Mating mix-up with wrong fly lowers libido for Mr. Right. Duke Today, March 16, 2017. If you’ve ever suffered a nightmare date and were hesitant to try again, fruit flies can relate. Female flies that have been coerced into sex by invasive males of the wrong species are less likely to reproduce with their own kind later. Invasive species are known to threaten native biodiversity by bringing in diseases, preying on resident species or outcompeting them for food. But these results show invasives pose a risk through unwelcome advances, too. Picked up by The Discovery Files, a podcast from the National Science Foundation.
Seeing nano. Duke Research blog, Jan. 9, 2017. Take pictures at more than 300,000 times magnification with electron microscopes at Duke.
Of butterfly wings and caterpillar brains. Duke Today, August 8, 2016. To most people, the spectacular diversity of butterfly wing patterns is a chaotic riot of color, dots and squiggles. But to biologist Fred Nijhout, they’re variations on the same basic theme
Breakneck bite. 1,100 words, Aug. 1, 2016. The jaws of trap-jaw ants can generate forces hundreds of times their body weight and snap shut at speeds reaching 145 miles per hour — over 2,000 times faster than the blink of an eye. Duke biologists are using 3-D X-ray imaging to peer inside the insects’ heads and study the internal structures that power their impressive mandibles.
Same switches program taste and smell in fruit flies. Duke Today, Feb. 3, 2016. A Duke study helps explain how fruit flies get their keen sense of smell. Researchers have identified a set of genetic control switches that interact early in a fly’s development to generate dozens of types of specialized nerve cells for smell. The findings could reveal how the nervous systems of other animals — including humans, whose brains have billions of neurons — produce a dazzling array of cell types from just a few genes.
Biomechanics pioneer Steven Vogel dies. Duke Today, Nov. 30, 2015. Duke biologist Steven Vogel, whose eclectic research interests ranged from flying insects and fluttering leaves to swimming squid and nectar-slurping hummingbirds, died on Nov. 24 at Croasdaile Village in Durham. He was 75. Also featured in The Scientist, The New York Times and the Boston Globe.
How an insect pest switches from sluggish super breeder to flying invasion machine. Duke Today, March 18, 2015. Each year, the rice crop in Asia faces a big threat from a sesame seed-sized insect called the brown planthopper. Now, a study in the journal Nature reveals the molecular switch that enables some planthoppers to develop short wings and others long based on environmental conditions such as day length and temperature — a major factor in their ability to invade new rice fields.
Fruit flies get their close-up shot, Nobel style. Duke Research Blog, November 10, 2014. Any movie that begins with an extreme close-up of the back side of a fruit fly — the same kind found feeding on over-ripe tomatoes and bananas in your kitchen — may seem like an unlikely candidate for action blockbuster of the year. But this is no typical movie.
Ancient crickets hint at the origins of insect hearing. National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, January 3, 2012. How did insects get their hearing? A new study of 50 million year-old cricket and katydid fossils — sporting some of the best preserved fossil insect ears described to date— help trace the evolution of the insect ear. Picked up by MSNBC, Futurity and Scientific American.
Communal living of the insect kind. National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, November 16, 2011. The social lives of ants, wasps and bees have long been a puzzle to scientists. How did complex insect societies — colonies ruled by a queen and many workers — come to be? A new model adds to discontent with old ideas.
Coping with climate change. National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, May 11, 2011. Can we predict which species will be able to move far or fast enough to keep up with rising global temperatures? A new study says the secrets to success in the face of a warming world are still elusive.
Evolution drives many plants and animals to be bigger, faster. National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, March 7, 2011. For the vast majority of plants and animals, the ‘bigger is better’ view of evolution may not be far off the mark, says a new study of natural selection.
Scientists look at crops, bugs and animals. Raleigh News and Observer, November 8, 2010. When most people think about genetic engineering, they usually think of genetically modified crops like corn and soybeans. Now, the debate over transgenics is turning from plants to mosquitoes and other pests.
Ants forecast forests’ future. Raleigh News and Observer, June 28, 2010. Ants and other insects may not be the first things you spot on a walk in the woods, but N.C. State biologist Rob Dunn believes they have something important to say about the future of forests under climate change.
The making of a queen: Road to royalty begins early in paper wasps. National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, May 19, 2010. Social status in paper wasps is established earlier in life than scientists thought. Picked up by Life’s Little Mysteries.