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  • 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
  • News

    Gene found that controls beak size in Darwin’s finches

    Natural selection can sometimes work one gene at time, a new study of Darwin’s finches suggests.

    Variants of one gene had a major effect on rapid changes in beak size after a drought, researchers report in the April 22 Science. The finding may help explain how Darwin’s finches evolved into 18 species in an evolutionarily speedy 1 million to 2 million years.

    A drought that struck...

    04/21/2016 - 14:00 Molecular Evolution, Evolution
  • Science Ticker

    Malaria parasite doesn’t pass drug immunity to its offspring

    Malaria parasites may build up a genetic tolerance to an antimalarial drug, but they can’t spread that resistance to future generations, researchers report in the April 15 Science.

    Malaria parasites can develop mutations in the cytochrome b gene that make them resistant to a drug called atovaquone, an ingredient in the antimalarial medication Malarone. Those parasites can reproduce in...

    04/14/2016 - 14:00 Genetics, Animals, Molecular Evolution
  • News

    ‘Selfish’ DNA flouts rules of inheritance

    In the Star Wars movies, the droid R2D2 is a heroic rebel. In living animals, a selfish bit of DNA called R2d2 is an outright lawbreaker. It violates laws of both genetic inheritance and Darwinian evolution. R2d2 can sweep through mouse populations by mimicking helpful mutations while actually damaging fertility, researchers report online February 15 in Molecular Biology and Evolution.


    02/24/2016 - 08:00 Genetics, Molecular Evolution
  • News

    Gene tweak led to humans’ big toe

    Small tweaks of one gene may have helped humans to walk upright.

    Losing a genetic switch that increases production of a protein called GDF6 may have created the big toe and helped shape the human foot for bipedalism, scientists propose in a paper published online January 7 in Cell. “This change is one that makes all humans different from other animals,” says developmental geneticist...

    01/07/2016 - 12:00 Molecular Evolution, Human Evolution, Genetics
  • How Bizarre

    Roosters run afoul of genetic rules

    Researchers caught a rooster doing a hen’s job: passing on mitochondrial DNA to his chicks. Mitochondria, the energy-generating organelles inside cells, carry a circular chromosome containing genes needed to make the mitochondria and keep them running. The long-held rule was that these powerhouses of the cell are inherited only from the mother. But some birds in a 50-generation family of White...

    12/18/2015 - 07:00 Genetics, Molecular Evolution, Animals