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Cyanobacteria use their whole bodies as eyeballs

Round single cells may have been the first creatures to see Earth

HEY LOOK  The spherical bacteria Synechocystis (shown here in false color) can use their single-celled bodies almost like eyeballs. A light shining up from the bottom of this image passes through the cells and focuses on the far side (white arrows highlight examples of focused light). A laser light source in the center (red dot) helped test which way the cells move in reaction to bright spots of light. 

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After all those years of people looking into microscopes at bacteria, it turns out that some of the bacteria are (sort of) looking back.

Synechocystis bacteria focus light in a roughly eyeball-like process, says Conrad Mullineaux of Queen Mary University of London.  Light shining through their spherical cells focuses on the opposite side, where light-sensitive substances react, he and colleagues report February 9 in eLife

Biologists knew cyanobacteria move toward light, but this method of detecting it was a surprise. Human vision differentiates between two points about 1,000 times better than do the cyanobacteria, but Mullineaux calculates that the bacterial resolution should be enough for Synechocystis to pick out the outline of his head and shoulders bending over them. 

Robotics,, Animals

This roach-inspired robot can wiggle through tight spaces

By Sarah Schwartz 3:00pm, February 8, 2016
Cockroaches inspired a compressible, crevice-navigating robot.
Science & Society,, Genetics,, Cells

‘Three-parent babies’ are ethically permissible, U.S. panel says

By Tina Hesman Saey 12:07pm, February 3, 2016
A panel of experts concludes that clinical experiments that create “three-parent babies” are ethical, with limits.
Genetics,, Animals

Bedbug genome spills secrets of violence, weird sex

By Helen Thompson 1:30pm, February 2, 2016
Maps of bedbugs’ genetic material reveal clues to their success.

DNA may determine if you’re an early bird or night owl

By Sarah Schwartz 11:36am, February 2, 2016
Morning people are more likely to have certain variations in their DNA, but less likely to have insomnia or sleep apnea.
Genetics,, Science & Society

U.K. first to approve gene editing of human embryos for research

By Tina Hesman Saey 6:53pm, February 1, 2016
The United Kingdom is the first government to approve gene editing in human embryos for research purposes.
Health,, Human Development

WHO declares international emergency for cases linked to Zika virus

By Meghan Rosen 5:05pm, February 1, 2016
The recent spate of birth defects and neurological disorders linked to Zika virus infection constitutes an international public health emergency, the World Health Organization declared February 1.
Animals,, Fungi,, Conservation

Behavior, body size impact bats’ fight against white-nose syndrome

By Chris Samoray 2:31pm, January 29, 2016
Behavioral and physical traits buffer some bats against white-nose syndrome while leaving others vulnerable.

Skin color changes reveal octopus drama

By Helen Thompson 11:25am, January 29, 2016
Shallow-water octopuses use changes in skin color to communicate aggression to their peers, study suggests.
Technology,, Robotics

Machine trumps man in strategy game Go

By Meghan Rosen 1:00pm, January 27, 2016
For the first time, a computer has beat a professional human player in the strategy game Go.
Health,, Human Development,, Neuroscience

Monkeys with human gene show signs of autism

By Laura Sanders 11:00am, January 25, 2016
Genetically altered monkeys may help scientists understand autism.
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