Climate change is driving plant die-offs in Southern California, UCI study finds

Irvine, Calif., June 21, 2021 – A shift is happening in Southern California, and this time it has nothing to do with earthquakes. According to a new study by scientists at the University of California, Irvine, climate change is altering the number of plants populating the region’s deserts and mountains. Using data from the Landsat satellite mission and focusing on an area of nearly 5,000 square miles surrounding Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the research team found that between 1984 and 2017, vegetation cover in desert ecosystems decreased overall by about 35 percent, with mountains seeing a 13 percent vegetation decline.

New Approach Helps Determine How Much Microbial Community Composition Is Driven by Selection and How Much by Chance

Quantifying the relative importance of natural selection, migration, and random shifts to a species is a major challenge in ecology research, especially for microbes. This study develops an approach named iCAMP that is based on the concept that different processes can govern different groups of species in a diverse community. Applied to grassland microbial communities, iCAMP revealed that environmental changes altered the relative importance of the ecological processes.

Scientists describe earliest primate fossils

A new study published Feb. 24 in the journal Royal Society Open Science documents the earliest-known fossil evidence of primates. These creatures lived less than 150,000 years after the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction event that killed off non-avian dinosaurs and saw the rise of mammals.

How and why microbes promote and protect against stress

The bacteria, yeast and viruses that make up the human microbiome affect physical health, behavior and emotions. Some microbes in the human microbiome prosper when the body is under stress, while other microbes contribute to buffering the body against stress. Evolutionary theory suggests reciprocal relationships between microbes in the human body and stress; these relationships can possibly be harnessed to promote physical and mental health.

Tail regeneration in lungfish provides insight into evolution of limb regrowth

A new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B from researchers at the University of Chicago and Universidade Federal do Pará explores regenerative ability in the tails of West African lungfish for the first time, and finds that the process shares many of the same traits as tail regeneration in salamanders. Their results indicate that this trait was likely found in a common ancestor – and provide a new opportunity for better understanding and harnessing the mechanisms of limb regrowth.

PECASE Honoree Sohini Ramachandran Studies the Genetic Foundations of Traits in Diverse Populations

NIGMS grantee and presidential award recipient Sohini Ramachandran, Ph.D., is challenging our understanding of genetic variation among human populations. She discusses her research on how the genetic composition of traits and diseases varies among populations, the value of statistical and computational work in human genetics, and what this all means for patient treatment.