Biology news

Genetics

At www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/65063/title/Central_dogma_of_genetics_maybe_not_so_central/ ... It seems the RNA molecules aren't always faithful reproductions of the genetic instructions contained within DNA, a new study has shown. This contradicts a major tenet of genetics - a central dogma that is that DNA letters encode information and RNA is produced in DNA's likeness. The RNA then serves as a template to build proteins.

Great Apes - as smart as some of us?

Not a big deal, you might say, I know that already. At www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101006085450.htm ... a University of Portsmouth research scientist studying great apes and their developmental processes, has compared infant apes with infant humans - and hopes to overturn inbuilt prejudices against the apes.

Plants and evolution

Research done at the University of Calgary (see www.physorg.com/print203834230.html ) has come up with some new ideas on the diversity of flowering plants - and what factors might affect the number of species in a particular lineage. It is not only what causes diversity but what has happened because of extinctions and die-offs - leaving openings. Geography is one factor and traits within a family of species is another which might encourage greater diversity - but why?

Red Rain update

At www.technology.review.com/blog/arxiv/25699/ Sept 1st ... 'The extraordinary Tale of Red Rain, Comets and Extraterrestrials' is the title but the shortish piece on the blog does not give much away - you need to read the paper on the earlier post on the same subject. Panspermia is not a mainstream fancy in science but a growing body of evidence suggest it is a subject to be explored rather than casually ignored - given the treatment.

Mass Extinctions and Evolution

Again, at www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/09/mass-extinction-dynamics/ this story is a repeat - but worth repeating. A reappraisal of the fossil record, it is thought, reveals that global mass extinction events are not actually short term diversions along life's uniformitarian course but such events send life careering down wholly new avenues.

Panspermia - some cold water

At http://lifeunbounded.blogspot.com/2010/08/panspermis-paradox.html is a post on panspermia, 'The Panspermia Paradox' (August 19th) ... the notion of panspermia, the transfer of viable organisms between planets and even star systems is discussed from what appears to be a neutral position. Planetary surface material such as dust grains and rocks is continually being shipped around moons and rocky planets in the solar system or ejected by comets and asteroids.

Kangaroos

At www.physorg.com/print200126874.html there is a claim that the evolution of kangaroos was intricately tied to Australian climate change - but suitably confined to millions of years ago rather than anything to do with modern greenhouse gas emissions. The Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society (August 2010) claims the appearance of kangaroos, wallabies, and similar animals occurred millions of years ago when they foraged on soft leaved forest growing plants.

Bacteria is complicated stuff, don't you just know ...

At www.physorg.com/print198148074.html we learn that bacteria is proving to be more complex than scientists have thought previously - just another surprise nature has sprung on the considered opinion of a scientific discipline. A paper in Molecular Microbiology describes an example of that complexity as a molecular reaction inside the cell involving proteins. It modifies and thuse affects the function of those proteins - including the mechanism responsible for turning genes on and off.

Plant genes

www.physorg.com/print197739400.html is a story about how it is thought the wild grass teosinte developed into corn (maize). Experiments in domestication have shown it is possible that domestic plants took fewer than 20 generations to take place - a very short space of time. This appears to contradict the archaeology and this article is a bit of a fight-back by palaeo-botanists against geneticists.

Studies of Fossils

www.physorg.com/print195831471.html June 15th ... reports on attempts to extract further information from fossilised creatures - the behaviour of ancient life forms. I don't know if there is sleight of hand involved here but instead of using fossils as a means of classifying and cataloguing the diversity of life in the past scientists are looking at the possibility of discovering clues about behaviour from that frozen moment of death. Insects caught in amber is one example given.