Posts tagged: Biology

Farm animals are more intelligent than they seem

- 0 Comments
Credit to Brian Squibb (35)

Following on from our post last month about research into the intelligence of goats, we asked one of the authors of the article, Elodie Briefer, to tell us more about why she studies goats and what is was like to carry out the research. Here’s what she had to say…

My main research interests are vocal communication and cognition. I carried out my PhD in the Bioacoustics team of Paris South University, on the song of skylarks. After my PhD, I moved to Queen Mary University of London to work with Alan McElligott on mother-offspring vocal recognition and vocal ontogeny in goats, and later on, on goat personality and emotions.

Expanding the breadth of research on cognition

After a few …

Read more

Donating normal breast tissue – a gift to cancer researchers

- 0 Comments
Susan Clare

In this guest post, Dr Susan Clare of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and co-author of a recent paper published in Breast Cancer Research, writes about the importance of research on the ‘normal’ breast and what’s needed to allow this research to take place.

Our limited understanding of the developmental biology and genetics of normal breast tissue is a barrier to progress in understanding the causes of breast cancer and to developing successful prevention strategies and improved treatments. This oft repeated refrain is found in the periodic reviews of the state of breast cancer research and dates back at least to the NCI’s Report of the Breast Cancer Progress Review Group (1997).

Tissues banks and other initiatives mean there

Read more

Guinea pig teenagers are highly domesticated

- 0 Comments
Guinea pig wikimedia

Unlike their human counterparts, adolescent guinea pigs  display highly domesticated behavior says a new paper published today in Frontiers in Zoology.  They have  reduced levels of cortisol (a hormone commonly associated with stress) and display less risk-taking behavior, in comparison with their wild relatives.

Domestication of animals has been key to the success of humans and our expansion across a broad range of environments. For example, it was in the harsh environment of the Andes that guinea pigs are thought to have been first domesticated as a food source to supplement protein-poor diets.

The process of domestication of animals can have strong effects on their behavior, physiology and morphology. These changes are a result …

Read more

Is cancer preventable? The role of diet and obesity

- 0 Comments
Applecells_2014_all-green_small1

Cancer is a metabolic disease. So asserts a growing body of evidence, supported by twin pillars. On one hand is strong data from population studies showing that those with metabolic disorders, such as obesity and diabetes, have altered risks of specific types of cancer. Elio Riboli, Director of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, lists the cancers associated with obesity in a revealing interview for BMC Biology: breast post-menopausal, colorectal, endometrium, kidney, adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and cardia, and prostate (tentatively).

The second line of evidence is the severe metabolic dysfunction within cancer cells. Familiar oncogenes such as c-myc, that are known to drive forward cancer growth, are now known to also reprogram cellular …

Read more

Santa Fe loves mobile DNA

- 0 Comments
Santa Fe village

The field of mobile DNA is currently a very exciting area of genetics and genomics research. It was once assumed that transposable elements were useless DNA sequences that incorporated into host genomes, forming ‘junk DNA’. In recent years, however, the significance of these genetic elements has been increasingly realized, with studies regularly being published hinting at the function of transposable elements in the host genome.

It seems that some of these suspected functions are damaging to the host, and others may even be beneficial; either way, the contribution of mobile elements to genome evolution is now a hugely interesting area, providing new insights into the evolutionary ‘arms race’ between organisms.

 

On March 9-14th, BioMed Central attended the Keystone meeting Mobile …

Read more

Goats, the boffins of the farmyard

- 0 Comments
Figure 2

Goats are well known for their high adaptability and ability to survive in inhospitable and food scarce  environments. It turns out that this behavioural flexibility has played a key role in the evolution of complex cognition in goats, which are much more intelligent than had previously been thought. Goats are able to quickly learn to solve complex tasks – at least when the reward is food related! – and even remember how to solve these tasks up to ten months later.

Researchers from the Queen Mary University London tested the intelligence of 12 goats living at Buttercup Sanctuary for Goats using a food box cognitive challenge (essentially a box containing food which the goats were trained to open …

Read more

Developments in Daphnia

- 0 Comments
Daphnia magna at various stages of development.

Recent headlines reporting contaminated floodwaters invading British towns and villages may have left you wondering what’s really lurking in these waters. If the floodwater is contaminated, as has been suggested, with bacteria such as E. coli, campylobacteria (a common cause of food poisoning) and norovirus in Surrey and the Somerset levels, what other microscopic entities could be being transported around the country by the extraordinarily high water levels?

One microscopic organism which is almost certainly present in the floodwater, but less of a threat to our health, is the water flea – the subject of a new paper published in EvoDevo this week. Water fleas are in fact not fleas at all, bearing little resemblance to their distant arthropod …

Read more

Announcing the winners of the 2013 Ming K Jeang Award for Excellence in Cell & Bioscience

- 0 Comments
cell_100x100

Congratulations to the winners of the annual Ming K Jeang Award for Excellence in Cell & Bioscience for 2013. The winning papers (below), have been chosen for their innovation, high-quality execution and lasting contribution to the biosciences. The winners are chosen by a committee of internationally renowned Cell & Bioscience Editors, chaired by Dr Chris Lau.

 

Monoubiquitination of EEA1 regulates endosome fusion and trafficking

Harish N Ramanathan, Guofeng Zhang, Yihong Ye

Cell & Bioscience 2013, 3:24 (23 May 2013)

Dr TC Wu, a judge on the selection panel for the award, has commented on the importance of this research:

“Early endosomal autoantigen 1 (EEA1) is an essential component of the endosomal fusion machinery. The current study demonstrates that EEA1 is subject to …

Read more

The world’s largest sequenced genome is just the start

- 0 Comments
World's Biggest Genome? An infographic

Today the genome of the loblolly pine was published in Genome Biology – the largest yet sequenced. This paper is mostly important because the authors made real improvements to the process that scientists use to sequence large and complex genomes like that of the loblolly pine. Because let’s face it, they’re not likely to hold the record for long. Genome sequencing technologies are moving fast and there are hundreds of sequencing initiatives going on.

So, a little defining of terms. Sequencing is when you work out the exact code of DNA bases A,C,G and T that make up a genome. But you can estimate the number of bases in a genome without knowing what they are, so we have lots of …

Read more

The agony of choice: conservation biology and choosing what to save

- 0 Comments
Image credit: Wikimedia

You’re a conservationist with a list of threatened species and a limited budget. What are you going to save? Pandas or polar bears? Corals or condors? Leopards or leatherbacks? You have little time to deliberate, and you need a rational basis for your decision.
 

Performing phylogenetic triage

How to advise those in the unenviable position of making these decisions was the focus of a meeting on ‘Phylogeny, extinction risks and conservation’ last week at the Royal Society, where the central issue was how to exercise this kind of “phylogenetic triage” in the face of inevitable biodiversity loss.

We need some way to choose which species will …

Read more