Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Assassin (Flies) of Entomology

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of videos we will release in 2016 about the use of scientific collections and DNA technology.

Torsten Dikow has traveled around the world to find the perfect fit. And he seems to have found it at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH).

Friday, March 25, 2016

Wild Plants and the Future of Crops

Fig.1. Members of CIAT’s Genetic Resources Program in the minus 20℃
gene bank 
(Credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT, 2010)

According to a recent study in the journal Nature Plants, around 95 percent of wild relatives of agricultural crops are insufficiently safeguarded in gene banks around the world. These crop wild relatives (CWR) are closely related to domesticated plants and have become increasingly important in efforts to protect crops against threats like drought, pests, and disease.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Slavery and the Spread of Disease

Fig.1. Scanning electron micrograph of a pair of Schistosoma mansoni
(Credit: Davies Laboratory Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, MD)

The transatlantic slave trade, which brought millions of Africans to the New World, connected four continents in a massive operation that lasted from the 16th to the 19th centuries. A recent study published in the journal Science Reports revealed that slave traders during these centuries contributed not only to an ongoing and tragic business in human lives, but also helped spread a parasitic disease around the world.

The parasitic fluke Schistosoma mansoni is one of several species that causes schistosomiasis (bilharzia), a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) found in almost 240 million people worldwide. This debilitating disease originated in East Africa and currently contributes to 20,000 to 200,000 deaths per year.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Fossil Hunter of Lyme Regis

Fig.1. Portrait of Mary Anning with her dog, Tray
Credit: NHM London, Public Domain

In 1799, Mary Anning was born to Richard and Mary Anning of Lyme Regis, a quiet town on the southern tip of England. Despite a lack of formal schooling and financial struggles, Anning would become one of England's most prolific fossil collectors. Her finds - including the first two plesiosaur skeletons ever found, the first pterosaur skeleton found outside of Germany, and the first ichthyosaur to be recognized - wound up in private collections and museums around Europe, laying the foundation for the emerging fields of geology and paleontology.