Genetics

Climate Warming Driving Native Trout to Extinction, Study Says

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 25, 2014   View Article

Montana fly fishing guide and shop owner Jason Lanier hooks a feisty rainbow trout almost every day he hits the waters in the lower valley of the Flathead River system. From an angler’s perspective, the catch is a thrill. Rainbows put up a good fight, much better than the one offered by the state’s native westslope cutthroat trout.

“And cutthroats that have some rainbow genetics in them typically fight harder for sure,” the owner of the Bigfork Anglers Fly Shop told NBC News.

About 20 million rainbows were stocked in the river system that spans Montana and southern British Columbia, Canada, from the late 1800s to 1969. The fish can, and do, mate with cutthroats. This hybridization may drive the genetically pure natives to extinction, according to Clint Muhlfeld, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in West Glacier, Mont.

What’s more, climate change is accelerating the hybridization process, according to new research led by Muhlfeld. “This is the first example we are aware of that has shown how invasive hybridization has probably spread due to climate warming,” he told NBC News.

Genome of ancient-looking fish gives clues to first limbed landlubbers

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 17, 2013   View Article

The genome of the coelacanth, an ancient-looking lobed-finned fish, has been sequenced and is already providing insight to the evolutionary changes that allowed the first four-limbed animals, called tetrapods, to crawl out of the water and on to land.

The sequence and preliminary analysis, reported Thursday in the journal Nature by a team spanning 40 research institutions and 12 countries, is a “massive piece of work,” Xiaobo Xu, a paleontologist at Kean University who was not involved in the effort, told NBC News in an email.

Aye aye! Sequence genomes to save species

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 25, 2013   View Article

A study of nocturnal lemurs in Madagascar known for their smarts, beaver-like teeth, and long, thin middle fingers may point to the future of endangered species conservation: cheap and fast genome analyses.

Researchers obtained and compared complete genomes from three separate populations of aye ayes and found that one is more distinct from the others than are humans of African and European descent, suggesting that the population warrants greater conservation attention.

Inventor of plumbing on a chip wins $500,000 prize

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 4, 2012   View Article

Stephen Quake, a prolific inventor whose application of physics to biology has led to breakthroughs in drug discovery, genome analysis and personalized medicine, has won the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize, a prestigious award for outstanding innovators.

“A big part of physics is trying to figure out how to measure things,” Quake, who is a professor of bioengineering and applied physics at Stanford University, told me. “And so I get interested in a biological problem [and] figure out a way to measure it.”

Tiny Breathing Plant Mouths

Publication: HHMI Bulletin   Date: May 1, 2012   View Article

When Keiko Torii gazed through the microscope at a mutant Arabidopsis thaliana leaf covered in specialized cells called meristemoids, she saw more than a beautiful anatomic anomaly—she saw a new way to probe a fundamental system in developmental biology.

Meristemoids are stem-cell-like precursors that give rise to a pair of guard cells, which form stomata—tiny pores on the skin of almost all land plants that are crucial for the exchange of water vapor and gas during photosynthesis. Close study of meristemoids has largely eluded scientists because the cells, by nature, are transient and few and far between.

“When I looked at this,” Torii says, pointing to a poster-size image of the mutant leaf with a tightly packed honeycomb of DayGlo blue meristemoids hanging on her office wall at the University of Washington, “I thought maybe this could be an economical tool to study what makes a meristemoid a meristemoid.”

Australia’s hybrid shark reveals evolution in action

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: January 3, 2012   View Article

Hybrid sharks have been discovered swimming in the waters off Australia’s east coast. The finding may be driven by climate change, a research team says, suggesting such discoveries could be more common in the future.

The hybridization is between the Australian black tip shark which favors tropical waters and the larger, common black tip shark, which favors sub-tropical and temperate waters.

Yeast adds vitamins to bread

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: October 24, 2011   View Article

Bread loaded with beta-carotene, the stuff that makes carrots orange and helps prevent blindness, could improve the health of millions of people, thanks to a strain of genetically enhanced yeast developed by undergraduate students.

“It looks exactly like normal bread,” Arjun Khakhar, a junior biomedical engineering student at Johns Hopkins University, told me Monday. “There’s no orange color or anything because the yeast only makes up a very small part of the bread.”

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach