Botany: A stem’s ‘sense of self’ contributes to shape

It is well known that as plants grow, their stems and shoots respond to outside signals like light and gravity. But if plants all have similar stimuli, why are there so many different plant shapes? Using simple mathematical ideas, researchers have constructed a framework that explains and quantifies the different shapes of plant stems.

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Designer proteins fold DNA: Biophysicists construct complex hybrid structures using DNA and proteins

Scientists have developed a new method that can be used to construct custom hybrid structures using DNA and proteins. The method opens new opportunities for fundamental research in cell biology and for applications in biotechnology and medicine. …

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Scientists reveal hidden structures in bacterial DNA

Researchers have described the 3D structure of the genome in the extremely small bacteria Mycoplasma pneumoniae. They discovered previously unknown arrangements of DNA within this tiny bacteria, which are also found in larger cells. Their findings suggest that this type of organization is a universal feature of living cells. …

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Giant salamanders, geckos and olms: Vanishing species diversity in Siberia

Scientists have studied the development of the amphibian and reptile fauna in Western Siberia during the past twelve million years. In their study, they demonstrate that the species diversity of both groups of animals was noticeably higher in the past than it is today. Among others, for the first time the researchers discovered an Asiatic representative of the extinct frog family Palaeobatrachidae as well as evidence of a giant salamander with a length of up to 1.80 meters. …

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Biologists find surprising variability in courtship behaviors of wolf spiders

Studies of wolf spiders found that courtship displays help preserve genetic isolation between closely related species. Another study found that the species Gladicosa bellamyi used multi-modal communication to entice females. …

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‘Spectacular-looking’ endangered frog species discovered in Ecuador’s cloud forests

It’s not every day someone gets to say, ‘I’ve discovered a new species.’ It’s a claim that biologist Chris Funk can happily make. Funk and collaborators, who’ve spent years exploring the tropical climes of South America to study the region’s dizzying biodiversity, have documented a new species of rainfrog they’ve named the Ecuadorian rainfrog (Pristimantis ecuadorensis). …

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New study shakes the roots of the dinosaur family tree

More than a century of theory about the evolutionary history of dinosaurs has been turned on its head following the publication of new research. The work suggests that the family groupings need to be rearranged, redefined and renamed and also that dinosaurs may have originated in the northern hemisphere rather than the southern, as current thinking goes. …

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Machine learning lets scientists reverse-engineer cellular control networks

Researchers have used machine learning on the Stampede supercomputer to model the cellular control network that determines how tadpoles develop. Using that model, they reverse-engineered a drug intervention that created tadpoles with a form of mixed pigmentation never before seen in nature. They plan to use the method for cancer therapies and regenerative medicine. …

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