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  • News

    Gene gives mice and chipmunks their pinstripes

    Chipmunks and other rodents’ light stripes are painted with a recycled brush, a new study suggests.

    A protein previously known to guide facial development was repurposed at least twice during evolution to create light-colored stripes on rodents, researchers report November 2 in Nature. The protein, called ALX3, could be an important regulator of stripes in other mammals, including cats...

    11/02/2016 - 14:00 Genetics, Molecular Evolution, Animals
  • News

    Tasmanian devils evolve resistance to contagious cancer

    A few Tasmanian devils have started a resistance movement against a contagious cancer that has depleted their numbers.

    Since devil facial tumor disease was first discovered in 1996, it has wiped out about 80 percent of the Tasmanian devil population. In some places, up to 95 percent of devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) have succumbed to facial tumors, spread when devils bite each other....

    08/30/2016 - 11:00 Cancer, Genetics, Molecular Evolution
  • News

    ‘Promiscuous’ enzymes can compensate for disabled genes

    WASHINGTON — When bacteria lose genes needed to make enzymes for important chemical reactions, defeat isn’t inevitable. Sometimes other enzymes will take on new roles to patch together a work-around chain of reactions that does the job, biologist Shelley Copley reported August 4 at the 2nd American Society for Microbiology Conference on Experimental Microbial Evolution.

    Bacteria that can...

    08/12/2016 - 12:03 Microbiology, Molecular Evolution, Cells
  • News

    Evolution of gut bacteria tracks splits in primate species

    Microbes may have played a role in making us, us. A new study shows similar patterns in the evolution of gut bacteria and the primates they live in, suggesting that germs and apes could have helped shaped one another.

    For at least 10 million years, bacteria have been handed down from the common ancestor of humans and African apes. As apes split into separate species, so did the microbes...

    07/21/2016 - 14:00 Genetics, Molecular Evolution
  • News in Brief

    Swapping analogous genes no problem among species

    ORLANDO, Fla. — Organisms as different as plants, bacteria, yeast and humans could hold genetic swap meets and come away with fully functional genes, new research suggests.

    Researchers have known for decades that organisms on all parts of the evolutionary tree have many of the same genes. “How many of these shared genes are truly functionally the same thing?” wondered Aashiq Kachroo, a...

    07/19/2016 - 16:12 Genetics, Molecular Evolution
  • News

    Seeing the upside in gene drives’ fatal flaw

    ORLANDO, FLA. — What some people view as a flaw in a new genetic-engineering tool might actually be a safety feature, a study suggests.

    CRISPR/Cas9 gene drives, as the new tools are called, are molecular cut-and-paste machines that can break regular rules of inheritance and get passed to more than 50 percent of offspring (SN: 12/12/15, p. 16). The rapid spread of engineered genes through...

    07/15/2016 - 16:28 Genetics, Molecular Evolution
  • News

    Jumping gene turned peppered moths the color of soot

    Peppered moths and copycat butterflies owe their wing color-changing abilities to a single gene, two independent studies suggest.

    A genetic tweak in a portion of the cortex gene that doesn’t make protein painted the speckled gray wings of peppered moths black, researchers report online June 1 in Nature. Genetic variants in DNA interspersed with and surrounding the cortex gene also help...

    06/01/2016 - 14:20 Molecular Evolution, Genetics, Animals
  • Feature

    Scientists dig up proteins from the past

    The influenza virus is a quick-change artist. In a few decades, its genome can evolve as much as animal genomes can over millions of years. That means that the viral proteins, including those that alert our bodies to an infection, constantly reinvent themselves, threatening our immune systems and frustrating vaccine developers.

    For Jesse Bloom, a biologist studying how evolution affects...

    06/01/2016 - 07:00 Molecular Evolution
  • News

    How the Galápagos cormorant got its tiny wings

    COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y. — Garbled signals from cellular antennas may have grounded the Galápagos cormorant.

    Galápagos cormorants (Phalacrocorax harrisi) are the only cormorant species with wings too small to lift the birds’ large bodies off the ground. Broken primary cilia —antennas that cells need to receive key developmental messages — left the cormorants with stunted wings, UCLA...

    05/17/2016 - 15:46 Molecular Evolution, Genetics, Animals
  • News

    Giraffe’s long neck linked to its genetic profile

    Giraffes’ genes tell a not-so-tall tale about growing necks to great lengths.

    Tweaks to genes important for development may account for both the giraffe’s stature and turbocharged cardiovascular system, researchers report May 17 in Nature Communications.

    Researchers compiled the genetic instruction book, or genome, for both the giraffe and the okapi, its short-necked closest living...

    05/17/2016 - 11:00 Molecular Evolution, Genetics