Journal Club

Highlighting recently published papers selected by Academy members

Author Archives: Amy McDermott

Snake venom evolved in fits and spurts

The cocktail of toxins in snake venom experienced constant change with pulses of rapid evolution over the last 60 million years, according to a recent study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Venom, the researchers report, has changed … Continue reading

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Trends in conservation funding track popular narratives about the illegal wildlife trade

Trends in conservation funding are changing, according to a recent study in World Development. “We see a shift toward funding conservation work that’s increasingly about combatting wildlife trafficking,” says coauthor Jared Margulies, a human-environment geographer at the University of Alabama … Continue reading

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Neurons in the hippocampus can make several different maps of the same environment

Nestled deep in the brain, the hippocampus is the seat of spatial cognition. Specialized hippocampal neurons fire in consistent patterns thought to construct mental maps that help us navigate the world—in general, researchers believed there was one map for every … Continue reading

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PREVIEW Inner Workings: Molecular biologists offer “wartime service” in the effort to test for COVID-19

*Editor’s Note: We’re providing a preview of this content due to the urgent and rapidly unfolding events surrounding the novel coronavirus pandemic. An updated version will appear in PNAS in the coming weeks. As COVID-19 spreads, communities across the United … Continue reading

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A combination of living and nonliving selective forces drive local adaptation across species

Both living and nonliving factors can interact to shape local adaptation, according to a recent study in The American Naturalist. The metaanalysis also entailed the use of a method, borrowed from the social and medical sciences, that identified common themes and research gaps … Continue reading

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Molecular evidence supports Darwin’s adaptationist view, informing the debate over what drives evolution

Myriad genetic differences distinguish the genomes of two species. What fraction of those differences arises by positive natural selection versus random genetic drift is a central question and topic of debate in evolutionary biology. A recent study in Nature Ecology … Continue reading

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Study uncovers new privacy worries for direct-to-consumer DNA testing

Genetic testing services let consumers analyze their DNA to learn about their heritage, their relatives, and their risk for certain heritable diseases. But access to such personal data hasn’t been without controversy, stoking privacy fears. A recent study in eLife … Continue reading

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For camouflaged animals, a quick dash is best to avoid detection

A hunting falcon flying over a field might not see a camouflaged rabbit hidden in the grass. But if that rabbit loses its nerve and runs, then the falcon will see its meal. Movement gives away even the best disguises. … Continue reading

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Cooperative defense against disease may have helped insects evolve complex societies

The lifestyles of insects, such as bees and wasps, range from simple solitary arrangements to more recently evolved, highly complex family social structures. One major factor that allowed social complexity to evolve may have been insects’ ability to defend their … Continue reading

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Mediating conflict helps community forestry schemes succeed

Empowering people to manage the forests near their homes is one tool of sustainable development. Widely known as “community forestry,” the notion originated in the 1970s with the dream of fair, equitable, and sustainable forest use. But achieving those aims … Continue reading

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Potentially key gene has big role in natural variation of chloroplast size

Worldwide populations of Arabidopsis thaliana all have the same genes, but they vary in many traits, including the size of their chloroplasts. A recent study in Plant Physiology identified one of the genes, FtsZ2-2, contributing to the natural variation in … Continue reading

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