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Learning About Evolution from a Lizard That Reproduces Without Males

Learning About Evolution from a Lizard That Reproduces Without Males

The latest issue of the Nautilus takes an in-depth look at decades of work by David Crews, a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology, who has been studying species of whiptail lizards that are entirely female.

Bacteria Show Capacity for Rapid, Beneficial Mutations

Bacteria Show Capacity for Rapid, Beneficial Mutations

Scientists studying how microbes evolve have long assumed that nearly all new genetic mutations get passed down at a predictable pace and usually without either helping or hurting the microbe in adapting to its environment. In a new study published in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers studying tens of thousands of generations of E. coli bacteria report that most new genetic mutations that were passed down were actually beneficial and occurred at much more variable rates than previously thought.

Fix for 3-Billion-Year-Old Genetic Error Could Dramatically Improve Genetic Sequencing

Fix for 3-Billion-Year-Old Genetic Error Could Dramatically Improve Genetic Sequencing

Visual representation of laboratory manipulation RNA in water droplets; Jared Ellefson

For 3 billion years, one of the major carriers of information needed for life, RNA, has had a glitch that creates errors when making copies of genetic information. Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a fix that allows RNA to accurately proofread for the first time.

Scientists Unveil the Most Comprehensive Genomic Tree of Life

Scientists Unveil the Most Comprehensive Genomic Tree of Life

An international team of researchers, including Brett Baker from The University of Texas Marine Science Institute, has made the most comprehensive tree of life based on genomes, greatly expanding our view of the diversity of life on the planet. Using genetic data collected in recent years, the researchers found a group of bacteria that are so diverse genetically that they represent half of all the diversity of bacteria on the planet.

6 Research Stories to Revisit this Darwin Day

6 Research Stories to Revisit this Darwin Day

In honor of Darwin Day, we round up six popular College of Natural Sciences stories that showcase concepts in evolution. 

Some Prairie Vole Brains Are Better Wired for Sexual Fidelity

Some Prairie Vole Brains Are Better Wired for Sexual Fidelity

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have found that natural selection drives some male prairie voles to be fully monogamous and others to seek more partners. The surprising contrasts in the animals' brains result from differences in their DNA.

Fish Skin Provides Invisibility in Open Ocean

Fish Skin Provides Invisibility in Open Ocean

Simulated view of how the lookdown fish would appear in polarized light with mirrored skin (left) versus skin that reflects polarized light (right). Images are from simulations created by the Cummings lab.

Scientists have solved a longstanding mystery about how some fish seem to disappear from predators in the open waters of the ocean, a discovery that could help materials scientists and military technologists create more effective methods of ocean camouflage.

Partnerships in the Natural World

Partnerships in the Natural World

Evolutionary biologist Nancy Moran, professor in the Department of Integrative Biology, was featured in a detailed Q&A in Quanta Magazine. She explains her research on the relationships between bees and the bacteria that live inside of them.

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.

Computer Scientists Find Mass Extinctions Can Accelerate Evolution

Computer Scientists Find Mass Extinctions Can Accelerate Evolution

At the start of the simulation, a biped robot controlled by a computationally evolved brain stands upright on a 16 meter by 16 meter surface. The simulation proceeds until the robot falls or until 15 seconds have elapsed. Image credit: Joel Lehman.

A computer science team at The University of Texas at Austin has found that robots evolve more quickly and efficiently after a virtual mass extinction modeled after real-life disasters such as the one that killed off the dinosaurs. Beyond its implications for artificial intelligence, the research supports the idea that mass extinctions actually speed up evolution by unleashing new creativity in adaptations.