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Whole three-banded panther worm with muscle glowing in green. Image courtesy of Lorenzo Ricci

Harvard scientists take the study of regeneration to the next level by making three-banded panther worms transgenic

November 9, 2021

Three-banded panther worms are an incredibly impressive marine animal. Known scientifically as the acoel worm named Hofstenia miamia, these tiny animals that grow to only 500 micrometers can perform one of the greatest feats in the animal world, whole-body regeneration.

Remove Hofstenia miamia’s tail and it will grow another. Remove its head and another one, including everything from a mouth to the brain, will grow in its place. Cut the worm in three separate pieces and within eight weeks there’ll be three fully formed worms. Their power of...

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Left side of the skull of the dicynodont Dolichuranus from Tanzania. Photo by K. Angielczyk

Fossil dental exams reveal how tusks first evolved and why they are unique only to mammals

October 27, 2021

Most people picture an elephant when imagining animals with tusks. But many other animals have tusks including warthogs, hippopotamuses, Arctic-dwelling walruses, and even a five-pound, guinea pig looking animal called hyraxes. Though the size of the animal and their tusks can vary they all have one unique thing in common in that they are only found on mammals – there are no known fish, reptiles, or birds with tusks. Despite being an iconic feature of modern and fossil mammals the mystery remains of what evolutionary steps led to the development of this dental phenomenon and why are...

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L.Mahadevan shape shifting material_PNAS

Shape-shifting materials with infinite possibilities

October 21, 2021

Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) led by L Mahadevan, the Lola England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and of Physics, have developed a shape-shifting material that can take and hold any possible shape. The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paves the way for a new type of multifunctional material that can be used in a range of applications, from...

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Cretapsara athanata: The first crab in amber from the dinosaur era.  CREDIT Xiao Jia (Longyin Amber Museum)

International team of researchers discover first dinosaur era crab fully preserved in amber

October 20, 2021

Fossils trapped in amber provide a unique snapshot of the anatomy, biology, and ecology of extinct organisms. The most common fossils found in amber, which is formed from resin exuded from tree bark, are land-dwelling animals, mainly insects. But on very rare occasions scientists discover amber housing an aquatic organism.

In a study published October 20 in Science Advances an international team of researchers describe the first crab from the Cretaceous dinosaur era preserved in amber. The study...

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Artistic reconstruction of Paradoryphoribius chronocaribbeus by Holly Sullivan

Researchers describe new tardigrade fossil found in 16 million year old Domincan amber

October 6, 2021

Tardigrades, also known as water bears, are a diverse group of charismatic microscopic invertebrates that are best known for their ability to survive extreme conditions. A famous example was a 2007 trip to space where tardigrades were exposed to the space vacuum and harmful ionizing solar radiation, and still managed to survive and reproduce after returning to Earth. Tardigrades are found in all the continents of the world and in different environments including marine, freshwater, and terrestrial.

Tardigrades have survived all five Phanerozoic Great Mass Extinction events,...

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Pomme by Kristina Servant

How apples get their shapes

October 5, 2021

L Mahadevan, the Lola England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and of Physics at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and a team of mathematicians and physicists have used observations, lab experiments, theory and computation to understand the growth and form of the cusp of an apple. 

The team collected apples at various growth stages from an orchard at Peterhouse College at University of Cambridge in the U.K. They then mapped the growth of the dimple, or cusp...

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