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In this News Blog you will news about Brachypelma spp. and other interesting news concerning the smallest among us.

You will also find messages about updates and other things concerning Brachypelma.org here.

After a while it is also possible that I will post some of my notes from my biology studies here, unless they are more relevant in other sections of the site.



ScienceDaily: Newly Identified Spider Toxin May Help Uncover Novel Ways of Treating Pain and Human Diseases

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Spider venom toxins are useful tools for exploring how ion channels operate in the body. These channels control the flow of ions across cell membranes, and are key components in a wide variety of biological processes and human diseases.

A newly identified toxin from the American funnel web spider acts on T-type and N-type calcium channels, researchers from the University of California at Riverside have discovered. The toxin offers a new target for studying T-type channels, which play a role in congestive heart failure, hypertension, epilepsy and pain.

"The blocking mechanism of the toxin is different from classical pore blocker toxins and voltage modifier toxins," says lead researcher Xiao Zhang, a postdoc at the Del Webb Center for Neuroscience in La Jolla, Calif. "It indicates a new toxin blocking mechanism on voltage-gated ion channels."

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ScienceDaily: What Wasps Can Tell Us About Sex

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Researchers at ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich have discovered that a single gene in a particular aphid wasp decides whether the insects reproduce sexually or asexually. This is not only of interest for pest control, but could also help answer a central question of evolutionary biology.

Why does sex exist? Evolutionary biologists have yet to find a satisfactory answer to this simple question. Asexual reproduction would be more "economical" because, with separate sexes reproducing sexually, only some organisms will produce offspring. Yet, in the course of evolution, sexual reproduction has become the predominant mode. Various theories have sought to explain why this is so, but they all have to contend with the problem that they are difficult to test empirically. It is true that certain animal species reproduce both sexually and asexually; however, in these species, individuals of sexual origin generally also differ in other respects from those of asexual origin, so that only limited conclusions can be drawn from direct comparisons.

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ScienceDaily: Clues About Grasshopper Population Explosions

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Literature and films have left us with vivid images of the grasshopper plagues that devastated the Great Plains in the 1870s. Although commonly referred to as grasshoppers, the infestations were actually by Rocky Mountain locusts.

The Rocky Mountain locust became extinct in 1902, but their cousins, grasshoppers and Mormon crickets, today still cause an estimated $1.5 billion (2005 U.S. dollars) in damage to grazing lands in the American West. A long-running research project directed by University of Notre Dame biologist Gary Belovsky, who also is director of the Notre Dame Environmental Research Center (UNDERC), is examining what limits grasshopper populations and the role played by grasshoppers in prairie ecosystems.

Belovsky first started studying grasshopper populations in 1978 at the National Bison Range, now a location for one of UNDERC's national undergraduate programs. Following the last major Western grasshopper outbreak in 1985, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (UDSA-APHIS) asked Belovsky to help study the grasshopper's feeding preferences and population dynamics in western Montana.

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Nature News: 'Walking cactus' is arthropods' lost relative

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Fossil find sheds light on how jointed legs of insects, spiders and crustaceans might have originated.

A clue to how arthropods the group of more than a million invertebrate species that includes insects, spiders and crustaceans evolved their distinctive jointed legs has been discovered in southwestern China.

Nicknamed the 'walking cactus' because of its spiny appearance, the Diania cactiformis fossil find is reported in a paper published today in Nature. The animal belongs to the Lobopodia, a now-extinct group of animals resembling worms with legs, which may have been a relative of today's velvet worms. But it is the first species of that group found to have the jointed legs typical of Arthropoda.

"A lot of scientists had long suspected that arthropods evolved from lobopodians," says Jianni Liu, a palaeontologist from the Early Life Institute at Northwest University in Xi'an, China, and currently at the Free University of Berlin, who led the work. "But we did not have a single fossil we could point at and say, 'This is the first lobopodian with jointed legs'."

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ScienceDaily: Texas Leafcutter Ants Aided, but Also Limited, by Cold-Tolerant Fungus Crops, Research Shows

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Texas leafcutter ants farm crops of fungus that evolved cold tolerance to Texas winters, just as northern farmers cultivate cold weather crops, researchers from The University of Texas at Austin show in a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Though the cold tolerant fungus gives the ants the ability to maintain winter gardens, the fungus is still sensitive enough to cold it limits the ant's ability to spread farther northward.

"The same is true for human farmers," says Ulrich Mueller, professor of biology. "Some of our crops come originally from the tropics, and humans have had to select them over time to grow in colder climates. But we are still limited by our abilities to select and adapt crops to local conditions."

Mueller and his colleagues found that even within Texas the fungus is more tolerant of cold at its northern edge near Dallas, and less tolerant of cold at its southern edge near Brownsville.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 February 2011 11:17
 


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