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The Importance of Size in the Evolution of Complexity in Ants

Tue, 16 Sep 2014 10:14:37 +0000

Ants are amongst the most abundant and successful species on Earth. They live in complex, cooperative societies, construct elaborate homes and exhibit many of the hallmarks of our own society. Some ants farm crops, others tend livestock. Many species have a major impact on the ecosystems they live in, dispersing seeds, consuming huge quantities of […]

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Understanding Catfish Colonisation and Diversification in The Great African Lakes

Fri, 05 Sep 2014 10:29:42 +0000

Why some regions or habitats contain vast, diverse communities of species, whilst others contain only relatively few species, continues to be the subject of scientific research attempting to understand the processes and conditions that allow and adaptive radiation. The Great African Lakes exist as freshwater ‘islands’, with spectacularly high levels of biodiversity and endemism. They […]

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Sex Differentiation Begins During Early Development

Wed, 27 Aug 2014 14:04:57 +0000

Males and females look different from each other, and these sexual dimorphisms are the result, largely, of sex differences in the expression of certain genes. Typically, scientists have studied sexual dimorphism in sexually mature adult animals, as this is the lifestage where differences are most apparent. However, many sex-specific phenotypes arise from sex-biased development, so […]

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Extinction and Species Declines:Defaunation in the Anthropocene

Mon, 18 Aug 2014 10:35:52 +0000

We are in the grips of a mass extinction. There have been mass extinctions throughout evolutionary history, what makes this one different is that we’re the ones causing it. A recent review paper from GEE’s Dr Ben Collen discusses the current loss of biodiversity and suggests that our main concerns are species and population declines, […]

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Defaunation in the Anthropocene
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Evolving Endemism in East Africa’s Sky Islands

Fri, 08 Aug 2014 14:16:32 +0000

The World’s biodiversity is not evenly distributed. Some regions are hot spots for species richness, and biologists have been trying better to understand why these regions are special and what drives evolution and diversification. A recent paper by GEE’s Dr Julia Day and recent PhD graduate Dr Siobhan Cox, investigated the diversification of White-Eye Birds […]

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LeCHE MEETING

14 May 2010

A new study led by UCL scientists (in GEE) has found that current genetic data cannot explain why vast swathes of the world can digest milk.

Study co-author Dr Yuval Itan (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment) explains more fully what this study reveals.

The ability to digest the milk sugar lactose – also known as lactase persistence – is a selectively advantageous and recent evolutionary genetic trait, which emerged about 7,500 years ago in Europe and probably later in other parts of the world. This means that, once weaned, people in most parts of the world (large parts of Africa, most of Asia, and Oceania) cannot digest milk for the rest of their life.

However, the study published in BMC Evolutionary Biology, shows that the four genetic mutations currently associated with the ability to digest milk cannot explain why many people in western and southern Africa, south eastern Europe, the Middle East, and southern and central Asia are able to digest milk. It also suggests that other genetic variants leading to the ability to digest milk exist, but have not yet been discovered.

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