Tag Archives: biology

Highlights from the Breakthrough Prize Symposium

Last week, as previously advertised, UC Berkeley hosted the Breakthrough Prize symposium, showcasing the research of winners present and previous of the award.  If you missed the symposium, all of the lectures are available on youtube. Symposium Highlights by Daniel Freeman Having not yet mastered the ability to place myself in superposition across the three
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Bdelloid Rotifers: Sex,Take 2

Isaac Newton, one of the most famous physicists to have ever existed, lived to be 84 years old and did so under a celibate promise. Imagine a lifetime without sex. Now imagine tens of millions of years without sex: meet the Bdelloid rotifers (Fig 1). These tiny, female-only metazoans (0.5 mm in length) are well-known for their asexuality and resilience toward desiccation and ionizing radiation. And while other animals like komodo dragons, stick-insects (Timema stick-insects have reproduced asexually for over 1 million generations!), and some sharks can asexually reproduce in response to the lack of viable males (in most cases), it’s incredibly rare to see an animal that reproduces asexually exclusively. Bdelloid (pronounced del●loi●d) rotifers are an “evolutionary scandal“, completely challenging the sexual reproduction dogma—that is, introducing genetic variation to allow species to adapt to their dynamic environments in addition to mitigating genetic degradation for the benefit of the population.

Not having sex isn’t what necessarily makes rotifers scandalous (bacteria don’t have sex and look at how well they’re doing), it’s that they’re complex multicellular organisms who have speciated to a degree similar to that of sexually reproducing organisms and who have done so asexually.
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Strange science from the deep sea: why the Barreleye is the coolest fish I’ve seen

As a neuroscientist, I spend my time thinking about the inner workings of the brain and what they mean for human life.  I often find myself carelessly losing sight of the amazing world that exists around me, with the assumption that what goes on in between our ears is more interesting than anything else.  Every now and then, I hear about a scientific discovery that snaps me back to reality, making me realize that this planet is a much more mysterious, unknown place than I give it credit for.  For a prime example of one of earth’s natural wonders, I present to you the Barreleye:

Now, I want you all to stop for a second and look at the picture above.  Notice anything strange?  That’s rightthe fish’s head is transparent.  And those two globular things inside: no, they’re not its brain, they’re actually the fish’s eyes.  While the creature’s existence has been known for a while, researchers were recently able to capture a Barreleye on video with some pretty sophisticated deep-sea exploration.
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Announcing Teresa Lee as winner of the Issue 23 Reader’s Choice Award

brainIntestineCommunication_VsimpleI am happy to announce the winner of our Fall 2012 Reader’s Choice Award – Teresa Lee for her outstanding feature “Manipulative Microbes”.  I had the pleasure of chatting with Teresa over coffee about zombie organisms, sensationalism, crazy cat men.  

SL: Thanks again for chatting with me and congratulations.

TL: Thank you! It’s my pleasure.

SL: So, one of my favorite things about “Manipulative Microbes” was that you draw in the reader with these gruesome examples of microbes leading higher organisms to their demise.  Did you set out to focus on these examples of “zombification”?

TL: Well, the impetus for the story came from a seminar I took with Mike Eisen.  I had read about these funguses that prey on ants and make them do crazy things, but in taking the course, I really began to understand how widespread this phenomenon is. So, I definitely wanted the story to include some bits about real-world zombies but I realized I could bring it back and be more personal to the readership.
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