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From the College of Natural Sciences
Females Prefer City Frogs’ Tunes

Females Prefer City Frogs’ Tunes

Túngara frog females prefer the more complex mating calls of urban males.

Urban sophistication has real sex appeal — at least if you're a Central American amphibian. Male frogs in cities are more attractive to females than their forest-frog counterparts, according to a new study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Giant Flightless Birds Were Nocturnal and Possibly Blind

Giant Flightless Birds Were Nocturnal and Possibly Blind

A new analysis of the skulls of extinct elephant birds show they were nocturnal and possibly blind. Credit: John Maisano/University of Texas at Austin.

If you encountered an elephant bird today, it would be hard to miss. Measuring in at over 10 feet tall, the extinct avian is the largest bird known to science. However, while you looked up in awe, it's likely that the big bird would not be looking back.

Everything’s Bigger in Texas, including the Occasional Spider Web

Everything’s Bigger in Texas, including the Occasional Spider Web

If creepy-crawly, eight-legged types are the stuff of your Halloween fears, you might want to stop reading here.

Biologists Receive $2 Million to Classify the Microbial World

Biologists Receive $2 Million to Classify the Microbial World

UT Austin biologists have received funding to classify the world’s microbes based on genetics, function and ecology. This image is a tree of life for one group of microbes called archaea. In this case, they are all found in the guts of great apes. Credit: Howard Ochman/University of Texas at Austin.

The National Science Foundation has awarded a team of four researchers, including University of Texas at Austin biologists Howard Ochman and Mark Kirkpatrick, approximately $2 million over three years to classify the entire microbial world into genetic, ecological and functional units. The researchers also aim to understand how diversity originates and to analyze the genetic basis of functional and ecological differences between emerging species.

Common Weed Killer Linked to Bee Deaths

Common Weed Killer Linked to Bee Deaths

Honey bee. Credit: Alex Wild/University of Texas at Austin

The world's most widely used weed killer may also be indirectly killing bees. New research from The University of Texas at Austin shows that honey bees exposed to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, lose some of the beneficial bacteria in their guts and are more susceptible to infection and death from harmful bacteria.

Flu Season Forecasts Could Be More Accurate with Access to Health Care Companies’ Data

Flu Season Forecasts Could Be More Accurate with Access to Health Care Companies’ Data

In an era when for-profit companies collect a wealth of data about us, new research from The University of Texas at Austin shows that data collected by health care companies could — if made available to researchers and public health agencies — enable more accurate forecasts of when the next flu season will peak, how long it will last and how many people will get sick.

Fish’s Use of Electricity Might Shed Light on Human Illnesses

Fish’s Use of Electricity Might Shed Light on Human Illnesses

Brienomyrus brachyistius, commonly known as the baby whale.

Deep in the night in muddy African rivers, a fish uses electrical charges to sense the world around it and communicate with other members of its species. Signaling in electrical spurts that last only a few tenths of a thousandth of a second allows the fish to navigate without letting predators know it is there. Now scientists have found that the evolutionary trick these fish use to make such brief discharges could provide new insights, with a bearing on treatments for diseases such as epilepsy.

DNA Barcodes That Reliably Work: A Game-Changer for Biomedical Research

DNA Barcodes That Reliably Work: A Game-Changer for Biomedical Research

This illustration shows the most common structure of DNA found in a cell, called B-DNA. Credit: Richard Wheeler (Zephyris). Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license.

In the same way that barcodes on your groceries help stores know what's in your cart, DNA barcodes help biologists attach genetic labels to biological molecules to do their own tracking during research, including of how a cancerous tumor evolves, how organs develop or which drug candidates actually work. Unfortunately with current methods, many DNA barcodes have a reliability problem much worse than your corner grocer's. They contain errors about 10 percent of the time, making interpreting data tricky and limiting the kinds of experiments that can be reliably done.

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.