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Senesced fertile leaf from last year, alongside a new developing fertile leaf from the current year. The current year's developing fertile leaf will eventually senesce and look like the adjacent leaf from last year.

Humidity changes in dead fern fronds drives unique timing of spore dispersal in a widespread fern species

November 30, 2021

The sensitive fern – named due to its sensitivity to drought and frost – is a widespread species found throughout eastern North America and eastern Asia. It is a dimorphic plant because it has two distinct types of leaves – one for photosynthesis and one for reproduction. While most fern species in temperate regions produce and disperse their spores in the summer, the sensitive fern has an atypical timing of spore dispersal. In the early summer they produce heavily modified spore-bearing fronds (or leaves) with leaflets tightly enveloping their sporangia and spores. These fronds...

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Whole three-banded panther worm with muscle glowing in green. Image courtesy of Lorenzo Ricci

Harvard scientists take the study of regeneration to the next level by making three-banded panther worms transgenic

November 9, 2021

Three-banded panther worms are an incredibly impressive marine animal. Known scientifically as the acoel worm named Hofstenia miamia, these tiny animals that grow to only 500 micrometers can perform one of the greatest feats in the animal world, whole-body regeneration.

Remove Hofstenia miamia’s tail and it will grow another. Remove its head and another one, including everything from a mouth to the brain, will grow in its place. Cut the worm in three separate pieces and within eight weeks there’ll be three fully formed worms. Their power of...

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Left side of the skull of the dicynodont Dolichuranus from Tanzania. Photo by K. Angielczyk

Fossil dental exams reveal how tusks first evolved and why they are unique only to mammals

October 27, 2021

Most people picture an elephant when imagining animals with tusks. But many other animals have tusks including warthogs, hippopotamuses, Arctic-dwelling walruses, and even a five-pound, guinea pig looking animal called hyraxes. Though the size of the animal and their tusks can vary they all have one unique thing in common in that they are only found on mammals – there are no known fish, reptiles, or birds with tusks. Despite being an iconic feature of modern and fossil mammals the mystery remains of what evolutionary steps led to the development of this dental phenomenon and why are...

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L.Mahadevan shape shifting material_PNAS

Shape-shifting materials with infinite possibilities

October 21, 2021

Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) led by L Mahadevan, the Lola England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and of Physics, have developed a shape-shifting material that can take and hold any possible shape. The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paves the way for a new type of multifunctional material that can be used in a range of applications, from...

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