Category Archives: Biology

How antidepressants help bacteria resist antibiotics

Nature reports: The emergence of disease-causing bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics is often attributed to the overuse of antibiotics in people and livestock. But researchers have homed in on another potential driver of resistance: antidepressants. By studying bacteria grown in the laboratory, a team has now tracked how antidepressants can trigger drug resistance1. “Even… Read More »

How our microbiome is shaped by family, friends and even neighbours

Nature reports: Most studies on how humans acquire their microbiomes have focused on people’s first contact with microbes: through their mums. “It’s key to providing a microbial starter kit,” says Hilary Browne, a microbiologist at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Hinxton, UK. To examine how and why this starter kit changes over a person’s life,… Read More »

How gut bacteria are controlling your brain

Miriam Frankel and Matt Warren write: Your gut is a bustling and thriving alien colony. They number in their trillions and include thousands of different species. Many of these microorganisms, including bacteria, archaea and eukarya, were here long before humans, have evolved alongside us and now outnumber our own cells many times over. Indeed, as… Read More »

Mobile genes from the mother shape the baby’s microbiome

Yasemin Saplakoglu writes: A mother gives her baby her all: love, hugs, kisses … and a sturdy army of bacteria. These simple cells, which journey from mother to baby at birth and in the months of intimate contact that follow, form the first seeds of the child’s microbiome—the evolving community of symbiotic microorganisms tied to… Read More »

Humans are still evolving thanks to microgenes

The Scientist reports: Humans are still evolving new genes, according to a study published in Cell Reports on December 20. As our lineage evolved, at least 155 human genes sprung up from DNA regions previously thought of as “junk,” including two human-specific genes that emerged since humans branched off from chimpanzees around 4 to 6… Read More »

Microorganisms that expand their range by absorbing organelles

Veronique Greenwood writes: Nature, red in tooth and claw, is rife with organisms that eat their neighbors to get ahead. But in the systems studied by the theoretical ecologist Holly Moeller, an assistant professor of ecology, evolution and marine biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the consumed become part of the consumer in… Read More »

Ant milk — it does a colony good

The New York Times reports: Orli Snir, a biologist at the Rockefeller University in New York, couldn’t keep her ants alive. She had plucked pupae from a colony of clonal raider ants, where the sesame seed-size offspring that looked like puffed rice cereal were being fussed over by both younger larvae and older adult ants.… Read More »

Our planet, shaped by life

Olivia Judson writes: I want to start with a proposition: if Earth had never come alive, it would be a profoundly different world. Conversely: the planet of today has, to a remarkable extent, been made what it is by the activities of lifeforms. Over the course of the planet’s long history, a history that extends… Read More »

Human exceptionalism imposes horrible costs on other animals

Barbara J King writes: Human exceptionalism takes many forms but most share an assumption that our species displays singularly complex ways of being, thinking and feeling. On this perspective, other animals’ capacities are inferior, and so other animals’ lives are also seen as inferior. It’s only a myth, though, that other-than-human animals inevitably live moment… Read More »