Boston University undergraduate Jessica Rogge and associate professor Karen Warkentin, working at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s laboratories in Gamboa, Panama, discovered that frog embryos at a very early developmental stage actively respond to oxygen levels in the egg–as reported in the Journal of Experimental Biology. These initial responses to the environment may be critical to the frogs’ long-term survival.
It sounds like a tale straight from “CSI”: The bully invades a home and does away with the victim, then is ultimately found out with the help of DNA evidence. Except in this instance the bully and the victim are two species of songbirds in northwest North America, and the DNA evidence shows conclusively that one species once occupied the range now dominated by the other.
The evolution of novel characteristics within organisms can be enhanced when environments change in a systematic manner, according to a new study by Weizmann Institute researchers.
Mark Twain, a skeptic of the idea of free will, argues in his essay “What Is Man?” that humans do not command their minds or the opinions they form. “You did not form that [opinion],” a speaker identified as “old man” says in the essay. “Your [mental] machinery did it for you–automatically and instantly, without reflection or the need of it.” Twain’s views get a boost this week from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and University of Chieti, Italy. In Nature Neuroscience, scientists report that a simple decision-making task does not involve the frontal lobes, where many of the higher aspects of human cognition, including self-awareness, are thought to originate. Instead, the regions that decide are the same brain regions that receive stimuli relevant to the decision and control the body’s response to it.
A new automotive safety systems built by European researchers will alert drivers to potential hazards by using information from the car, other road users and the roadside infrastructure to predict and prevent traffic accidents.
A study of populations of tiny water fleas is helping ecologists to understand population dynamics, which may lead to predictions about the ecological consequences of environmental change.
Cholera is a major killer and since the first pandemic in the early 19th century it has claimed millions of lives. According to Amit Lerner from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, the lethal infection is harboured by an equally infamous insect: chironomids (midges). Lerner explains that the females contaminate water sources with the deadly bacteria when laying their eggs.