Bring on the Heat: The Evolution of Spiciness in Chilies

As someone who likes to play with fire in my cooking, I always have a hearty stock of chili peppers in my kitchen.  Depending on the dish, I’ll use anything from canned chipotles, ground cayenne, and paprika to fresh jalapeños and habaneros.  All peppers, hot and sweet, are cultivars of five species from the genus … Continue reading Bring on the Heat: The Evolution of Spiciness in Chilies

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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

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