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Plant Diversity

Be nice to your plants, they might be sensing you

 Complex social behavior was considered to be unique in animals, especially humans.  Now with recent findings, we may need to extend this ability to plants.  The old wives tale, “if you talk to your plants, they will grow better” may actually have a string of truth to it.  Except they don’t have ears to hear, they have chemical sensors in their roots, like “tongues in the earth.” 

Recent studies have shown that plants seem to respond to other neighboring plants, and will alter their growth patterns accordingly.  At McMaster University, Ontario Canada, Susan Dudley and Amanda File have demonstrated that plants More >

Photograph courtesy of the USDA Forest Service via Wikimedia Commons.

How a Virus Creates Zombie Insects


Photograph courtesy of the USDA Forest Service via Wikimedia Commons.

Kelli Hoover and her research team from the Penn State have found out how a virus can change the behavior of a host organism. The result is destructive for the gypsy moth but excellent for the virus.

Gypsy moths are an invasive species. In its larval stage caterpillars damage roughly a million acres of forest in the U.S. each year by feeding on tree leaves. But the damage would be greater if it weren’t for a pathogen called baculovirus that infects these caterpillars and causes them effectively to engage in suicidal More >

travel genome_2

Traveling Genomes

Many individuals are concerned with the dietary components of foods they consume. However, scientists from Nanjing University in China have given us a different perspective as to what we eat, they have discovered fragments of genetic material known as microRNAs making their way from vegetables into the human bloodstream.” (Stanley 2011)

MicroRNAs are found abundantly in humans and regulate gene activity through repression mechanisms. But to find microRNAs from plants still thriving post digestion was quite surprising. Even more shocking it was identified that fragments of these plant genomes come with consequences. Scientists revealed one such microRNA molecule, called MIR168a—which is More >

Inside Cancer Homepage Feature

Evaluating our DNALC Inside Cancer website

Every multimedia developer is from time‐to‐time faced with the difficult question from a board member, critic or funding body: “This program is all very nice, but can you prove it actually helps students to learn?”

This year, we found the answer.

As part of my job as a producer at the DNA Learning Center, I evaluate our suite of resources, including websites, teacher training workshops and apps. We recently completed the evaluation of our cancer biology website, Inside Cancer, which included conducting experiments in 2010–11 to see if the site improves student learning in genetics and cancer biology.

There is increasing pressure on More >

C. elegans roundworm

Aging Eggs

C. elegans Roundworm

The aging process is, and always will be fascinating to us.  It’s role in an organism’s ability to reproduce is currently being studied in worms at Princeton University. The microscopic roundworm C. elegans lives for about 21 days.  For the first nine of these days, hundreds of eggs are fertilized producing an abundance of offspring!  After day nine, the many remaining eggs won’t be used, as their quality is poor and they cannot produce viable embryos.  A process similar to this takes place in humans.  Women experience a sharp decline in fertility in their late 30’s. In worms and in humans More >

Amazon River Dolphin

Farwell to Baiji, the Yangtze River Dolphin

A few years ago there were four species of dolphins living in freshwater ecosystems or estuaries in the world. Two of them are still distributed in South America – the Amazon River and the Plata River dolphins (Inia gophrensis and Pontoporia blainvillei, respectively) – and two lived in Asia – the Ganges and Indus River dolphin (Platanista gangetica), and the Yangtze River Dolphin, or Baiji (Lipotes vexillifer). These species were highly adapted to live in freshwater ecosystems with distinctive anatomical characteristics that differentiated them from their marine relatives, such as larger snouts (almost four times larger than the snout size of More >

The FDA uses DNA Barcoding in the Identification of Imported Fish

One job of the US Food and Drug Administration is to ensure that all imported seafood is safe to eat and properly labelled. Accurate seafood labels are necessary for the safety of all individuals who consume such products.  In 2007, toxic pufferfish were illegally imported into the United States and bypassed customary US inspection because it was mislabeled as “monkfish”.  Two individuals became seriously ill after ingesting the tetrodotoxin from the pufferfish they were cooking at home.

Not only is the mislabeling of fish considered a violation of Federal law, but it can also pose a serious public health risk. Simple More >