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Genetics

This category contains 27 posts

A long history of tool use in marine mammals? You otter believe it!

The use of tools by animals has been documented in a wide range of species, from birds to invertebrates, encompassing land animals and marine animals. Animals use tools to help shelter themselves as well as find their next meal. By investigating animals on a genetic level it’s possible to determine whether tool use is specific to a population and how long ago this ability evolved. Recently, scientists investigated the genetics of a fan favorite, the sea otter, to try and pinpoint how long they’ve been using tools and what they’ve been using them for. Read on to find out more!

Brains only for you

Brain size might dictate the laws of attraction in guppies.

Pollutants produced by poriferans: using genetics to fill in blanks about sponge chemical production

Although its easy to mistake a sponge for a furry looking rock, these invertebrates and the microbes that inhabit them have some surprising chemical abilities.

Clamate Change: How clams may be able to cope with a warming world

Global temperatures are increasing at a rate never before seen in Earth’s history. Although efforts to mitigate this are still very important, it is also important to study and understand what is going to happen to the plants and animals that live here. Evidence of climate change already surrounds us, and the more we know, the better prepared we will be to cope with our new environment. In this study, a group of researchers have studied how two species of clams react to a warmer environment to understand the coping mechanisms they use for survival.

Ain’t no killing the killifish (for now): on the virtues of genetic diversity

Atlantic killifish are spared extinction in the face of pollution thanks to their remarkable genetic diversity.

Exciting strides for eDNA: Insights into whale shark population genetics

In the past few decades scientists have found new and exciting ways to use DNA to answer scientific questions. There is now a new technique that could further revolutionize DNA analysis by using tiny pieces of tissue floating around in the ocean. Read more about how scientists are using this technique to answer questions about whale sharks.

Sharkcano, a melting pot for biology

No, a Sharkcano is not a volcano that erupts sharks. IT IS WAY COOLER THAN THAT! It is a submarine volcano that hosts a diverse macro community in water that is much warmer and more acidic that the surrounding seawater. Read more to find out about this alien-esc ecosystem in the South Pacific Ocean.

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish!

It’s been an incredible year and a half, but this will be my final regular post with Oceanbites. Thanks for reading! For my final post here, I wanted to tell you a little more about what I do as a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Light on the Tree of Life: Evolution of Bioluminescence

The darkness can be scary sometimes–but that’s when evolution can get pretty crazy in its adaptations. Meet some of the fishes that can glow in the dark and learn about how many times this special ability evolved–it’s certainly surprised many scientists in the community!

Cool Fact! Octopuses spawn with ease when temperatures are lower

Octopuses in the YP may experience temperature changes that do not bode well for reproduction. At what point will the influence of temperature be enough to inhibit the octopus population from growing? Consequences could be tough for octopus fisheries in the area. Read about how temperature stress that a mother experiences can influence her offsprings ability to cope.

Plant Parents: Divide, Seed, and Conquer

Phragmites is the ultimate parent in terms of reproductive success, allowing it to increase in area by 25% since 1971 in the Rhode River subestuary. While phragmites can spread asexually through rhizome clones, seed dispersion requiring two parents was the most successful tactic found in this study.

Parenthood: The Most Rewarding Experience or The Ultimate Sacrifice?

Our human parents make a lot of sacrifices for us! They devote their time and energy, provide for us, invest in us (monetarily, sure, but also emotionally), nurture us, attempt to teach us, make career decisions with us in mind, and lose a lot of sleep worrying about us. However, in the marine world things can get much more extreme? Some animals make the ultimate sacrifice by literally dying to reproduce. Find out more about some of these marine creatures in today’s Oceanbites!

Why Mom Cares.

Does mom care? If you are a skink from the wrong neighborhood she might, otherwise, you are on your own kid. Read about the evolution of paternal care traits in one skink population that is not observed in the others!

A cod by any other name would taste as sweet?

Seafood is a staple of the American diet, particularly on the coasts. Distributors frequently mislabel seafood, accidentally or fraudulently, because seafood species may be difficult to tell apart after chemical and physical processing. We need a fast, reliable, and cost-effective way to accurately identify seafood species in order to reduce fraud. This paper presents a simplified procedure for seafood DNA extraction that yields sufficient DNA for genetic analyses.

Little fish, new pond – watching stickleback evolution in real-time

When most people think about evolution, they see it as an extremely slow, gradual process that occurs over almost unthinkably vast timescales. Darwin certainly believed that evolution progressed slowly. While it’s true that evolutionary change requires a span of generations, for many reasons, it is actually possible to watch evolution occur in real-time, within a single human lifespan, and even a single researcher’s career. Here we see rapid evolution in threespine stickleback, a common evolutionary model.

Stressed-Out Oysters: Molecular Coping Mechanisms for Anxiety

Oysters live a life of constant stress in the ever-changing intertidal habitat. In order to deal with extreme variation in temperature, salinity, water availability, and pollution, these animals have greatly expanded their stress response system, including heat shock proteins and antioxidant enzymes.

Healthy Obesity: Whales and Dolphins Benefit from their Blubber

Scientists study the genetic underpinnings of blubber formation in whales and dolphins, highlighting genes that may play a key role in human obesity.

Seeing with skin: the secret to octopus camouflage

Capable of blending into the environment in a matter of seconds, the octopus in no normal sea creature. But just how is the octopus able to disguise itself so flawlessly? Researchers reveal that these cephalopods may be able to “see” with their skin!

Protecting Hometown Herring

River herring are anadromous fish, which means they live most of their life in the ocean but spawn in freshwater streams and rivers. Recent decades have seen a massive decline in river herring populations caused primarily by over-harvesting and decreased access to spawning habitat. These fish are now largely protected in freshwater systems during their spawning migrations, but they are still at risk of bycatch while in the ocean. Little is known about river herring movement behavior while they are in the ocean. Cutting edge technology in chemistry and genetics is helping to shed light on this.

Long live the seagrass! The relationship between human disturbance and genetic diversity

The Mediterranean seagrass plays very important ecological functions but human disturbances are thought to be one of the main causes for its population decline. In this study, Jahnke et al (2015) try to understand how genetic diversity correlates with human disturbances and the results are surprising.

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