Alumni News

Sapria himalayana is found in Southeast Asia and its mottled red and white flower is about the size of a dinner plate. Courtesy Charles Davis

Genetic sequence for parasitic flowering plant Sapria

January 22, 2021

In a new study in Current Biology, a team of researchers led by Professor Charles Davis presented the most complete genome yet assembled of one of the major Rafflesiaceae lineages, Sapria himalayana

The genetic analysis revealed an astonishing degree of gene loss and surprising amounts of gene theft from its ancient and modern hosts. These findings bring unique perspectives into the number and kind of genes it takes to be an endoparasite (an organism that is completely dependent on its host for all nutrients), along with offering...

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Liming Cai

Liming Cai Receives Dorothy M. Skinner Award

November 20, 2020
Congratulations to Liming Cai, PhD ‘20 (Davis Lab) recipient of the Dorothy M. Skinner Award from the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology for her presentation, “Deeply altered genome architecture in the iconic endoparasitic flowering plant Rafflesiaceae”. The award recognizes women Ph.D. students and/or postdoctoral fellows who have demonstrated outstanding scholarship and show high potential for continued excellence in research.
Spring Cutting by Daniel Flynn

Predicting Shifts in Nature's Lifecycles

October 19, 2020

In nature, the timing of recurring annual lifecycle events affects many aspects of the ecosystem and ecology. In trees the timing of a leaf’s developing bud dictates the length of the growing season and carbon cycling, it mediates competition among plants and controls interactions with pests and pathogens.

The timing of spring buds developing in woody plants – trees, shrubs – is mainly controlled by environmental cues...

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JEB Cover Photo by Roy and Marie Battell

Mallard ducks' vertical takeoff requires different hindlimb kinematics and muscle function

September 10, 2020

Mallard ducks are capable of performing a wide range of behaviors including nearly vertical takeoffs from both land and water. The hindlimb plays a key role during takeoffs for both; however, the amount of force needed differs in fluid and solid environments. In a new paper in the Journal of Experimental Biology, recent graduate Kari Taylor-Burt (PhD '20) and Prof. Andrew Biewener hypothesize that hindlimb joint motion and muscle shortening are faster...

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Ballerini and Kramer_PNAS Cover Art

POPOVICH gene controlling development of nectar spurs in Aquilegia

August 26, 2020

The evolution of novel features - traits such as wings or eyes - helps organisms make the most use of their environment and promotes increased diversification among species. Understanding the underlying genetic and developmental mechanisms involved in the origin of these traits is of great interest to evolutionary biologists.

The flowering plant Aquilegia, a genus of 60-70 species found in temperate meadows, woodlands and mountain tops around the world, is known for a novel feature - the nectar spur, which is important for pollination, and for the ecology and...

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Shayla Salzman in field with zamia

An ancient push-pull pollination mechanism in cycads

June 12, 2020

Pollination is often a mutual relationship between flowering plants and insects. Understaning how these plants entice diverse insects to pollinate has major implications across evolutionary, ecological, organismal and conservation biology. One mechanism that can provide a window into ancient insect pollination, before the rise of flowering plants, are Cycads. Cycads are primary seed-producing plants and represent one of the oldest lineages of seed plants. These plants rely on insect pollination, yet do not display the colorful visuals that signals to pollinators, which is...

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Jerboa by Haydee Gutierrez

Unpredictability Boosts Survival For Bipedal Desert Rodents

September 5, 2017

Most animals with multiple gaits change at predictable speeds. However, the Jerboas, bipedal desert rodents that use three gaits, transition between these gaits at unpredictable speeds. Talia Moore (former graduate student in Biewener and Losos labs) and Andy Biewener looked at the unpredictability of the jerboas and the benefits for survival over their quadrupedal neighbors in a new study published in...

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Green Anole Lizard by Martin de Lusenet_Flikr

How Climate Change is Impacting Natural Selection

August 3, 2017

Shane Campbell-Stanton (PhD '15, Losos and Edwards Labs), offers a rare view of natural selection in the anole lizard due to extreme weather events in a study in Science. As a graduate student, Campbell-Stanton collected DNA in 2013 from lizards in Texas and Oklahoma. Following an unusually harsh winter in 2014, he returned to the field sites to collect new DNA samples. With the before and after samples, Campbell-Staton and...

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