Tag Archives: evolutionary biology

Mimicry Maxima

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superb_lyrebird_98498

Edit: Found this old post collecting dust in my archives so I thought I would publish it despite being written 2 years ago since I haven’t updated this website for awhile.

The Great Ape Trust of Iowa are finding that primates have a more flexible audio repertoire than previously believed. On the other side of the world, Japan found a way to show that Bengal finches get excited over grammatical syntax. Yet neither of these have caused as much a stir in me as the Lyre Bird.

Sometimes the things you see on the Flintsones are not so far away from the truth!

Stay Dry, Gentlemen.

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Remember how we used to scotchgard our shoes? It turns out that Mother Nature has yet again upped us on this frontier with not only equipping the lotus leaf with the required hydrophobic residue but also increasing it’s surface area via microscopic bumps so that water droplets run off the surface much quicker. This superhydrophobic quality could be applied in our everyday lives, making cleaning a much easier process (I hope!)

“Scotchgard it with your life!”

Read more at the Guardian.

XNA, warrior genes

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dna

Wow! You can’t accuse the scientific world for having a slow news day with this kind of material.

Researchers at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, have not only produced synthetic genetic material by substituting the ribose sugar backbone with several other alternatives, but have also come up with enzymes to successfuly replicate them using normal DNA replication. These new genetic molecules are termed xenonucleic acids, or, XNA.

The advantage of having XNAs are that they are highly resistant to degradation as most enzymes cannot recognise the synthetic backbone. This trait gives XNA an advantage in the lab and may even translate to purposes which use DNA/RNA such as vaccines.

Read more here and here.

Protein:Protein Interaction an Indirect Result of Genetic Drift

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This caught my eye this morning:

Many random mutations in a gene, and thus in the protein made from it, lower the protein’s resistance to unfolding by exposing it to intruding water molecules. This loss of shape weakens the protein’s ability to function.

Such problems can be avoided if proteins stick loosely to one another so as to shelter the water-sensitive regions. Fern├índez and Lynch say that these associations between proteins–a key feature of the cell biology of eukaryotes–may therefore have started out as a passive response to genetic drift. Some of these protein-protein interactions turned out to have useful functions, such as sending molecular signals across cell membranes, and so were selected by evolution.

They also explain how an overly enthusiastic interaction leads to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons. Read more here.