Monday, October 15, 2012

The Epigenetics of Motherly Love in Rats

Hey everyone!

Here's a link to an interactive (and adorable!) site explaining how early parental care strategies in rats play a role in personality development via epigenetics.

If you're not tempted by the strangely endearing rat pup simulations, here's a link to the original article in Nature.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hey all,

     Here's a pretty light Times article that does some simple explanations of epigenetics but more interestingly brings in some other examples of epigenetic observations in vivo, its connection to Lamarck's theories, and a little bit about possible drug creation to effect the epigenetic conditions!


Monday, October 8, 2012

Evolutionary Genomics of Olfaction

Hi all --

Here is an interesting article about olfaction recently published by Yoshihito Niimura in Current Genomics: "Olfactory Receptor Multigene Family in Vertebrates: From the Viewpoint of Evolutionary Genomics." Niimura gives a general overview of the evolution of olfaction in vertebrates. Importantly, he finds that higher primates and other mammals with well-developed vision systems have a smaller number of olfactory receptor (OR) genes.  He also notes that there are about 400 OR genes in the human genome, forming the largest multi gene family.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

From the Science Table of Contents

A pretty interesting news article was published last week in Science, and I wanted to briefly share it. Michael Balter wrote the article entitle "Why are our brains so big?" and points out a few theories about the evolutionary basis of the size of human brains.

Balter notes that humans have the largest brain among all species when adjusted for body weight. The "social brain hypothesis" is the most leading theory of our brain size and attributes our large brain size to a large neocortex, which is linked to sociality. Balter points out that this is likely a large contributor to our brain size, but must we must also factor in other hypotheses and possibilities. 


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Potential Explanation for Human Dichromacy

Hey all,

Here's a link to an interesting and frequently-cited article concerning human dichromacy. There is a remarkably high incidence of dichromacy in the human population (up to 2%). The authors examine a potential explanation for this trend and show that dichromats can detect color-camouflaged texture patterns more quickly than trichromats. They explain that trichromats turn first to color differences when 'segmenting' visual inputs, a strategy that can impede their recognition of texture patterns that lie beneath the color differences. This article introduces interesting ideas about whether benefits such as camouflage-detection help to maintain visual polymorphism in the human population, or whether non-adaptive genetic factors such as unequal crossing-over at the red-green locus are responsible for the high incidence of dichromacy in humans.


Monday, October 1, 2012

New perspectives on old samples

Hey all -- 

Here is an interesting paper that was just published that does a good job linking two of the papers for our class -- the Neandertal mtDNA paper with the recent draft sequence of the Neandertal genome.