Ore. Wildlife Biologists Testing Deer, Elk for Fatal Disease

U.S. News

No cases have been reported in Oregon, but wildlife biologist Greg Jackle tells The Bulletin newspaper that the department isn't taking chances. Chronic wasting disease is not treatable, and is always fatal for deer and elk.

Marine biologist claps back at that Facebook user's hilarious sunfish rant


You must have seen it by now, but just in case -- a Facebook status from Cincinnati resident Scout Burns, listing all the reasons why they hate the mola mola a.k.a ocean sunfish, has gone super-viral, and with good reason. It's a hilarious take down of the species called "the biggest joke played on earth," and included gems like "They are so completely useless that scientists even debate about how they move," and "They mostly only eat jellyfish ... something that has no brain and a possibility of drifting into their mouths." But after earning over 76,000 shares on Facebook, a helpful marine biologist has come along to burst the bubble of ocean sunfish hate, with some real science talk. And just when Facebook was having such a good time, hating on sunfish too. Then this helpful killjoy, with his marine biologist friend comes along...

How computers help biologists crack life's secrets


Once the three-billion-letter-long human genome was sequenced, we rushed into a new "omics" era of biological research. Scientists are now racing to sequence the genomes (all the genes) or proteomes (all the proteins) of various organisms – and in the process are compiling massive amounts of data. For instance, a scientist can use "omics" tools such as DNA sequencing to tease out which human genes are affected in a viral flu infection. But because the human genome has at least 25,000 genes in total, the number of genes altered even under such a simple scenario could potentially be in the thousands. Although sequencing and identifying genes and proteins gives them a name and a place, it doesn't tell us what they do.

Buying time


Phenotypic plasticity is the ability of an organism to change how it looks, acts, and functions, during its lifetime, in response to its environment. In 2003, evolutionary biologist Mary Jane West-Eberhard of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City raised eyebrows by suggesting such phenotypic plasticity might also set the stage for the evolution of permanent adaptations. Some biologists likened this perspective to a long-discredited idea, made famous by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, that acquired traits could be inherited. But now biologists have shown in multiple organisms, including toads, lizards, roundworms, and yeast, that a plastic response can buy time for adaptive mutations to arise and become fixed. As biologists explore the underpinnings of plasticity and how it can lead to permanent change, they've uncovered a process that extends traditional evolutionary mechanisms rather than challenging them.

Wyoming Biologists Search for Bats Amid Worries Over Disease

U.S. News

Wyoming wildlife biologists have mounted an emergency effort to locate and identify bat species across the state, following the discovery of a fungus that causes fatal white-nose syndrome in the animals.