2021

DANNCE in Motion

3D deep neural network precisely reconstructs freely-behaving animal's movements

April 19, 2021

Animals are constantly moving and behaving in response to instructions from the brain. But while there are advanced techniques for measuring these instructions in terms of neural activity, there is a paucity of techniques for quantifying the behavior itself in freely moving animals. This inability to measure the key output of the brain limits our understanding of the nervous system and how it changes in disease.

A new study by researchers at Duke University and Harvard University introduces an automated tool that can readily capture behavior of freely behaving animals and...

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Leprich, et al., Bailey Geobiology Research Group, University of Minnesota

Deep-Sea Bacteria Release Excess Carbon into the Ocean and Atmosphere

April 12, 2021

Professor Peter Girguis teamed with researchers at University of Minnesota to examine collected samples of carbonate rocks from the Del Mar East methane seep. The study published in The ISME Journal: Multidisciplinary Journal of Microbial Ecology discovered that deep-sea bacteria are dissolving the rocks, releasing excess carbon into the ocean and atmosphere. 

“If CO2 is being released into the ocean, it’s also being released into the atmosphere, because they’re constantly...

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Modern crocodile by Rutpratheep Nilpechr

Rapid evolution made ancient crocodile species more diverse

March 23, 2021

Ancient crocodiles were more diverse than modern crocodiles due to rapid evolution. Modern crocodiles live in rivers, lakes and wetlands, but ancient crocodiles flourished on land and in the oceans. Some even adopted dolphin-like adaptations to living in oceans, while others lived on land as plant eaters.

Stephanie Pierce, Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, co-authored the study in ...

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Little Skate

Mathematical framework unravels the simplicity of early walking in ancient vertebrates

March 17, 2021

In 2018 researchers from New York University found that little skates, which scuttle along the sea floor on two leg-like fins, use the same motor neurons and genes that help humans and other land vertebrates walk. The study’s findings suggested the neural networks required for walking may have been present in the common ancestor of skates and mammals about 420 million years ago. But how these ancient ancestors walked remained a mystery.

Postdoctoral researcher Fabio Giardina,...

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Fern Leaf by Jacob Suissa

Ferns in the mountains

February 16, 2021

Earth is home to millions of known species of plants and animals, but by no means are they distributed evenly. For instance, rainforests cover less than 2 percent of Earth's total surface, yet they are home to 50 percent of Earth's species. Oceans account for 71 percent of Earth's total surface but contain only 15 percent of Earth's species. What drives this uneven distribution of species on Earth is a major question for scientists.

In a paper published February 16 in the Journal of...

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Can a fin become a limb?

Can a fin become a limb?

February 4, 2021

Fin-to-limb transition is an icon of key evolutionary transformations. Many studies focus on understanding the evolution of the simple fin into a complicated limb skeleton by examining the fossil record. In a paper published February 4 in Cell, researchers at Harvard and Boston Children's Hospital examined what's occurring at the genetic level to drive different patterns in the fin skeleton versus the limb skeleton.

Researchers, led by M. Brent Hawkins, a recent doctoral...

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Eumaeus atala by Nanfang Yu

Color is in the eye of the beholder

February 9, 2021

The colors in a flower patch appear completely different to a bear, a honeybee, a butterfly and humans. The ability to see these colors is generated by specific properties of opsins - light-sensitive proteins in the retina of our eyes. The number of opsins expressed and the molecular structure of the receptor proteins determines the colors we see.

In a paper published February 9 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences a team of researchers led by Harvard University develop...

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Pederpes Forelimb Reconstructed by Julia Molnar

Researchers reconstruct changes in forelimb function as vertebrates moved onto land

January 22, 2021

When tetrapods (four-limbed vertebrates) began to move from water to land roughly 390 million years ago it set in motion the rise of lizards, birds, mammals, and all land animals that exist today, including humans and some aquatic vertebrates such as whales and dolphins.

The earliest tetrapods originated from their fish ancestors in the Devonian period and are more than twice as old as the oldest dinosaur fossils. They resembled a cross between a giant salamander and a crocodile and were about 1-2 meters long, had gills, webbed feet and tail fins, and were still heavily tied...

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