toxoplasma Animals Biology Health 

Toxoplasma Infection Makes Mice More Brave

By Mackenzie Myers, @kenzwrites Quiet as a mouse. Timid as a mouse. When’s the last time you heard a mouse described as brave?  The scientific community has already established that a parasite carried by cats and their feces, Toxoplasma gondii, causes infected mice to lose their fear of feline predators. But a new study from researchers at the University of Geneva and the University of Toronto points to a decrease in anxiety that may be less specific than previously thought, giving mice a one-size-fits-all fearlessness.  What is Toxoplasmosis? T. gondii,…

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The water bear or moss piglet is a tiny invertebrate that's been around on Earth for more than half a billion years. This is a giant model at the AMNH's "Life at the Limits" exhibit. Photo courtesy of Eden, Janine, and Jim(CC BY 2.0) Animals Biology Climate Change Environment 

Even the Resilient Tardigrade Has an Achilles Heel

By Shelby Nilsen (@shellbeegrace) Climate change is already affecting many habitats and ecosystems. As a result, scientists are working to understand how the rising temperatures we face might affect extant animals—that is, those species that are still surviving—including tardigrades, some of the toughest organisms around, which are well known for their ability to adapt to extreme environments.  In the face of certain environmental cues, tardigrades enter cryptobiosis, a state in which all metabolic processes stop until the organism’s surroundings become favorable again. This remarkable survival tactic allows tardigrades to withstand…

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Parasitic plant: Dodder (Cuscutta) Photo by BCGX via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0) Biology Botany 

Parasitic Plant Has Edge in Evolutionary Arms Race

By Cameron Duke (@DukeofCam) The relationship between a parasite and its host can be a contentious one. Their interests are in direct conflict with one another, so each is always trying to circumvent the other’s plan. This is often thought of as an evolutionary “arms race.” In this ongoing competition, a parasite evolves a more efficient way to prey on the host, and the host adapts in response. These successive adaptations can lead to complex life cycles and intimate species-specific relationships.  New research out of Penn State, conducted by Michael…

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A disco clam shows off it's bright red tissue and flashing display. Lindsey Dougherty, University of Colorado at Boulder Biology Oceanography 

Disco Clam, Colorful Mystery

By Neha Jain (@lifesciexplore) Dazzling bright-red tentacles first lured Lindsey Dougherty to the study of disco clams, which are found in coral reefs in the tropical waters off the coast of North Sulawesi, Indonesia. In a recent study, Dougherty’s research team found that the disco clam’s colorful tissues are noxious (unpleasant or distasteful) and are involved in its chemical defense against one of its predators. This is the first study to demonstrate that bivalve tissues can chemically deter predators. Most bivalves, such as clams, mussels, and oysters, are dull in…

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