Thursday, May 26, 2016

Brave New World

Fig.1. Cannabis sativa. (Credit: Biodiversity Heritage Library)

In a laboratory, just outside downtown Portland, Mowgli Holmes and his team at Phylos Bioscience are embarking on a brave new world.

“We’re creating the first genetically defined collection that has ever been,” he said. “... We know less about it than any other crop.”

That crop Holmes is referring to is cannabis, and that collection he and his team of genetic researchers have been working on the past couple of years is an extensive genomic dataset. Holmes and his group will expand upon the "draft" genomics work previously done.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Brief History Camels (And Humans)

Fig.1. Dromedaries in Israel (Credit: Wilson, 2011)

For the past 3,000 years, single-humped camels, known as dromedaries (Camelus dromedarius), have provided an important source of food and transport to desert communities. The origin of the domesticated dromedary, however, remains relatively unknown. A recent article published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals some clues as to where and when humans started to depend upon these animals.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Tale of Two Beaks: Darwin and the 21st Century

Fig.1. HMS Beagle in the Strait of Magellan (Credit: R.T. Pritchett, 1900

On 11 May 1820, the HMS Beagle was launched from the Woolwich Dockyard on the River Thames. Out of three voyages around the world to survey both land and sea, its second and easily most famous voyage cemented the ship’s role in history, thanks to the efforts of a young passenger named Charles Darwin. Now, nearly 200 years later, scientists have returned to the same birds that came to symbolize Darwin’s work in a study that captures evolution in action.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A 4.5 Billion-Year-Old Mystery

Fig.1. An artist’s concept of two celestial bodies the size of Mercury (left) 
and the Moon (right) colliding (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech, 2009)

Long before an asteroid hit Earth, killing off all non-avian dinosaurs, a much larger object crashed into our planet. This object, called Theia, is thought to have collided with proto-Earth around 4.5 billion years ago. Scientists think that a glancing blow shaped our early planet and created the Moon out of Theia’s remains. A recent article published in Science, however, may overturn this hypothesis regarding the formation of the Moon.