Tag: Biology and Biochemistry

Can Biology Class Reduce Racism?

Please sign up here to have the Race/Related newsletter delivered weekly to your inbox. COLORADO SPRINGS — Biology textbooks used in American high schools do not go near the sensitive question of whether genetics can explain why African-Americans are overrepresented as football players and why a disproportionate number of American scientists are white or Asian. […]

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Is This the First Fossil of an Embryo?

A creature called Caveasphaera lived in China 609 million years ago, and it left behind fossils that resemble tiny grains of sand. But as innocuous as those fossils appear, they may speak volumes about our own evolutionary history. Under a microscope, the fossils turn out to be clusters of hundreds or thousands of cells. Were […]

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Scientists Created Fake Rhino Horn. But Should We Use It?

In Africa, 892 rhinos were poached for their horns in 2018, down from a high of 1,349 killed in 2015. The decline in deaths is encouraging, but conservationists agree that poaching still poses a dire threat to Africa’s rhino population, which hovers around 24,500 animals. Now, in the hopes of driving down the value of […]

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First the Worm Gets in the Bug’s Head. Then the Bug Drowns Itself.

A few years back, Ryan Herbison, then a graduate student in parasitology at the University of Otago, painstakingly collected about 1,300 earwigs and more than 2,500 sandhoppers from gardens and a beach in New Zealand. Then, he dissected and examined the insides of their heads. This macabre scavenger hunt was in search of worms that […]

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Scientists Are Just Beginning to Understand Mysterious DNA Circles Common in Cancer Cells

There’s no image in biology more iconic than our chromosomes — all 23 pairs of DNA bundles arrayed in a genetic lineup. But in a surprising number of cases, this picture leaves out something very important. In some cells, extra circles of DNA float alongside the regular chromosomes. Scientists first noticed this so-called extrachromosomal DNA […]

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Hibernation Works for Bears. Could It Work for Us, Too?

There are three major seasons in the life of a bear: the active season, beginning in May; a period of intense eating, in late September, and hibernation, from January into spring. Physiologically, the hibernation period is the strangest, and the most compelling, to researchers. When a bear hibernates, its metabolic rate and heart rate drop […]

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How Did Plants Conquer Land? These Humble Algae Hold Clues

If you’ve ever noticed a slimy film of algae on a rock, chances are you didn’t pay it much attention. But some of these overlooked species hold clues to one of the greatest mysteries of evolution, scientists have found: how plants arrived on land. On Thursday, researchers published the genomes of two algae that are […]

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Ultra-Black Is the New Black

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — On a laboratory bench at the National Institute of Standards and Technology was a square tray with two black disks inside, each about the width of the top of a Dixie cup. Both disks were undeniably black, yet they didn’t look quite the same. Solomon Woods, 49, a trim, dark-haired, soft-spoken physicist, […]

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Humans Shipped an Awful Cargo Across the Seas: Cancer

Humans have spread a contagious form of cancer around the world. Researchers reported on Tuesday that the cancer, which invades mussels, has spread across the Equator. Originating in one species in the Northern Hemisphere, the cancer has established itself in another species in the Southern Hemisphere. “There’s no natural explanation for how that happened without […]

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Growing Meat in a Lab That Doesn’t Look Like Mush

The alt-meat industry has created quite a sizzle, promising delicious burgers, steaks and even sushi that is grown from animal cells in the lab. But most cellular agriculture still looks like mush. The manufacturing process — which starts with animal muscle and fat grown from stem cells in petri dishes — is fine for making […]

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After This Fungus Turns Ants Into Zombies, Their Bodies Explode

Evolutionary biologists retrace the history of life in all its wondrous forms. Some search for the origin of our species. Others hunt for the origin of birds. On Thursday, a team of researchers reported an important new insight into the origin of zombies — in this case, ants zombified by a fungus. Here’s how it […]

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How the Butterfly Discovered Daylight

Once upon a time, perhaps some 300 million years ago, a tiny stream-dwelling insect akin to a caddis fly crawled from the water and began to live on mosses and other land plants. Although drab in appearance, the creature had a glorious future: It would become the ancestor of the 160,000 species of moths and […]

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These Butterflies Evolved to Eat Poison. How Could That Have Happened?

