Category Archives: Other

Crowdsourcing and Citizen Oceanography: Indigo V Expedition Pioneers Cost-Effective Ocean Health Monitoring

Wave - Oceanography (Source: osri.org)Main Points:

Pioneering work by a collaboration of leading scientists from twelve universities across Australia, Singapore, Denmark and the USA publishing in the open access journal PLOS Biology on September 9 demonstrates how the rise of citizen oceanography will help dramatically advance global ocean health and will aid in gaining a better understanding of the world’s valuable marine resources.

Published in:

PLOS Biology

Study Further:

While much attention is placed on macro-fauna in our seas (mammals and fish, for example), it is the tiny, marine microbes that underpin the nutrient cycle and form the foundation of the food web. Collectively known as the marine microbiome, they are the most abundant organisms in the oceans, and they are perhaps the most vulnerable in a changing global ocean.

Because the ocean is a dynamic and tremendously large eco-system, millions of observation points are required. However, traditional oceanographic research vessels are unable to cover this vast space. “By using what’s known as ‘citizen science’, Indigo V Expeditions set out to prove that the concept of crowdsourcing oceanography can solve the great data collection bottleneck” said Professor Federico Lauro, Director of Indigo V Expeditions, the not-for-profit organisation behind the S/Y Indigo V concept cruise. Continue reading

Odor communication in wild gorillas

Gorilla (Credit:  Kjunstorm/Flickr )Main Point:

Wild gorillas signal using odor.

Published in:

PLOS ONE

Study Further:

Silverback gorillas appear to use odor as a form of communication to other gorillas, according to a study published July 9, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Michelle Klailova from University of Stirling, UK, and colleagues.

Mammals communicate socially through visual, auditory, and chemical signals. The chemical sense is in fact the oldest sense, shared by all organisms including bacteria, and mounting evidence suggests that humans also participate in social chemical signaling. However, not much is known about this type of signaling in closely related hominoids, like wild apes. To better understand chemical -communication in apes, scientists in this study analyzed odor strength in relation to arousal levels in a wild group of western lowland gorillas in the Central African Republic, specifically focusing on the male silverback, or the mature leader of the group. Scientists determined the factors that predicted extreme levels of odor emission from the silverback. They hypothesized that if gorilla scent were being used as a social signal, instead of only a sign of arousal or stress, odor emission would depend on social context and would vary depending on the gorilla’s relationship to other gorillas.

According to the results, the male silverback may use odor as a modifiable form of social communication, where context-specific chemical-signals may moderate the social behaviors of other gorillas. The authors predicted extreme silverback odor, where the odor was the only element that could be smelled in the surrounding air, by the presence and intensity of interactions between different gorilla groups such as silverback anger, distress and long-calling auditory rates, and the absence of close proximity between the silverback and the mother of the youngest infant. The authors suggest that odor communication between apes may be especially useful in Central African forests, where limited visibility may necessitate increased reliance on other senses.

Michelle Klailova added, “No study has yet investigated the presence and extent to which chemo–communication may moderate behaviour in non-human great apes.   We provide crucial ancestral links to human chemo-signaling, bridge the gap between Old World monkey and human chemo-communication, and offer compelling evidence that olfactory communication in hominoids is much more important than traditionally thought.” Continue reading

Transgender Algae Reveal Evolutionary Origin of Sexes

Volvox carteri - juvenile (photo by Aurora Nedelcu)

Volvox carteri – juvenile (photo by Aurora Nedelcu)

Main Point:

Throughout evolution, living things have repeatedly developed physically distinct sexes, but how does this actually happen? A discovery in the multicellular green alga, Volvox carteri, has revealed the genetic origin of male and female sexes, showing how they evolved from a more primitive mating system in a single-celled relative.

Published in:

PLOS Biology

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A team of scientists led by James Umen, Ph.D. , Associate Member, Enterprise Institute for Renewable Fuels at the Danforth Plant Science Center, identified the master regulatory gene for sex determination in Volvox and found that it has acquired new functions compared to a related gene in its close relative, the unicellular alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, which does not have physically distinguishable (dimorphic) sexes.  Their findings are publishing in the open access journal PLOS Biology on July 8, and may also provide a possible blueprint for how sexes in other multicellular organisms like plants and animals may have originated.

For plants and animals having male and female reproductive cells or gametes is the norm, and the differences between the two types of gametes are obvious.  Male gametes are small motile sperm or pollen, while female gametes are large egg cells. However, the evolutionary origins of male and female sexes are unclear because the distant unicellular relatives of plants, animals and other multicellular species generally don’t have distinct sexes, but instead have mating types – a system in which gametes of one mating type can only fuse with those with a different mating type, but the cells of each mating type are indistinguishable from each other in size and morphology. Continue reading