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Little Skate

Mathematical framework unravels the simplicity of early walking in ancient vertebrates

March 17, 2021

In 2018 researchers from New York University found that little skates, which scuttle along the sea floor on two leg-like fins, use the same motor neurons and genes that help humans and other land vertebrates walk. The study’s findings suggested the neural networks required for walking may have been present in the common ancestor of skates and mammals about 420 million years ago. But how these ancient ancestors walked remained a mystery.

Postdoctoral researcher Fabio Giardina,...

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Fern Leaf by Jacob Suissa

Ferns in the mountains

February 16, 2021

Earth is home to millions of known species of plants and animals, but by no means are they distributed evenly. For instance, rainforests cover less than 2 percent of Earth's total surface, yet they are home to 50 percent of Earth's species. Oceans account for 71 percent of Earth's total surface but contain only 15 percent of Earth's species. What drives this uneven distribution of species on Earth is a major question for scientists.

In a paper published February 16 in the Journal of...

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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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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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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