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  • Science Ticker

    Root fungi make or break monarchs' chances against parasite

    Milkweed plant fungi call the shots in monarch butterflies' fight against the spores of a protozoan parasite, researchers report October 13 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

    The parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha infects monarchs (Danaus plexippus) as caterpillars, but chemicals from their milkweed diet help fight off the disease. Milkweed plants produce varying levels of these...

    10/14/2015 - 10:57 Animals, Plants, Fungi
  • News in Brief

    Where salamanders should be very afraid

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    A salamander-killing fungus hitchhiking via the international live-animal trade may prove especially disastrous if it invades three regions of North America.  

    Biologists haven’t reported the deadly fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, or Bsal, loose on the continent yet, say Tiffany Yap of UCLA and her colleagues in the July 31 Science. But North America’s...

    07/30/2015 - 14:27 Animals, Conservation, Fungi
  • News

    Microbes’ role in truffle scents not trifling

    Truffles, the homely fungal celebrities of the culinary world, have unseen help concocting their prized — and pricey — aromas.

    Microbes that inhabit the subterranean mushrooms probably produce key chemicals that make truffles smell like truffles, according to a new analysis appearing online July 17 in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

    Certain microbes may help brew the...

    07/27/2015 - 13:30 Fungi, Microbes
  • It's Alive

    A downy killer wages chemical warfare

    It may look sweet and fuzzy. But make no mistake. It’s a cold, calculated murderer.

    The assassin, a common fungus called Beauveria bassiana, slays with a vast arsenal of chemical weapons, leaving corpses in a fluffy white shroud (including the caterpillar above). And like any trained killer, it quickly moves on to the next victim. “If you’ve got six to eight legs, it is going to go after...

    07/13/2015 - 11:44 Fungi, Animals, Evolution
  • News

    Neandertal of ant farmers grows modern food

    A living relict of an ancient species of farmer ants has startled biologists by cultivating a fancy, modern food crop that didn’t arise until more than 30 million years after the ants themselves. The surprising discovery is providing a new look at how symbiotic species evolve.

    “It’s like a lost tribe of Neandertals growing a GMO crop,” says Ted Schultz of the Smithsonian Institution in...

    03/24/2015 - 14:15 Animals, Fungi, Evolution
  • News in Brief

    Gene study digs into partnership between fungi and plants

    Dig beneath a plant and you’ll probably find an army of fungi.

    Living amid plant roots, most of these mycorrhizal fungi get plant sugars in exchange for providing minerals harvested from soil. Long before the fungi engaged in trade with their plant hosts, though, their fungal ancestors primarily were decomposers, breaking down wood from dead trees. So how did this mutually beneficial...

    02/23/2015 - 17:07 Fungi, Genetics, Evolution
  • Scicurious

    'Tis the season for white-nose syndrome in bats

    For humans, it’s flu season. We should take care to wash our hands and cover our coughs. But we aren’t the only species with seasonal illnesses. Most mammals tend to be troubled by diseases in the spring, summer and fall, when they are active and spending time with other members of their species. Bats have surges in rabies during the summer, when new bats are born and populations increase. ...

    12/09/2014 - 14:30 Animals, Fungi
  • News

    Close look at new fungus reveals origins, spread of salamander killer

    A salamander-killing fungus first described in 2013 looks as if it originated in Asia and is hitchhiking around the world in the pet trade.

    The fungus, nicknamed Bs, for Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, came to the attention of science during baffling die-offs of rare fire salamanders in the Netherlands. Another Batrachochytrium fungus had ravaged amphibian populations in recent...

    10/31/2014 - 11:05 Conservation, Animals, Fungi
  • News

    For yeast life span, calorie restriction may be a wash

    Decades of research have shown that severely limiting calorie intake can lengthen an animal’s life span. But for yeast, consuming fewer calories doesn’t always mean a longer life, a new study suggests.

    The study uses a new technique that can keep track of thousands of yeast cells at once. Caloric restriction’s famed life extension disappeared in the high-volume experiment. But other...

    07/30/2014 - 15:15 Fungi, Cells, Physiology
  • News in Brief

    One lichen is actually 126 species and counting

    A kind of lichen that biologists thought they knew well has turned out to consist of at least 126 distinct species — and maybe more than 400 — lumped under a single name.

    Dictyonema glabratum isn’t some obscure, tiny organism, says Manuela Dal-Forno of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. The South American lichen species often grows in curly masses about the size of a fist. It can...

    06/30/2014 - 17:30 Evolution, Fungi, Microbes