Journal Club

Highlighting recently published papers selected by Academy members

Category Archives: Evolution

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

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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

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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

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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

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Journal Club: Protozoan predators help pinpoint how evolution and ecology shape predator-prey dynamics

A hungry lynx bounds after a scampering hare. Occasionally the lynx secures its catch. Often, it doesn’t. For ecology students, this back and forth battle is the textbook example of an ecological process driving predator–prey population dynamics. The predator population … Continue reading

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Journal Club: Sex ratios in glossy green sweat bees hint at the origins of cooperation in social insects

On Barro Colorado Island, in the middle of the Panama Canal, a population of metallic-green sweat bees is divided. Half the breeding females live socially, as queens reigning over one or two worker daughters in nests burrowed into twigs. The … Continue reading

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Journal Club: Butterflies get diversity boost from associations with ants, plants

Harvard University evolutionary biologist Naomi Pierce began studying Lycaenidae butterflies as a graduate student in the 1980s. But only recently has she accumulated enough data, from her team’s work and others’, to begin to address the question that has long … Continue reading

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Journal Club: Dogs can harbor evolving flu viruses, signaling potential future threat to humans

When scientists search for the origins of a novel influenza A outbreak, they often trace the virus back to birds or pigs. These animals act as reservoirs, hosts that allow diverse flu viruses to swap genome segments, evolving into new … Continue reading

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Journal Club: Older zebra finch fathers produce young with shorter lifespans

Scientists have long observed that the offspring of younger parents tend to live longer than the offspring of older parents in many animal species, including humans. But this phenomenon, dubbed the “Lansing effect” for the first scientist who described it, … Continue reading

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Journal Club: In the mouse gut, a bacteria-killing virus evolves to attack a new strain

In scientists’ quest to understand how gut microbes affect human health, bacteria take center stage. But bacteriophages, the viruses that attack the bacteria, are often overlooked, says microbiologist Luisa De Sordi of the Institut Pasteur in France. “We keep an … Continue reading

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