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From the College of Natural Sciences
Leafcutter Ants' Success Due to More Than Crop Selection

Leafcutter Ants' Success Due to More Than Crop Selection

A rare peak inside the garden of a leafcutter ant colony reveals the queen (center-left), brood, and an extensive matrix of fungal hyphae that form both the nest structure and the insects' exclusive diet. Public domain image by Alex Wild, for the University of Texas at Austin's "Insects Unlocked" project.

A complex genetic analysis has biologists re-evaluating some long-held beliefs about the way societies evolved following the invention of agriculture—by six-legged farmers.

Great Barrier Reef Corals Can Survive Global Warming for Another Century

Great Barrier Reef Corals Can Survive Global Warming for Another Century

The red coral in the middle of this image is a staghorn coral, or A. millepora. Photo taken near Palau. Photo credit: Mikhail Matz, University of Texas at Austin.

Using genetic samples and computer simulations, evolutionary biologists have made a glass-half-full forecast: Corals in the Great Barrier Reef have enough genetic variation to adapt to and survive rising ocean temperatures for at least another century, or more than 50 years longer than previous estimates have suggested.

5 Things Scientists Say to Try in Your Yard This Spring

5 Things Scientists Say to Try in Your Yard This Spring

With spring gardening season in full swing, Natural Sciences researchers have suggestions for the perfect vegetable garden, flower bed, lawn or landscape. In fact, scientists with the University of Texas at Austin can help you do more than have a great looking and productive yard: they've got tips that would help the local environment and maybe even the gardeners themselves.

When Science Communication Doesn’t Get Through (Audio)

When Science Communication Doesn’t Get Through (Audio)

Climate change, vaccinations, evolution. Scientists sometimes struggle to get their message across to non-scientists. On the latest episode of the Point of Discovery podcast, what communications research can teach us about why science communication sometimes backfires, and what scientists can do about it.

Proposed Border Wall Will Harm Texas Plants and Animals, Scientists Say

Proposed Border Wall Will Harm Texas Plants and Animals, Scientists Say

Photo credit: Andy Morffew

In the latest peer-reviewed publication on the potential impacts of a border wall on plants and animals, conservation biologists, led by a pair of scientists from The University of Texas at Austin, say that border walls threaten to harm endangered Texas plants and animals and cause trouble for the region's growing ecotourism industry.

A Century After 1918 Flu, A Virus that Still Surprises

A Century After 1918 Flu, A Virus that Still Surprises

This month marks the centennial of the first case of one of the world's deadliest flu outbreaks, which was reported on a Kansas army base. It is estimated that the 1918 flu infected 500 million people around the world and killed 50-100 million. With the 100th anniversary, we sat down with graduate student Spencer Fox, who studies the flu virus and flu pandemics.


Behind the Scenes of UT’s Vast Insect Collection, Plus March Bug Madness

Behind the Scenes of UT’s Vast Insect Collection, Plus March Bug Madness

Alex Wild manages the Biodiversity Center and Integrative Biology Department's Entomology Collection, which houses 2 million specimens of insects, including the world's largest collection of cave-dwelling invertebrates. The collections are focused on Texas and Mexico, with smaller holdings from Trinidad, the Galápagos Islands and elsewhere. A skilled photographer, Wild also oversees Insects Unlocked, a public domain photography project.

New Falcon Cam Offers Live Viewing of UT Tower’s Resident Raptor

New Falcon Cam Offers Live Viewing of UT Tower’s Resident Raptor

The city's only known year-round resident peregrine falcon is getting a global audience. The bird, nicknamed Tower Girl, lives atop the University of Texas at Austin Tower and has a handful of avid fans who love to watch one of the world's fastest animals dive through the skies above campus. And now, UT's Biodiversity Center has launched a live-streaming webcam so that viewers around the world can observe everyone's favorite local raptor in real time.

