Evolutionary Biology

How teeth became tusks, and tusks became liabilities

“The persistence of elephant poaching has prompted researchers to wonder whether elephants really needed their tusks, and whether they might not be better off if the tuskless trait were to spread more widely through the African population.  Shane Campbell-Staton, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and his colleagues have begun systematically…

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Flower Or Flesh? Genetics Explain Mosquito Preference

Imagine a world in which mosquitoes choose blossoms over blood. Nice, right? There already exists a mosquito species called Wyeomyia smithii in which most of the bugs refuse blood meals in favor of sweet floral nectar. And new research is helping to explain the evolutionary genetics of the switch from blood sucker to flower fanatic. The researchers, including co-lead author David Denlinger of The Ohio State…

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DNA Reveals That Silky Anteaters Are Seven Species

The silky anteater (Cyclopes didactylus) has previously been recognized to be a single species divided into several sub-species. But a new genetic analysis, published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, suggests that this enigmatic mammal is not one species, but seven separate ones. Lead author Dr. Flávia Miranda, a researcher with the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil, and…

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Teaching Bats to Say ‘Move Out of My Way’ in Many Dialects

Wild fruit bats, living in crowded roosts, are exposed to calls from hundreds of fellow bats from birth. Most often these calls are made in response to unsolicited physical contact, and essentially amount to a crabby “move out of my way.” In a study published Wednesday in PLOS Biology, a team of Israeli researchers found that bat pups match their vocalizations…

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