Alumni News

Hemidactylium scutatum larvae, lungless salamander native to eastern North America, by Zachary R. Lewis

Lungless salamanders develop lungs as embryos despite lung loss in adults for millions of years

August 17, 2022

Lungs are essential to many vertebrates including humans. However, four living amphibian clades have independently eliminated pulmonary respiration and lack lungs, breathing primarily through their wet skin. Little is known of the developmental basis of lung loss in these clades.

In a new study in Science Advances researchers in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology...

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Lichens by Monsieuricon on flickr.com

Marine Lichenized Fungi Bioindicators of Coastal Ocean Pollution

March 31, 2022

A new study in Rhodora examined the use of marine lichens to assess water pollution levels in the Boston Harbor. The study led by Liam F. Nokes, a former student at Arlington High School who was working in Donald H. Pfister's lab, suggests that marine lichens could prove useful as bioindicators of ocean pollution, and established a plan for a state fungus. Nokes' (now a student at Dartmouth) proposal is currently under review by...

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Jacks of Gold by Laszlo Ilyes on Flickr

Convergence of undulatory swimming movement across a diversity of fishes

December 7, 2021

Fish move not just by swimming but also by jumping, burrowing, walking, and flying. Many species though move by undulating their body and caudal fin (the tail fin that is used for propulsion). These body-caudal-fin (BCF) swimmers, as they are called, exert force against the surrounding water to support and move their body in an undulating motion. Traditionally, these fishes were classified based on key morphological traits and then grouped into four expected swimming modes based on four model species: eel, trout, mackerel, and tuna. But do all fish swim in certain ways based on this...

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Freshly deposited bowfin eggs attached to nest material. Male bowfin build nests in which females lay eggs. After the male fertilizes the eggs, it will remain with the nest to guard the young. Credit: Brent Hawkins

Bowfin genome reveals old dogfish can teach researchers new tricks

August 30, 2021

The fish species Amia calva goes by many names including bowfin, freshwater dogfish, grinnel, and mud pike. No matter what you call it, this species is an evolutionary enigma because it embodies a unique combination of ancestral and advanced fish features.

In a paper published August 30 in Nature Genetics an international and collaborative team of researchers, headed by Ingo Braasch and Andrew Thompson of...

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The carbonate chimneys at the Point Dume methane seep off southern California are covered with colorful microbial mats and permeated by methane-eating microbes. Courtesy of the Schmidt Ocean Institute

Microbes in Ocean Play Important Role in Moderating Earth’s Temperature

June 14, 2021

Methane is a strong greenhouse gas that plays a key role in Earth’s climate. Anytime we use natural gas, whether we light up our kitchen stove or barbeque, we are using methane.

Only three sources on Earth produce methane naturally: volcanoes, subsurface water-rock interactions, and microbes. Between these three sources, most is generated by microbes, which have deposited hundreds of gigatons of methane into the deep seafloor. At seafloor methane seeps, it percolates upwards toward the open ocean, and microbial communities consume the majority of this...

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Roe Deer courtesy of Nathan Ranc

Memory Drives the Foraging Behavior of Large Wild Mammals

April 13, 2021

A recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that the foraging decisions of roe deer are guided primarily by memory, and not sensory perception alone.

The cognitive processes underlying the foraging decisions of large mammals in nature are not well understood, in part because it has been difficult to disentangle the effects of sensory perception and memory on the animals’ movements. Nathan Ranc (Ph'D '...

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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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