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Updated: 9 min 41 sec ago

What have the insects done for us?

Mon, 12/16/2019 - 00:00
A review copy of Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson’s book Buzz, Sting, Bite: Why We Need Insects landed on my desk a mere month after the box tree moth Cydalima perspectalis landed in my garden. An invasive species to Europe, these moths lay their eggs under the leaves of unsuspecting box plants and the subsequent larvae indiscriminately devour the foliage of their host, leaving only a brown husk of the plant and a plethora of round green frass behind. Needless to say, after weeks of trying to salvage the garden plants, I was certainly in need of a reminder as to what these little blighters actually have to offer.

Susanne S. Renner

Mon, 12/16/2019 - 00:00
Interview with Susanne Renner, who studies plant–animal interactions and the reproductive biology of plants at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

Episodic memory in nonhuman animals?

Mon, 12/16/2019 - 00:00
Experimental psychologist Jonathan Crystal and evolutionary psychologist Thomas Suddendorf debate with nonhuman animals experience human-like episodic memory.


Mon, 12/16/2019 - 00:00
Chloe Fouilloux and colleagues introduce animal cannibalism.

No evidence for an S cone contribution to acute neuroendocrine and alerting responses to light

Mon, 12/16/2019 - 00:00
Spitschan et al. examine the role of the S cones in the neuroendocrine response (melatonin suppression) to light in the evening using spectrally tailored lights with minimal impact on the other photoreceptors in the human retina.

Historic reveals Anthropocene threat to a tropical urban fruit bat

Mon, 12/16/2019 - 00:00
Humans have brought about a global environmental crisis. Chattopadhyay et al. compared genomic profiles of historic samples, collected in 1931, with modern samples of a widespread fruit bat in Singapore. They detect a strong Anthropocene crash in genetic diversity, suggesting that modern threats extend even to seemingly unaffected species.

Tool Use: Two Mechanisms but One Experience

Mon, 12/16/2019 - 00:00
Humans localize touch on hand-held tools by interpreting the unique vibratory patterns elicited by impact to different parts of the tool. This perceptual strategy differs markedly from localizing touch on the skin. A new study shows that, nonetheless, touch location is probably processed similarly for skin and tool already early in somatosensory cortex.

Cellular Cognition: Sequential Logic in a Giant Protist

Mon, 12/16/2019 - 00:00
Quantitative analysis of the giant ciliate Stentor roeselii shows that a single cell can make decisions, based on the ability to switch between several different behaviors in a non-random order.

Evolution: How a Homeobox Gene Cuts the Mustard Leaf

Mon, 12/16/2019 - 00:00
Gene duplication and cis-regulatory divergence created the growth-repressing RCO homeobox gene and facilitated evolution of dissected crucifer leaves. Identification of RCO targets reveals that auto-repression evolved to fine-tune RCO activity and that RCO dissects leaves by increasing cytokinin signalling to inhibit growth locally.

Neuronal Cytoskeleton: Presynaptic Boutons as Hotspots for Activity-Dependent Microtubule Nucleation

Mon, 12/16/2019 - 00:00
Local microtubule remodeling plays a crucial role in controlling the transport of neuronal cargo. A new study reveals that excitatory en passant boutons in the axon are hotspots for activity-induced microtubule nucleation and provide tracks for interbouton vesicle trafficking.

Sleep: The Very Long Posited (VLPO) Synaptic Pathways of Arousal

Mon, 12/16/2019 - 00:00
Waking up requires excitation of the brain’s wake centers. A new study shows that synaptic inhibition of sleep centers also induces wakefulness. This inhibition, driven by lateral hypothalamic GABAergic neurons, may coordinate sleep–wake behavior with stress, motivation and energy balance.

Symbiosis Signaling: Solanaceae Symbiotic LCO Receptors Are Functional for Rhizobium Perception in Legumes

Mon, 12/16/2019 - 00:00
A new study shows that plant receptor genes necessary for the ancient and widespread symbiosis with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi were co-opted in legume plants, without modifications, to establish the evolutionarily more recent and more specific symbiosis with their bacterial rhizobium partners.

Neuroscience: Reevaluating the Role of Orbitofrontal Cortex

Mon, 12/16/2019 - 00:00
A new optogenetic lesion study shows that the orbitofrontal cortex is essential for integrating information about recent rewards — which may either increase or decrease demand for more — with learned preferences to drive behavior.

Mitochondria: A Microcosm of Darwinian Competition

Mon, 12/16/2019 - 00:00
Resource limitation underlies competition in the living world, even between intracellular populations of mitochondria. A new study shows that reducing the availability of an essential cellular resource, namely the enzyme that replicates mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), can alter the selective advantage of one mtDNA type over another.

Auditory Perception: A Rhythm Reflecting the Past

Mon, 12/16/2019 - 00:00
Previous research has demonstrated that auditory perception fluctuates rhythmically after a cue. New research shows that these ‘behavioural oscillations’ critically depend on expectations from preceding stimulation.

Microbial Ecology: How to Fight the Establishment

Mon, 12/16/2019 - 00:00
Creating microbial consortia capable of consistently producing desired qualities requires a detailed understanding of community interactions. A new paper demonstrates the role of historical contingency in Arabidopsis thaliana leaf-microbiome formation using an adaptable experimental approach, which could be applied to other host organisms.

Metabolism: A Burning Opioid Issue in Obesity Therapeutics

Mon, 12/16/2019 - 00:00
Food restriction triggers a lowering in body temperature. A new study now provides a mechanism for this process that relies on opioid signaling in the hypothalamus. These observations suggest potential new therapeutics for obesity.

Development of Wild and Cultivated Plants under Global Warming Conditions

Mon, 12/16/2019 - 00:00
Lippmann et al. review the effects of global warming on plant growth and development. They point out consequences of both mildly elevated ambient temperatures and severe heat stress for wild plants as well as crop production.

Cones Support Alignment to an Inconsistent World by Suppressing Mouse Circadian Responses to the Blue Colors Associated with Twilight

Mon, 12/16/2019 - 00:00
Changes in the spectral content of ambient light are detectable to most mammals as a blue shift in the color of twilight. Mouland et al. show that these “blue” colors suppress circadian responses to light, supporting robust circadian entrainment when environmental conditions render light intensity a weak or unreliable indicator of time of day.

Modifications during Early Plant Development Promote the Evolution of Nature’s Most Complex Woods

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 00:00
Woody vines have the most complex woods in nature as a result of the unique demand to twist without breaking. By integrating developmental anatomy and phylogenetic comparative methods, Chery et al. show that modifications during early stem development serve as the precursor in both the development and the evolution of novel woody forms.