Journal Club

Highlighting recently published papers selected by Academy members

Common features of domestic animals suggest caveats to evolutionary theory

White patches on fur coats, floppy ears, and curly tails are some of the traits frequently seen in domesticated animals. A group of researchers has now put forth a theory as to why these traits so often evolve in association … Continue reading

Categories: Agriculture | Developmental Biology | Evolution | Genetics | Journal Club | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

For choices involving uncertainty, the brain simplifies the math that drives our decisions

Every day, people make countless decisions, big and small: Should I buy that new house? Do I want chocolate or vanilla ice cream? A recent study suggests that when faced with uncertainty regarding a choice, how a person evaluates their … Continue reading

Categories: Animal Behavior | Evolution | Journal Club | Neuroscience | Psychological and Cognitive Sciences | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smarter birds speciate faster

Evolution favors brainier birds. The most crowded branches of the avian tree of life generally hold the most intelligent birds because larger-brained birds split into new species faster than smaller-brained ones, according to recent work published in Evolution. “Being smart … Continue reading

Categories: Evolution | Journal Club | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

New insights into how influenza evades human immunity

Some viruses can only infect people once—measles for example. But other viruses, notably influenza, are capable of infecting repeatedly. Scientists have long puzzled over how the flu virus evades human immunity. Recent work in eLife clarifies exactly how the virus … Continue reading

Categories: Immunology | Infectious disease | Journal Club | Medical Sciences | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Unlocking a mystery of seed development promises fatter, oilier oilseeds

The canola cooking oil lining supermarket shelves comes from the seeds of Brassica napus, a weedy-looking plant in the mustard family. Farmers of this crop understandably want varieties that yield big, oily seeds. A recent study in The Plant Cell … Continue reading

Categories: Agriculture | Genetics | Plant Biology | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pollen frozen in a glacier reveals the legacy of human impacts in the heart of the Inca Empire

The Illimani glacier sits between the urban sprawl of La Paz, Bolivia, on one side, and the roads and plantations of the Amazon basin on the other. It was no doubt a very different landscape some 550 years ago, when … Continue reading

Categories: Anthropology | Ecology | Journal Club | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sweeping study finds big landscape changes on the fringes of Europe’s protected areas

Quaint cobblestone towns and green pastures dot the Pyrenees Mountains, at the gates of Catalonia’s Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park. Hike a few miles into the park, though, and the Spanish landscape of trickling rivers and montane … Continue reading

Categories: Ecology | Environmental Sciences | Journal Club | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Nitrogen-fixing bacteria talk to soybean roots via tiny RNAs, suggesting new avenue to improve yields

In order for soybean plants to get their necessary dose of nitrogen, they partner with bacteria called rhizobia, which can convert atmospheric nitrogen into organic forms the plant can use. But scientists don’t have the full picture of what facilitates … Continue reading

Categories: Agriculture | Biochemistry | Genetics | Journal Club | Plant Biology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

By separating life stages, metamorphosis may circumvent harmful evolutionary tradeoffs

  There’s no guarantee evolution will bestow the best version of every trait. The benefits of one trait may impose a cost when an unfavorable trait, correlated genetically, comes along for the ride. In a recent study on wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) … Continue reading

Categories: Developmental Biology | Ecology | Evolution | Genetics | Journal Club | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Climate disasters fuel only a small boost in green energy investments

  In the wake of devastating floods in Germany in 2013, some affected householders recognized the connection between extreme weather and climate change and sought out green energy sources, according to analyses of insurance payouts and Internet searches conducted by … Continue reading

Categories: Climate science | Energy | Environmental Sciences | Journal Club | Sustainability Science | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment