Postdoc News

Tree Canopy

New Study Finds Leaf Surface Water Contributes to Total Canopy Water Content

June 7, 2021

Water availability is essential to terrestrial plants, especially tall canopy trees. Satellite observations at microwave frequencies make it possible to assess total canopy water content and plant stress. However, leaf surface water -- water coming from dew, fog and rainfall -- is often overlooked when interpreting changes in canopy water content. An increasing body of evidence, though, indicates that plants might rely more than originally thought on these nonconventional water sources.

In a recent study in ...

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Image of Army Ants from "Nature's Ultimate Social Hunters" by Daniel J.C. Kronauer

How army ants' iconic mass raids evolved

May 25, 2021

Army ants form some of the largest insect societies on the planet. They are quite famous in popular culture, most notably from a terrifying scene in Indiana Jones. But they are also ecologically important. They live in very large colonies and consume large amounts of arthropods. And because they eat so much of the other animals around them, they are nomadic and must keep moving in order to not run out of food. Due to their nomadic nature and mass consumption of food, they have a huge impact on arthropod populations throughout tropical rainforests floors.

Their mass raids are...

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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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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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Thin section of a partial gorgonopsian canine under polarized light. Serrations are evident on the right side of this specimen. Courtesy of Megan Whitney

Researchers discover surprising connection between prehistoric dinosaurs and mammals in their teeth

December 15, 2020

When most people think of ferocious, blade-like teeth on prehistoric creatures they picture Smilodon, better known as the saber-toothed tiger. But in the world of dinosaurs, theropods are well known for having blade-like teeth with serrated cutting edges used for biting and ripping their prey. And until recently, the complex arrangement of tissues that gave rise to these terrifying teeth was considered unique to these meat-eating dinosaurs.

In a paper published December 16 in ...

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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 restoration of Lystrosaurus in a state of torpor by Crystal Shin

Evidence of hibernation-like state in Antarctic animal

August 27, 2020

Among the many winter survival strategies in the animal world, hibernation is one of the most common. With limited food and energy sources during winters - especially in areas close to or within polar regions - many animals hibernate to survive the cold, dark winters. Though much is known behaviorally on animal hibernation, it is difficult to study in fossils.

According to new research, this type of adaptation has a long history. In a paper published Aug. 27 in the journal Communications Biology...

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The animals sampled in the analysis. Colors indicates rates of evolution: warm colors high rates and cool colors low rates

Did Adaptive Radiations Shape Reptiles?

July 3, 2020

Some of the most fundamental questions in evolution remain unanswered, such as when and how extremely diverse groups of animals – for example reptiles – first evolved. For 75 years, adaptive radiations – the relatively fast evolution of many species from a single common ancestor – have been considered as the major cause of biological diversity, including the origins of major body plans (structural and developmental characteristics that identify a group of animals) and new lineages. However, past research examining these rapid rates of evolution was largely constrained by the methods...

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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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