Treehoppers put obsolete genetics to fashionable use
By ROGER HIGHFIELD - NEW SCIENTIST
Added: Mon, 01 Aug 2011 14:29:06 UTC
(Image: Alex Wild)
The designs of Philip Treacy, creator of the "fascinator" worn by Princess Beatrice at this year's royal wedding, pale in comparison with the efforts of tiny insects called treehoppers.
The insects sport bizarre "helmets" on their backs that are cunningly shaped to mimic aggressive ants, as in the case of this species from Ecuador. Other members of the 3000-plus species look like thorns, caterpillar droppings, seeds or leaves.
The helmet was thought to be an outgrowth of the treehopper's thorax - the middle part of its body - but this year, a French team reported that the helmet is in fact an entirely new type of appendage, jointed at the base like a leg, antenna or wing.
When insects first evolved 350 million years ago, they were able to grow wings from all three of their thoracic segments. However, 100 million years later, a body plan (Hox) gene brought the ability to suppress wing formation in the first thoracic segment by blocking the genes involved.
- - PhysOrg.com Comments
Using a process called paleo-experimental evolution, Georgia Tech researchers have resurrected a 500-million-year-old gene from bacteria and inserted it into modern-day Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria. This bacterium has now been growing for more than 1,000 generations, giving the scientists a front row seat to observe evolution in action. Credit: Georgia Institute of Technology
- - Sense About Science 6 Comments
Welcome to this questions and answer session on cross fertilisation, which has also been called contamination, with Wendy harwood and Huw Jones.
Rothamsted Research - YouTube/Sense... 79 Comments
Add your support to the appeal from scientists at the publicly funded Rothamsted Research: Don't Destroy Our Research.
Edyta Zielinska - TheScientist 7 Comments
Genes shared across species that produce different phenotypes—deafness in humans and directional growth in plants—may reveal new models of disease.
MORE BY ROGER HIGHFIELD
Roger Highfield - The Telegraph 15 Comments
'A glorious time to be alive and doing research
in theoretical physics': Stephen Hawking, 70
next week Photo: Murdo Macleod; MMP Cambridge