Monarch butterflies eat only milkweed, a poisonous plant that should kill them. The butterflies thrive on it, even storing milkweed toxins in their bodies as a defense against hungry birds. For decades, scientists have marveled at this adaptation. On Thursday, a team of researchers announced they had pinpointed the key evolutionary steps that led to […]

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Why Aren’t There Better Cancer Drugs? Scientists May Have Picked the Wrong Targets

Twenty years ago, the fight against cancer seemed as if it were about to take a dramatic turn. Traditionally, cancer doctors fought the disease with crude weapons, often simply poisoning fast-growing cells whether they were cancerous or healthy. But then a team of researchers hit on a new strategy: drugs targeting proteins produced by cancer […]

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How Does Antarctica’s Only Native Insect Survive Extreme Cold?

There are between five million and six million insect species worldwide, and scientists have described about one million of them. Of these, only one, the Antarctic midge, is able to survive at the bottom of the planet. Purplish, wriggly and the size of a pinkie fingernail clipping, Antarctic midge larvae live for nearly two years […]

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Organoids Are Not Brains. How Are They Making Brain Waves?

SAN DIEGO — Two hundred and fifty miles over Alysson Muotri’s head, a thousand tiny spheres of brain cells were sailing through space. The clusters, called brain organoids, had been grown a few weeks earlier in the biologist’s lab here at the University of California, San Diego. He and his colleagues altered human skin cells […]

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How Sharks Glow to Each Other Deep in the Ocean

Let us dive into the sea, beyond the colorful world of the sun. About 1,000 to 2,000 feet down, we’ll arrive at a place where only blue beams in sunlight can penetrate. This is the home of the swell shark and chain catshark. Look at them with your human, land-ready eyes, and all you’ll see […]

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Genome Study Reveals Clues to Komodo Dragon’s Unique Abilities

Komodo dragons are the largest lizards on the planet, with some adults measured at more than 350 pounds and longer than 10 feet. They detect their prey, including deer and water buffalo, from miles away with an exquisite sense of smell, and at close range, they race at terrifying speeds. Even a single bite can […]

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This Bread Recipe Starts With 4,000-Year-Old Yeast

In a modern oven in Pasadena, Calif., this week, yeast that could be as old as ancient Egypt was used to bake an especially aromatic loaf of sourdough bread. The baker, Seamus Blackley, was experimenting with yeast he had extracted from a 4,000-year-old Egyptian loaf. He was trying to make his own bread using the […]

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A Battle Is Raging in the Tree of Life

Poriferans, better known as sponges, are squishy, stationary and filled with holes. Ctenophores, also called comb jellies, are soft blobs wreathed by feathery cilia. For the past decade, the two groups have been caught up in a raging battle, at least in the pages of scientific journals. At stake is a noble place in evolutionary […]

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The Creepy Anglerfish Comes to Light. (Just Don’t Get Too Close.)

Few wonders of the sunless depths appear quite so ghoulish or improbable as anglerfish, creatures that dangle bioluminescent lures in front of needlelike teeth. They are fish that fish. Typically, the rod of flesh extending from the forehead glows at the tip. Anglerfish can wiggle the lure to better mimic living bait. Most species can […]

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Tree Stumps Are Dead, Right? This One Was Alive

In a rain forest near Auckland, New Zealand, a leafless kauri tree stump rises a few feet off the ground. These trees can become giants: The country’s biggest, Tāne Mahuta, or the “Lord of the Forest,” has grown 168 feet high, with a 115-foot canopy. But this stump is just a stump, so unassuming most […]

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