World-renowned UT Animal Behaviorist Publishes New Book

World-renowned UT Animal Behaviorist Publishes New Book

Mike Ryan knows a lot about how circumstances can lead to a change of perspective. Take, for example, the tiny túngara frog, which lives in the jungles of Panama. He may not seem like much, with his mottled brown skin covered in bumps and whiney song. But put this little amphibian at the center of decades of research, and it turns out he can open up a world of discovery, both for Ryan and for dozens of scientists he's helped to train over the years, with new insights into how animals become beautiful – at least to each other. These lessons may also help humans better understand how our own ideas of beauty correspond with those in the animal kingdom.

Gut Microbiome Influenced Heavily by Social Circles in Lemurs, UT Study Says

Gut Microbiome Influenced Heavily by Social Circles in Lemurs, UT Study Says

Social group membership is the most important factor influencing the composition of a lemur's gut microbiome, according to research at The University of Texas at Austin.

Study of Secret Sex Lives of Trees Finds Tiny Bees Play Big Part

Study of Secret Sex Lives of Trees Finds Tiny Bees Play Big Part

A stingless bee visits a Miconia tree near Soberania National Park, Panama. Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin spent nearly four years mapping trees, bees, and pollen to reveal how different pollinators aid in the sexual reproduction of trees in one of the most detailed pollinator-mediated paternity tests in wild plants. Credit: Antonio Castilla/Univ. of Texas at Austin

​When it comes to sex between plants, tiny bees the size of ladybugs play a critical role in promoting long-distance pairings. That's what scientists at The University of Texas at Austin discovered after one of the most detailed paternity tests in wild trees ever conducted.

Scientists on the Trail of Central Texas’ Elusive Satan Fish

Scientists on the Trail of Central Texas’ Elusive Satan Fish

X-ray images of a preserved Widemouth Blindcat, a.k.a. Satan fish (Satan eurystomus). Credit: Smithsonian Institution.

As Halloween approaches, scientists are pondering a mysterious creature that may be lurking in underwater caves deep beneath a major U.S. city. It's eyeless, has see-through skin and spends its life in the total darkness of the Edwards Aquifer, thousands of feet below the bustle of San Antonio. Meet the Widemouth Blindcat, a.k.a. Satan fish. The fish were collected from deep-water wells for decades, but biologists have not seen one alive since 1984.

Cracking the Code: Why Flu Pandemics Come At the End of Flu Season

Cracking the Code: Why Flu Pandemics Come At the End of Flu Season

You might expect that the risk of a new flu pandemic — or worldwide disease outbreak — is greatest at the peak of the flu season in winter, when viruses are most abundant and most likely to spread. Instead, all six flu pandemics that have occurred since 1889 emerged in spring and summer months. And that got some University of Texas at Austin scientists wondering, why is that?

UT Austin and Texas A&M Scientists Seek to Turn Plant Pests into Plant Doctors

UT Austin and Texas A&M Scientists Seek to Turn Plant Pests into Plant Doctors

Oleander aphid. Credit: Alex Wild

Scientists from The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University are investigating an innovative new way to protect crops from pathogens, thanks to a four-year cooperative agreement worth up to $5 million awarded through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Insect Allies Program.

Why Poison Frogs Don’t Poison Themselves

Why Poison Frogs Don’t Poison Themselves

The phantasmal poison frog, Epipedobates anthonyi, is the original source of epibatidine, discovered by John Daly in 1974. Epibatidine has not been found in any animal outside of Ecuador, and its ultimate source, proposed to be an arthropod, remains unknown. This frog was captured at a banana plantation in the Azuay province in southern Ecuador in August 2017. Credit: Rebecca Tarvin/University of Texas at Austin.

Don't let their appearance fool you: Thimble-sized, dappled in cheerful colors and squishy, poison frogs in fact harbor some of the most potent neurotoxins we know. With a new paper published in the journal Science, scientists are a step closer to resolving a related head-scratcher — how do these frogs keep from poisoning themselves? And the answer has potential consequences for the fight against pain and addiction.