.

Genomic and Fitness Consequences of Genetic Rescue in Wild Populations

Thu, 01/02/2020 - 00:00
Gene flow can limit adaptation but may also rescue small populations. Fitzpatrick et al. document genetic rescue in small populations of Trinidadian guppies. Wild pedigrees and mark-recapture data reveal high hybrid fitness and maintenance of putative adaptive alleles, suggesting assisted gene flow may be an effective conservation strategy.

Modulation of Flight Muscle Recruitment and Wing Rotation Enables Hummingbirds to Mitigate Aerial Roll Perturbations

Thu, 01/02/2020 - 00:00
Ravi et al. use a steady longitudinal vortex to determine how fliers counter roll perturbations. Hummingbirds combine bilateral differences in wing elevation and rotation with subtle changes in posture and neuromotor modulation for an elegantly simple yet efficient countering of an unnatural and challenging perturbation.

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