Journal Club

Highlighting recently published papers selected by Academy members

Variation in a single gene increases plant yield in groups but not in pairs

Groups of diverse plant species often produce more seeds than monocultures. But whether plants ramp up yield in response to genetically distinct, direct neighbors, as opposed to a broader neighborhood of diverse plants, remains an open question in ecology. “It’s … 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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Judging others based on the rewards they receive correlates with political leanings

Which employee deserves the highest salary? Should a professor receive tenure? Did my spouse do their fair share of the household chores? These types of questions all require people to pass judgment on the effort expended by others. According to … Continue reading

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Rice gene could make “green revolution” plants greener by cutting back on fertilizer

The green revolution was launched, in large part, with rather squat plants. In the 1960s, farmers began using semidwarf varieties of wheat and rice that produced many grain-bearing branches known as tillers. When farmers added nitrogen fertilizer, the plants gained … 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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Genome of “mile-a-minute weed” hints at the secrets to its invasive success

The weedy vine Mikania micrantha, originally from Central and South America, has become a worldwide menace. Thus far, it’s spread to tropical climes in China and Southeast Asia, Australia, and islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, as well as … 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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Dopamine-making neurons, an ongoing mystery, play a bigger role in reinforcing learning than in initiating action

Deep in the midbrain, one type of neuron has two crucial jobs when it comes to acting while anticipating a reward—a state also known as Pavlovian conditioning. Called dopaminergic (DA) neurons, they can link a signal, such as a sound … 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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Models shift blame for Neanderthal extinction away from modern humans

Neanderthals vanished about 40,000 years ago, but the reasons for their demise remain shrouded in mystery and a source of debate among archaeologists. The timing coincides with the arrival of modern humans in Europe, which has led some researchers to … Continue reading

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