Journal Club

Highlighting recent, timely papers selected by Academy member labs

Category Archives: Evolution

A popular household fern may be the first known eusocial plant

Staghorn ferns are popular houseplants, sporting long, antler-like fronds that poke out from a brown, tissue-papery base. They may also be the first known example of a plant that exhibits a type of social organization—that is, the first plant thought … Continue reading

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Massive study suggests chimp populations mixed more recently than previously reported

A recent study in Communications Biology reports results from the largest such survey of chimpanzee genetics so far. It suggests that animals from the different groups have mixed more recently than many researchers in the field previously believed. The findings … Continue reading

Categories: Evolution | Genetics | Journal Club | Population Biology | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Study reveals evolutionary origins of fold-switching protein

Most proteins are thought to fold into a single active shape. But the human immune protein XCL1 is a rare breed that can switch back and forth between two different structures, each with its own function. A recent study in … Continue reading

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Smaller salamander species associated with smaller genomes

The world’s tiniest salamanders are so small that some body parts appear to get short shrift. Those in the genus Thorius, for example, have heads that are “mind bogglingly small, maybe half the size of a pencil eraser,” says herpetologist … Continue reading

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Model suggests how evolution shapes ecological networks among species

The natural world is filled with networks. Predator and prey, flower and pollinator—each interacting pair forms a link in a networked community of organisms. Now, a French research team has developed a model that explores how evolution may help shape … Continue reading

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Insects, not just wind, offer an ancient mechanism of orchid seed dispersal

On Yakushima Island, at the southern tip of Japan, an orchid employs a very unusual strategy to disperse its seeds. Crickets visit the orchid at night, eat its fruits, and defecate the seeds in the vicinity. The discovery, reported recently … Continue reading

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Seasonality shapes coevolution of parasites and hosts

Parasites and their hosts coevolve in an arms race influenced by environmental conditions. Seasonal change, for example, can shape the course of evolution, but precisely how has been something of a mystery. A recent study used lab experiments and mathematical … Continue reading

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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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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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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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