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From the College of Natural Sciences
A Big Brain Was a Good Thing for Ancient Carnivores, New Study Finds

A Big Brain Was a Good Thing for Ancient Carnivores, New Study Finds

Over most of the past 40 million years, having a larger brain relative to body size was an advantage for carnivores, increasing the probability that large-brained species survive while other species go extinct, according to a new study from a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin.

Student Writes Biologists Should Update Views on Same-Sex Behavior in Animals

Student Writes Biologists Should Update Views on Same-Sex Behavior in Animals

Over the years, scientists have recorded same-sex sexual behavior in more than 1,500 animal species, from snow geese to common toads. And for just as long evolutionary biologists studying these behaviors have grappled with what has come to be known as a "Darwinian paradox": How can these behaviors be so persistent when they offer no opportunity to produce offspring?

Graduate Students Receive Department of Energy Fellowships

Graduate Students Receive Department of Energy Fellowships

Graduate students Albina Khasanova and Emily Raulerson received research fellowships from the Department of Energy.

Two graduate students from the University of Texas at Austin, Albina Khasanova and Emily Raulerson, received fellowships from the Department of Energy to carry out research in one of 12 DOE national laboratories.

UT Biophysicist Recognized as 2019 American Physical Society Fellow

UT Biophysicist Recognized as 2019 American Physical Society Fellow

The American Physical Society recognized Claus Wilke, University of Texas at Austin professor and chair of the Department of Integrative Biology, as a 2019 Fellow in September. Fellowships are awarded based on outstanding contributions to the field of physics, and are received by no more than one half of one percent of the society's members each year.

Elaborate Komodo Dragon Armor Defends Against Other Dragons

Elaborate Komodo Dragon Armor Defends Against Other Dragons

Just beneath their scales, Komodo dragons wear a suit of armor made of tiny bones. These bones cover the dragons from head to tail, creating a "chain mail" that protects the giant predators. However, the armor raises a question: What does the world's largest lizard – the dominant predator in its natural habitat – need protection from?

Alma Solis’s Research Helps Protect Farms from Pests and Control Invasive Plants

Alma Solis’s Research Helps Protect Farms from Pests and Control Invasive Plants

Alma Solis (B.S. '78, M.S. Biology, '82) is a research entomologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service and curator for the Smithsonian Institution.

Alma Solis. Photo credit: Vivian Abagiu.
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In Singing Mice, Scientists Find Clue to Our Own Rapid Conversations

In Singing Mice, Scientists Find Clue to Our Own Rapid Conversations

Alston's singing mouse. Photo by Bret Pasch.

Studying the songs of mice from the cloud forests of Costa Rica, researchers from New York University School of Medicine and The University of Texas at Austin have identified a brain circuit that might enable the high-speed back and forth of human conversation. This insight, published online today in the journal Science, could help researchers better understand the causes of speech disorders and point the way to new treatments.

Texas Invasive Species Program Gets Boost from Lee and Ramona Bass Foundation

Texas Invasive Species Program Gets Boost from Lee and Ramona Bass Foundation

Destructive and costly fire ants, crazy ants, moth larvae and invasive grasses can wreak havoc on Texas ecosystems, but biologists at The University of Texas at Austin are bringing the fight to them. With the help of a $6 million continuing grant from the Lee and Ramona Bass Foundation, researchers in the Texas Invasive Species Program will seek n...
Beauty, Bonding and Rethinking Evolution

Beauty, Bonding and Rethinking Evolution

Across the animal kingdom, males and females of the same species are often locked in a battle of the sexes. The instigator is evolution itself. It drives them to develop weapons, tactical tricks and defensive maneuvers that aid in an animal's fight to pass its genes on to a new generation.

Central Texas Salamanders, Including Newly Identified Species, At Risk of Extinction

Central Texas Salamanders, Including Newly Identified Species, At Risk of Extinction

This newly identified, unnamed salamander lives near the Pedernales river west of Austin, Texas. Photo credit: Tom Devitt.

Biologists at The University of Texas at Austin have discovered three new species of groundwater salamander in Central Texas, including one living west of Austin that they say is critically endangered. They also determined that an already known salamander species near Georgetown is much more endangered than previously thought.

Evolution Used Same Genetic Formula to Turn Animals Monogamous

Evolution Used Same Genetic Formula to Turn Animals Monogamous

In many non-monogamous species, females provide all or most of the offspring care. In monogamous species, parental care is often shared. In these frogs, parental care includes transporting tadpoles one by one after hatching to small pools of water. In the non-monogamous strawberry poison frog (Oophaga pumilio, left) moms perform this task; however, in the monogamous mimic poison frog (Ranitomeya imitator, right) this is dad's job. Credit: Yusan Yan and James Tumulty.

Why are some animals committed to their mates and others are not? According to a new study led by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin that looked at 10 species of vertebrates, evolution used a kind of universal formula for turning non-monogamous species into monogamous species — turning up the activity of some genes and turning down others in the brain.

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.