Faculty News

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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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...

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Mansi Srivastava

Mansi Srivastava Recipient of Elizabeth D. Hay New Investigator Award

January 21, 2021
Congratulations to Mansi Srivastava recipient of the 2021 Society for Developmental Biology Elizabeth D. Hay New Investigator Award for her work developing the acoel worm, Hofstenia miamia as a model to study whole-body regeneration and uncovering its gene regulatory network. The award recognizes new investigators who have performed outstanding research in developmental biology during the early stages of their independent career. Read more about Mansi Srivastava Recipient of Elizabeth D. Hay New Investigator Award
Termite nest courtesy of Guy Theraulaz

Constructing termite turrets without a blueprint

January 19, 2021

PhD Candidate Alex Heyde (Mahadevan Lab) and Professor L. Mahadevan have developed a mathematical model to help explain how termites construct their intricate mounds.

The research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences built on previous studies in the Mahadevan lab on termite mound physiology and morphogenesis. Previous research showed that day-to-night temperature variations drive convective flow in the...

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CAPTURE Artist Interpretation

CAPTUREing Whole-Body 3D movements

December 18, 2020

In the last decade, Neuroscientists have made major advances in their quest to study the brain. They can assemble complete wiring diagrams and catalogue the brain's many cell types. They've developed electrode arrays for recording electrical activity in individual neurons and placed itty bitty microscopes on the heads of mice to visualize their brain activity. However, almost shockingly, there are no tools to precisely measure the brain's principal output -- behavior - in freely moving animals.

Animal behavior is important to a broad range of disciplines, from neuroscience and...

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Micrograph showing Rothia cells (light blue) in their native habitat, a bacterial biofilm scraped from the human tongue.  Photo credit: Jessica Mark Welch, Marine Biological Laboratory.

The Incredible, Variable Bacteria Living in Your Mouth

December 16, 2020

Bacteria often show very strong biogeography – some bacteria are abundant in specific locations while absent from others – leading to major questions when applying microbiology to therapeutics or probiotics: how did the bacteria get into the wrong place? How do we add the right bacteria into the right place when the biogeography has gotten ‘out of whack’? These questions, though, have one big obstacle, bacteria are so tiny and numerous with very diverse and complicated populations which creates major challenges to understanding which subgroups of bacteria live...

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Spectacled Tyrant, Hymenops perspicillatus. Brazil. Image courtesy of C. Albano

1300 species, 2400 genes, 21 museums, and 40 years

December 10, 2020

Tropical regions contain many of the world's species and scientists consider them hotspots due to their immense biological diversity. However, due to limited sampling our knowledge of tropical diversity remains incomplete, making it difficult for researchers to answer the fundamental questions of the mechanisms that drive and maintain diversity.

In a paper published December 10 in Science, an international team of scientists has produced the first complete,...

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Life Reconstruction. Original artwork created by scientific illustrator Davide Bonadonna.

Water-to-land transition in early tetrapods

November 25, 2020

The water-to-land transition is one of the most important and inspiring major transitions in vertebrate evolution. And the question of how and when tetrapods transitioned from water to land has long been a source of wonder and scientific debate.

Early ideas posited that drying-up-pools of water stranded fish on land and that being out of water provided the selective pressure to evolve more limb-like appendages to walk back to water. In the 1990s newly discovered specimens suggested that the first tetrapods retained many aquatic features, like gills and a tail fin, and that...

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