Posts tagged: Biology

Top-predator control does not always initiate trophic cascades

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Dingo

Guest post by: Benjamin Allen, University of Queensland  &  Robert Wicks Pest Animal Research Centre, Biosecurity Queensland, Australia.

 

Trophic cascades are an ecological chain reaction, where changes to one organism flow through the food chain and indirectly influence many other organisms. The study of trophic cascades has become very popular in the last few decades. Ecological theory now predicts that where and when large carnivores, top-predators or apex predators (such as lions, wolves or sharks) are removed, smaller predator and herbivore populations increase, putting increased pressure on plants and animals further down the food chain. In short, top-predator removal = biodiversity decline. This has led to calls for cessation of top-predator control globally, which is often practiced …

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A new angiogenesis inhibitor targeting multiple tyrosine kinases offers new hope for treating tumors

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Cancercell

A guest blog from co-Editor-in-Chief of Vascular Cell, Jan Kitajewski, in which he discusses the potential of using the newly developed lenvatinib as an anti-angiogenic therapy in the treatment of thyroid cancer.

Blood vessels can be thought to function as do the roots of a tree, acting to nourish both near and far reaches of the living organism. Despite the amazing capacity of blood vessels to keep your tissues healthy, your blood vessels can be diverted toward more insidious purpose. Tumors attract and accept new blood vessels that they recruit from neighboring tissues. This process of tumor angiogenesis acts to assure that the growing tumor is nourished and provides a path for tumor cells to travel to distant sites.

Targeting …

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Was it really the barber? A look at Jack the Ripper’s DNA test

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jr

Jack the Ripper hit the headlines this week, as his supposed ‘true’ identity was revealed. It was said to be none other than Aaron Kosminski, a Polish immigrant and hairdresser of 23 years of age. It’s not a huge shock that the public has been in uproar: ‘Jack the Ripper’ trended on Twitter, news outlets are dishing out the details, and everyone is surprised the mask has finally been lifted 126 years later. But while the media world is blowing up, we’d do well to remember these are only claims.

 

Aaron Kosminski was a relatively young barber, only 23 years old. I’ve always imagined our famed murderer to be much older, but instead we’re faced with a suspect …

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A new impact factor, a model modeler, and how to make a syllabub

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Proto_Phylo_Variants_final_RGB

This year, the impact factor of BMC Biology has increased for the second year in succession, to reach 7.4. Although like (probably) most of you, we have serious reservations about the value and validity of impact factors as a measure of quality, we know how much they matter in practice to research biologists competing for jobs and funds; so it would be silly to say we don’t care about them. And it is especially important to acknowledge our debt to all the Editorial Board members, off-Board experts, and referees, without whose help we should not have been able to achieve this.

Our saddest news this year is the loss of Julian Lewis, one of the most thoughtful and sagacious of our …

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‘You might as well patent oxygen’ – an unashamedly unbalanced take on Australia’s support for gene patents

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/cdcoppola/2300365663

Last year, a rainbow coalition of civil liberties campaigners, cancer patients and eminent geneticists – heck, even Jim Watson! – argued before the US Supreme Court that gene sequences are a product of nature and therefore ineligible for patent protection.

And the Supreme Court replied, in all its refined wisdom:

'Well, duh!'

A nine-to-nothing unanimous decision.

A difference of opinion

But the US has long known that truths held to be 'self-evident' are not always in for a smooth ride, and so we perhaps should not be too surprised – if still perplexed and saddened – to learn that the Australian Federal Court, when faced with the same question, responded: 'um, maybe not'.

I do not pretend to understand what brand of logic could …

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A whole new world. How physiological anthropology helps study our modern lives

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Our environment has changed dramatically since our hunter-gatherer days, but how is this having an impact on our health? Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Physiological Anthropology, Akira Yasukouchi, explains how the study of physiological anthropology will help us understand our relationship with this new world in his latest guest blog. 

 

What is physiological anthropology?

Research in physiological anthropology focuses on the capacity for environmental adaptation seen in the physiological function of present-day humans. Areas of study include physical and cultural aspects related to living environments as factors that affect the capacity for environmental adaptation.

At the same time, researchers investigate the interactions of these factors with the genetic triggers that are the basis of human physical and functional resources.  All humankind …

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An update on the Earth Microbiome Project

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When BMC Biology launched its iconic image we acknowledged the extreme artistic licence of portraying selected vertebrate phyla pictorially while whole microbial kingdoms were denoted with a single blob. This was not intended to signify a lack of interest in the microbial world on our part, and to update our readers on a major effort to explore its taxonomic diversity and role in the biosphere, we invited the instigators of the Earth Microbiome Project (EMP), launched in 2010 with the aim of sampling the microbial diversity of the planet, to give us a progress report.

In their short comment article on the achievements and aspirations of the EMP, Jack Gilbert, Janet Jansson and Rob Knight deliver a positive …

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Twelve reasons you need to read about lactic acid bacteria

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Gouda

You may not know much about them, but you’ll almost certainly have eaten something that lactic acid bacteria have had a hand in. To mark a new supplement in Microbial Cell Factories, guest editor Eric Johansen tells us his 12 reasons why you ought to read it.

Lactic acid bacteria have a long history of use in the food industry where they are best known for turning milk into cheese or yoghurt, cabbage into sauerkraut or kimchi, and even improving the quality of wine. They’re also consumed in probiotic products for their health-promoting effects.

We’ve dedicated a whole supplement to these ‘friendly’ bacteria, and these are my 12 reasons why you need to read about them:

1. Their surface structure is

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Winners of the BMC Ecology Image Competition

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Editors' Pick - Laetitia Kernaleguen

As well as being an art form, photography is an important tool used by researchers to document their observations. Earlier this year, BMC Ecology launched its second image competition to showcase images of the natural world. Now we have the great pleasure of unveiling the winners.

“The best work often shows that new phenomena – sometimes startling, sometimes beautiful and sometimes both – are always there to be found with the keenest eye, the sharpest act of attention” explains Casper Henderson and his fellow judges.

Images hold scientific value through capturing fascinating interactions and ecological events, whether depicting an intimate encounter between a mother albatross and her chick, or capturing a Phorid fly trying to parasitise a Carpenter ant.

Our image …

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Climate-smart agriculture: scientists show agricultural progress in responding to climate change

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Diversified landscapes offer benefits to farmers by providing many cropping options for climate change. And agroforestry and reduced deforestation increase carbon storage and reduce greenhouse emissions. Research helps determine ways to build resilience in different agricultural contexts. Image courtesy of Louise E Jackson

There are over seven billion people living on our planet and this vast population creates an equally vast demand for food and fuel. In this guest post, the authors of an article published today in Agriculture and Food Security tell us how climate-smart agriculture could help us to combat the threat of climate change to these in-demand resources.

Climate change is already putting food security at risk. Rising temperatures and extreme events, such as sudden droughts and floods, mean that it will be even harder to meet the growing demand for food, fiber and fuel, especially for poor countries with high population growth.

Unless immediate action is taken by policy-makers, the impacts on livelihoods will increase over the long-run, especially if agriculture …

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