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From the College of Natural Sciences

Froggy Went a Courtin'

Froggy Went a Courtin'
Two male túngara frogs make mating calls to attract females. Image by Amanda Lea.

Marketers and used car salesmen have long exploited a vulnerability in the way we make decisions, called the decoy effect, to get us to buy a certain product, even if our gut instinct is to buy another. Now a graduate student and her advisor in the Department of Integrative Biology have discovered that female frogs are prone to this same kind of irrational behavior when it comes to choosing a mate.

Chink Found in Armor of Invasive Crazy Ant

Chink Found in Armor of Invasive Crazy Ant

Tawny crazy ants are taking hold in the United States, swarming in explosive numbers and displacing other wildlife. But scientists from the University of Texas at Austin recently discovered a chink in the insect's armor that could help control the spread of this invasive species.

Scientists Predict which Crops Will Thrive Under Stress

Scientists Predict which Crops Will Thrive Under Stress

With climate change and population growth putting stable food supplies at risk, finding crops that can thrive in increasingly harsh environments is critical. It's also a challenge, given the difficulty of identifying plants well suited to stressful conditions.

Corals Are Already Adapting to Global Warming, Scientists Say

Corals Are Already Adapting to Global Warming, Scientists Say

Some coral populations already have genetic variants necessary to tolerate warm ocean waters, and humans can help to spread these genes, a team of scientists from The University of Texas at Austin, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and Oregon State University has found.

UT Austin Scientist Wins Eminent Ecologist Award

UT Austin Scientist Wins Eminent Ecologist Award

The world's largest society of professional ecologists will recognize Eric Pianka with its top award for achievement in the field. 

UT Austin Researchers Evaluate Methodology of Ebola Vaccine Trials

UT Austin Researchers Evaluate Methodology of Ebola Vaccine Trials

Medical aid workers in full protective gearThe waning number of Ebola cases is good news for West Africa, but for those developing a vaccine for the disease, it means time is running short.

HIV Not As Infectious Soon After Transmission As Thought

HIV Not As Infectious Soon After Transmission As Thought

People who recently have been infected with HIV may not be as highly infectious as previously believed, a finding that could improve global efforts to prevent HIV transmission and save lives.

Amphibians Join the Genomic Revolution

Amphibians Join the Genomic Revolution

The dramatic drop in cost and time needed to sequence the genomes of animals over the past decade has revolutionized the study of evolutionary relationships. But for scientists who study amphibians, it feels like the genomics revolution has passed them by. More than 100 complete vertebrate genomes have been sequenced and released—including about 40 mammals, 13 fish, 9 birds and 9 reptiles. But amphibians? Just one.

Supercomputing the Evolution of a Model Flower

Supercomputing the Evolution of a Model Flower

Following is an except from an article that originally appeared on the website of the Texas Advanced Computing Center on January 28, 2015:

Always and Forever: A Microscopic Love Story

Always and Forever: A Microscopic Love Story

In the world of living things, surely one of the oddest relationships is the one between certain insects and the bacteria they can't seem to live without. Such bacteria, called obligate symbionts live inside the host's cells. They're distinct organisms -- they have their own DNA separate from that of the host. And yet, if you try to remove the bacteria, the host dies. And vice versa.

Graduate Student Leads Field Trip into the Infamous Darien Gap

Graduate Student Leads Field Trip into the Infamous Darien Gap

Kidnappings. Guerillas. Impenetrable jungle. The Darien Gap is famous for many things. This 60-mile-wide swath of rainforest straddling the Panama-Colombia border has long been the stomping ground of drug traffickers and guerillas, most notably the left-wing FARC, who until 10 years ago were still conducting high-profile kidnappings of foreign travellers seeking to tackle this notoriously dangerous part of the world. Flash forward a decade and scientists working just outside the gap discovered that, while there were still occasional reports of violence, things were now relatively peaceful in the gap.

DNA Reveals Local Adoption of New Technologies, Not Migration, Caused Cultural Changes in Ancient Illinois

DNA Reveals Local Adoption of New Technologies, Not Migration, Caused Cultural Changes in Ancient Illinois

DNA samples from North Americans who lived more 1,000 years ago in Illinois reveal that rapid cultural changes came from acceptance of new practices rather than from a population influx into the region, according to a new study from The University of Texas at Austin and Indiana University.

Compared with Apes, People’s Gut Bacteria Lack Diversity, Study Finds

Compared with Apes, People’s Gut Bacteria Lack Diversity, Study Finds

image.jpgThe microbes living in people’s guts are much less diverse than those in humans' closest relatives, the African apes, an apparently long evolutionary trend that appears to be speeding up in more modern societies, with possible implications for human health, according to a new study.

Florida Lizards Evolve Rapidly, Within 15 Years and 20 Generations

Florida Lizards Evolve Rapidly, Within 15 Years and 20 Generations

Acarolinensis LeftFoot Stuart G063 sm-300x275Scientists working on islands in Florida have documented the rapid evolution of a native lizard species — in as little as 15 years — as a result of pressure from an invading lizard species, introduced from Cuba.

As Ebola Kills Some, It May Be Quietly Immunizing Others

As Ebola Kills Some, It May Be Quietly Immunizing Others

Ebola virus

As Ebola continues to spread in West Africa, it may be silently immunizing large numbers of people who never fall ill or infect others, yet become protected from future infection. If such immunity is confirmed, it would have significant ramifications on projections of how widespread the disease will be and could help determine strategies that health workers use to contain the disease, according to a letter published Tuesday in the Lancet medical journal.