Of Sporks and Scorpions: Where Do Genes Come From? (Part 1)

Author: Bryan Moyers

Editors: Theresa Mau, Alex Taylor, and Kevin Boehnke

What exactly separates us from other animals?  For that matter, what makes any species or group of species special?  How is life so diverse?  How can cephalopods camouflage themselves so well, and how did platypuses become so bizarre?

Part of the answer is in genes.  Genes are sections of DNA that perform a specific function, usually after being translated into proteins by special cellular machinery.  Every species has genes that code for proteins, but different species have different numbers of genes. Humans have around 20,000, fruit flies have around 18,000, and the tiny water-flea has around 31,000 genes. Different sets of genes produce animals with different structures and functions.

Continue reading “Of Sporks and Scorpions: Where Do Genes Come From? (Part 1)”

It’s all in the family! The biology of inheritance, part 1

Author: Shweta Ramdas

Editors: Molly Kozminsky, Jimmy Brancho, Kevin Boehnke

 

Harry Potter has his mother’s eyes. From his father, James, he inherits his black hair, his ability to play Quidditch, and a certain predisposition to mischief. We are all unique combinations of our parents, receiving half our DNA from each. In the genetic lottery, our parents’ genes are scrambled and spliced to create a new individual who carries on the family’s long tradition of snoring into one’s sheets. But besides a rickety knee, shortness of stature, and preferred pizza toppings, what else can we blame on our parents?

Continue reading “It’s all in the family! The biology of inheritance, part 1”

Michigan Meeting 2016 Coverage

microbe mtgs

MiSciWriters is proud to partner with the UM Center for Microbial Systems to provide live coverage of the 2016 Michigan Meeting “Unseen Partners: Manipulating Microbial Communities that Support Life on Earth.” In lieu of our traditional Tuesday post, we will be live-blogging the event at the links below, and live-tweeting from @MiSciWriters during the following times:

  • Monday, May 16 9:00am-3:30pm, 7:00-8:30pm
  • Tuesday, May 17 9:00am-3:30pm, 7:00-8:30pm
  • Wednesday, May 18 9:00-12:00

We hope you’ll join in the conversation by commenting on the blog, or tweeting with the hashtag #MiMicrobe. Enjoy!

Update: Live blogging coverage is released as an event unfolds, placing the posts in reverse-chronological order. So if you want to read everything, start from the bottom of the page.

Monday, May 16 Coverage – https://misciwriters.com/portfolio/michigan-meeting-2016-monday/ 

Tuesday, May 17 Coverage – https://misciwriters.com/portfolio/michigan-meeting-2016-tuesday/

Wednesday, May 18 Coverage – https://misciwriters.com/portfolio/michigan-meeting-2016-wednesday/

Evolvability: The race against extinction

By Bryan Moyers

It’s easy to think that evolution only works over long periods of time.  As much as 4.1 billion years ago, life began on Earth.  Some 420 million years ago, animals found their way onto land. Around 65 million years ago, an asteroid wiped out most dinosaurs. Two million years ago, our genus, Homo, emerged.  It almost seems like evolution is a strictly theoretical field.  After all, evolution doesn’t affect things in our lifetime…  right?

Continue reading “Evolvability: The race against extinction”

Virus vs. Bacteria: Mortal combat

By Ada Hagan

Every predator is prey to something. The antelope falls to the lion, the lion falls to the human, and the human, to viruses and bacteria. Bacterial infection is one of the things we fear most. Infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria can conquer the strongest and smartest of us.  But… do the bacteria that live in and around us, that even prey on us, have a predator themselves?

Yes. They do. There is an enormous amount of variety in viruses and the types of cells they infect, so just as there are viruses that infect human cells, there are viruses called bacteriophages that prey on bacteria. Like other predators and their prey, bacteriophages and bacteria are locked in a bitter evolutionary arms race. Continue reading “Virus vs. Bacteria: Mortal combat”

Invasive species: An alien attack from out-of-place!

By Alisha John

BREAKING:Planet Earth is under attack by alien species from out-of-place. They may be lurking in your backyard right now. These invasive species take many forms – from plants to fish to mammals. But one thing is certain: they threaten the delicate balance of our native ecosystems.

Invasive species threaten native ecosystems and wildlife

As defined by Executive Order 13112 signed by President Clinton in 1999, an invasive species is an alien species which causes harm or is likely to cause harm to the environment, economy, or human health. Continue reading “Invasive species: An alien attack from out-of-place!”