The discovery that an ancient light harvesting protein plays a pivotal role in the photosynthesis of green algae should help the effort to develop algae as a biofuels feedstock. Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have identified the protein LHCSR as the molecular “dimmer switch” that acts to prevent green algae from absorbing too much sunlight during photosynthesis and suffering oxidation damage as a consequence.

“We’ve shown that for green algae, and probably most other eukaryotic algae, the LHCSR protein is used to dissipate excess light energy and protect the photosynthetic apparatus from damage,” says Krishna Niyogi, a biologist who holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and the University of California (UC) Berkeley’s Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. “We describe LHCSR as an ancient member of the family of light harvesting proteins because it seems to have been one of the first to branch off from a common ancestor shared long ago by both algae and plants.”

Could treat infraction or induce blood supply for engineered tissues

Results: MIT engineers have boosted stem cells’ ability to regenerate vascular tissue (such as blood vessels) by equipping them with genes that produce extra growth factors (naturally occurring compounds that stimulate tissue growth). In a study in mice, the researchers found that the stem cells successfully generated blood vessels near the site of an injury, allowing damaged tissue to survive.

The kelp forests off southern California are considered to be some of the most diverse and productive ecosystems on the planet, yet a new study indicates that today's kelp beds are less extensive and lush than those in the recent past.

The kelp forest tripled in size from the peak of glaciation 20,000 years ago to about 7,500 years ago, then shrank by up to 70 percent to present day levels, according to the study by Rick Grosberg, professor in the Department of Evolution and Ecology and the Center for Population Biology at UC Davis, with Michael Graham of the Moss Landing Marine Laboratory and Brian Kinlan at UC Santa Barbara.

It sounds like a classic horror story—eyeless, mouthless worms lurk in the dark, settling onto dead animals and sending out green "roots" to devour their bones. In fact, such worms do exist in the deep sea. They were first discovered in 2002 by researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), who were using a robot submarine to explore Monterey Canyon. But that wasn't the end of the story. After "planting" several dead whales on the seafloor, a team of biologists recently announced that as many as 15 different species of boneworms may live in Monterey Bay alone.

by Stuart Wolpert

Why do so many animal species — including fish, birds and insects — display such rich diversity in coloration and other traits? In new research, Gregory Grether, UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and Christopher Anderson, who recently earned his doctorate in Grether's laboratory, offer an answer.
 
At least since Charles Darwin, biologists have noticed that species differ in "secondary sexual traits," such as bright coloring or elaborate horns, Grether said. Darwin attributed this diversity to sexual selection, meaning the traits increased an animal's ability to attract mates.But Grether and Anderson, writing in the Oct. 28 issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, emphasize another evolutionary factor.

Researchers from the United States and Slovenia have discovered a new, giant Nephila species (golden orb weaver spider) from Africa and Madagascar and have published their findings in the Oct. 21 issue of the journal PLoS ONE. Matjaž Kuntner, chair of the Institute of Biology of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts and a Smithsonian research associate, along with Jonathan Coddington, senior scientist and curator of arachnids and myriapods in the Department of Entomology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, also reconstructed size evolution in the family Nephilidae to show that this new species, on average, is the largest orb weaver known. Only the females are giants with a body length of 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) and a leg span of 4 - 5 inches (10 - 12 centimeters); the males are tiny by comparison. More than 41,000 spider species are known to science with about 400 - 500 new species added each year. But for some well-known groups, such as the giant golden orb weavers, the last valid described species dates back to the 19th century. 

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