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Tag: biological sciences

Combing the Jungle Floor for Tiny Lizard Eggs

Meredith Swartwout is a graduate student in the Department of Biological Sciences. She studies population ecology, community ecology and conservation biology in reptiles and amphibians, and spent the summer in Costa Rica working on a project to learn more about ant predation on lizard eggs. Her report is below.  If you flip through a field guide to tropical reptiles, you will likely find the reproduction section to be seriously lacking, with a lot of words like “assume” and “presume.” This is because not many people are crazy enough to go poking through leaf litter for hours, trying to find...

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Searching for Slime Molds on Christmas Island

Steve Stephenson, a research professor in the Department of Biological Sciences of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, recently returned from a two-week biodiversity survey on Christmas Island, an Australian territory about 220 miles south of the Indonesian island of Java. Stephenson is an expert on myxomycetes, a group of fungus-like organisms commonly referred to as slime molds. Myxomycetes are neither plants nor animals, but they share the characteristics of both. They feed on microorganisms associated with dead plant material, and play an important role in vital ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling. Stephenson has traveled to all...

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Yeast Study Examines How Cells Respond and Adapt to Heat Stress

A University of Arkansas biologist’s work on how cells respond to heat stress could lead to a better understanding of how organisms, from bacteria to humans, adapt to changing conditions. It could also lead to better beer. Jeffrey A. Lewis, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, received a three-year, $571,335 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the process of protein acetylation in stress defense in yeast cells. While the study is specific to heat stress in yeast cells, Lewis notes that the heat-shock response is universal, occurring in everything from bacteria to human cells. That means the findings could have broad applicability. Cells exposed to stresses such as heat must modify themselves quickly, or die. To protect themselves, cells have a store of proteins that can be turned off or on as needed. “Cells basically put on a suit of armor to defend themselves,” Lewis said. “And that is composed of stress-response proteins.” Lewis is focusing on acetylation, a type of modification that has long been known to play a role in regulating protein activity. Acetylation was originally thought to be unique to a class of proteins called histones, but new technology available in the last decade has shown that it occurs in many proteins and may play a critical role in stress response. “Thousands of proteins being modified by acetylation suggests it is...

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The Plight of the Greater Prairie Chicken

In the mid 1800s, the greater prairie chicken numbered in the millions on the tall-grass prairies of Illinois. Its distinctive hooting moan was the sound track for early spring mornings, and signified the elaborate rituals of reproduction were again in bloom. The male greater prairie chicken puts it all on the line to attract a mate. It performs a rapid stutter-step dance and puffs out the large orange air sacks on its neck to create a characteristic “booming” call. It raises two neck tufts straight up, spreads its tail feathers, and droops its wings as it rushes to and...

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Study Links Climate Variation and Natural Selection

An international team of biologists, led by University of Arkansas assistant professor Adam Siepielski, has published research indicating that climate variation likely plays a key role in shaping natural selection, the driver of adaptive evolution, among plants and animals in the wild. “Previous evidence from other studies indicated that climate variation might be really important,” Siepielski said. “We wanted to know if we could explain variation in selection across diverse plant and animal populations through a few simple climate variables. It turns out that, yes, we can.” Twenty biologists from the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia participated in...

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