Tag: Biology and Biochemistry

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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Stored in Synapses: How Scientists Completed a Map of the Roundworm’s Brain

The tiny, transparent roundworm known as Caenorhabditis elegans is roughly the size of a comma. Its entire body is made up of just about 1,000 cells. A third are brain cells, or neurons, that govern how the worm wriggles and when it searches for food — or abandons a meal to mate. It is one […]

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New Weapons Against Cancer: Millions of Bacteria Programmed to Kill

Scientists have used genetically reprogrammed bacteria to destroy tumors in mice. The innovative method one day may lead to cancer therapies that treat the disease more precisely, without the side effects of conventional drugs. The researchers already are scrambling to develop a commercial treatment, but success in mice does not guarantee that this strategy will […]

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The Vampire Birds of the Galápagos Have Fascinating Inner Lives

For half the year, a little brown bird on the northernmost islands of the Galápagos uses its wickedly sharp beak to pick at seeds, nectar and insects. But when the climate dries out, it drinks blood. Yes, there is such a thing as a vampire finch. Yes, it is what it sounds like. Galápagos finches […]

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Meet the Deep-Sea Dragonfish. Its Transparent Teeth Are Stronger Than a Piranha’s.

Unassuming dragonfish lurk in the twilight zone, more than 1,600 feet under the surface of the ocean. Dark, eel-like, and roughly three and a half inches long, these deep-sea creatures glow with bioluminescence and have evolved a complex sensory system that allows them to detect even the subtlest movements in the ocean’s shadowy realms, then […]

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Solving a Leafy Mathematical Mystery

Next time you go outside, take a minute to look at your local leaf arrangements. You’ll probably notice a few different patterns. In basil plants, each leaf is about 90 degrees — a quarter-turn — from the last, a template called “decussate.” A visualization of a decussate leaf pattern. The redder the coloring, the stronger […]

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The Shorebirds of Delaware Bay Are Going Hungry

REEDS BEACH, N.J. — On a recent spring day at this remote beach, hundreds of shorebirds flapped frantically beneath a net trapping them on the sand. Dozens of volunteers rushed to disentangle the birds and place them gently in covered crates. On a nearby sand dune, teams of scientists and volunteers attached metal leg bands, […]

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