Strength in numbers: extra copies of the TP53 gene helps elephants fight cancer

Today’s story begins with Peto’s paradox – the observation that larger animals should have higher cancer incidence than smaller animals, but don’t (1).  Fundamentally, cancer is caused by DNA damage.  Large animals have many cells and usually also have long lifespans.  As a result, their numerous cells duplicate many times and are exposed to a … Continue reading Strength in numbers: extra copies of the TP53 gene helps elephants fight cancer

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I’m looking at the fish in the mirror: a tail of social signaling

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Just as we exploit social media to self-promote, find mates, and flaunt social status, animals use visual, olfactory, auditory, or mechanical displays to communicate with one another. Like a Facebook status, these displays often communicate some internal attribute about the organism. A well-known example of this type of signaling is the vibrant tail-feathers of the … Continue reading I’m looking at the fish in the mirror: a tail of social signaling

Tiny chompers: How a baby Cichlid behavior influences an adaptive trait

Think of a trait, any trait. A bird beak, a butterfly wing, a fish fin. Highly coordinated gene expression networks ultimately produce all traits. Hence, any variation you see in these traits must be due to shifts in gene expression, whether that shift is determined genetically or by some external cue. Evolutionary developmental biologists want … Continue reading Tiny chompers: How a baby Cichlid behavior influences an adaptive trait

Why the horned lizard has horns: More than a just-so story

Shrikes are basically nature’s version of Vlad the Impaler. While less gory birds feed on nuts and others peck at insects, shrikes impale their prey onto sharp spikes. Once the unfortunate animal is firmly attached and appropriately subdued, shrikes then tear their prey apart. The result is an array of dismantled corpses of lizards, small … Continue reading Why the horned lizard has horns: More than a just-so story

That’s Bananas!—How flowers get fancier

Frivolous as it may sound to us, making pretty flowers is serious business for a plant. Fancier flowers often mean more attention from pollinators and greater reproductive success, and the huge diversity of flowers around today shows that the evolution of new flower types has paid off. But how can plants afford to experiment with such an important developmental process? As Becky Povilus explains, they do and they don't.