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Biology

Art for "A Thermodynamic Answer to Why Birds Migrate"
ecology

A Thermodynamic Answer to Why Birds Migrate

New modeling studies suggest that birds migrate to strike a favorable balance between their input and output of energy.

Lede art for "Viruses and Cell Vesicles: Different, but Two of a Kind"
cell biology

Cells Talk in a Language That Looks Like Viruses

Disease-causing viruses and message-carrying vesicles sit at the ends of a spectrum of membranous particles that cells release.

Lede art for Embryo Development
developmental biology

Scientists Map the Genetic Steps as Eggs Become Animals

For the first time, researchers have traced the genetic programs that guide the development of each cell in early embryos. Surprisingly, even cells that start out different can end up the same.

Lede art for "Chronological Clues to Life’s Early History Hide in Gene Transfers"
Abstractions blog

Chronological Clues to Life’s Early History Lurk in Gene Transfers

To date the branches on the evolutionary tree of life, researchers are looking at horizontal gene transfers among ancient microorganisms, which once seemed only to muddle the record.

Image for "Cells Talk and Help One Another via Tiny Tube Networks"
microbiology

Cells Talk and Help One Another via Tiny Tube Networks

Long-overlooked “tunneling nanotubes” and other bridges between cells act as conduits for sharing RNA, proteins or even whole organelles.

Illustration for "How Many Genes Do Cells Need? Maybe Almost All of Them"
genomics

How Many Genes Do Cells Need? Maybe Almost All of Them

An ambitious study in yeast shows that the health of cells depends on the highly intertwined effects of many genes, few of which can be deleted together without consequence.

Photo of ants holding larvae.
evolution

The Elusive Calculus of Insects’ Altruism and Kin Selection

How the ultra-cooperative behavior of ants, bees and other social insects could have evolved continues to challenge formal analysis. But a new theory about hedging bets against nature’s unpredictability may change the math and shift the debate.

Illustration for mapping the cortex
neuroscience

New Brain Maps With Unmatched Detail May Change Neuroscience

A technique based on genetic bar codes can easily map the connections of individual brain cells in unprecedented numbers. Unexpected complexity in the visual system is only the first secret it has revealed.

Illustration for brain computer interface
Abstractions blog

Brains Cling to Old Habits When Learning New Tricks

Using a brain-computer interface, scientists are beginning to learn why learning is hard.