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biodiversity

2020 in Review

The Year in Biology

December 23, 2020

While the study of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was the most urgent priority, biologists also learned more about how brains process information, how to define individuality and why sleep deprivation kills.

Illustration of a blue tiger.
Abstractions blog

How Neutral Theory Altered Ideas About Biodiversity

December 8, 2020

The simple insight that most changes are random had a profound effect on genetics, evolution and ecology.

Looping video that shows transformations between African cichlid species.
Abstractions blog

New Fish Data Reveal How Evolutionary Bursts Create Species

December 1, 2020

In three bursts of adaptive change, one species of cichlid fish in Lake Tanganyika gave rise to hundreds.

ecology

A Physicist’s Approach to Biology Brings Ecological Insights

October 13, 2020

The physicist Jeff Gore tests theories about microbe communities experimentally and finds new rules governing ecological stability.

Stalks and spore bodies of a slime mold rise above a smooth surface.
Abstractions blog

Out-of-Sync ‘Loners’ May Secretly Protect Orderly Swarms

May 21, 2020

Studies of collective behavior usually focus on how crowds of organisms coordinate their actions. But what if the individuals that don’t participate have just as much to tell us?

An illustration that represents the big differences in size and diversity in the microbiomes of six species.
microbiology

Some Animals Have No Microbiome. Here’s What That Tells Us.

April 14, 2020

To stay healthy, humans and some other animals rely on a complex community of bacteria in their guts. But research is starting to show that those partnerships might be more the exception than the rule.

A mother armadillo, lying on her side, nurses four baby armadillos.
developmental biology

Nature Versus Nurture? Add ‘Noise’ to the Debate.

March 23, 2020

We give our genes and our environment all the credit for making us who we are. But random noise during development might be just as important.

A rock, a piece of paper and a pair of scissors, each formed from a mass of microbes, are arranged in a cycle.
ecology

Biodiversity May Thrive Through Games of Rock-Paper-Scissors

March 5, 2020

Recent findings add weight to the evidence that the intransitive competitions between species enrich the diversity of nature.

Abstractions blog

Biodiversity Alters Strategies of Bacterial Evolution

January 6, 2020

In evolution, context is everything: Bacteria with neighbors evolve to rebuff viruses in a different way.