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From the College of Natural Sciences
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.

Plants: The Future of Energy?

Plants: The Future of Energy?

Can we use plants for energy instead of oil? That's the question one group of intrepid students is trying to answer as part of an innovative program that plugs first year students into real-world research projects with top notch faculty and research scientists.

Exposure to Toxins Makes Great Granddaughters More Susceptible to Stress

Exposure to Toxins Makes Great Granddaughters More Susceptible to Stress

b2ap3_thumbnail_sleepypups-ADJUST.jpgScientists have known that toxic effects of substances known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), found in both natural and human-made materials, can pass from one generation to the next, but new research shows that females with ancestral exposure to EDC may show especially adverse reactions to stress.

Fire Ecologists Study Recovery of Bastrop State Park

Fire Ecologists Study Recovery of Bastrop State Park

Watch and learn about research being done on the recovery of Bastrop State Park after the devastating fire in the area in 2011. Video by Jeff Mertz. 

Diet Affects Men's and Women's Gut Microbes Differently

Diet Affects Men's and Women's Gut Microbes Differently

gut_microbes-Rectangle700x420.jpgThe microbes living in the guts of males and females react differently to diet, even when the diets are identical, according to a study by scientists from The University of Texas at Austin and six other institutions published this week in the journal Nature Communications. These results suggest that therapies designed to improve human health and treat diseases through nutrition might need to be tailored for each sex.

How Electric Fish Evolved Their Shocking Skills Independently at Six Different Times

How Electric Fish Evolved Their Shocking Skills Independently at Six Different Times

New research demonstrates that the six electric fish lineages, all of which evolved independently, used essentially the same genes and developmental and cellular pathways to make an electricity-generating organ for defense, predation, navigation and communication.

You Probably Ate Fungus Today

You Probably Ate Fungus Today

That salad you had for lunch. Yeah, it had fungi in it.

That celery stick you barely nibbled that came with your basket of wings last night. It had fungi in it too.

Variety in Diet Can Hamper Microbial Diversity in the Gut

Variety in Diet Can Hamper Microbial Diversity in the Gut

Scientists from The University of Texas at Austin and five other institutions have discovered that the more diverse the diet of a fish, the less diverse are the microbes living in its gut. If the effect is confirmed in humans, it could mean that the combinations of foods people eat can influence the diversity of their gut microbes.

Head Room: The UT Austin Greenhouses

Head Room: The UT Austin Greenhouses

Take a glimpse into two of UT's biggest and brightest (literally!) greenhouses. The BOT greenhouse holds a number of exotic plants for taxonomic study, while the Welch greenhouse hosts a variety of rich and important agricultural projects. As these horticulturalists make clear, no two greenhouses are ever the same!