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Biology, Volume 5, Issue 3 (September 2016) – 6 articles

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Review
Giraffe Stature and Neck Elongation: Vigilance as an Evolutionary Mechanism
Biology 2016, 5(3), 35; https://doi.org/10.3390/biology5030035 - 12 Sep 2016
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 5004
Abstract
Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), with their long neck and legs, are unique amongst mammals. How these features evolved is a matter of conjecture. The two leading ideas are the high browse and the sexual-selection hypotheses. While both explain many of the characteristics [...] Read more.
Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), with their long neck and legs, are unique amongst mammals. How these features evolved is a matter of conjecture. The two leading ideas are the high browse and the sexual-selection hypotheses. While both explain many of the characteristics and the behaviour of giraffe, neither is fully supported by the available evidence. The extended viewing horizon afforded by increased height and a need to maintain horizon vigilance, as a mechanism favouring the evolution of increased height is reviewed. In giraffe, vigilance of predators whilst feeding and drinking are important survival factors, as is the ability to interact with immediate herd members, young and male suitors. The evidence regarding giraffe vigilance behaviour is sparse and suggests that over-vigilance has a negative cost, serving as a distraction to feeding. In woodland savannah, increased height allows giraffe to see further, allowing each giraffe to increase the distance between its neighbours while browsing. Increased height allows the giraffe to see the early approach of predators, as well as bull males. It is postulated that the wider panorama afforded by an increase in height and longer neck has improved survival via allowing giraffe to browse safely over wider areas, decreasing competition within groups and with other herbivores. Full article
Article
Individual Differences in the Post-Illumination Pupil Response to Blue Light: Assessment without Mydriatics
Biology 2016, 5(3), 34; https://doi.org/10.3390/biology5030034 - 09 Sep 2016
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3426
Abstract
Melanopsin-containing retinal ganglion cells play an important role in the non-image forming effects of light, through their direct projections on brain circuits involved in circadian rhythms, mood and alertness. Individual differences in the functionality of the melanopsin-signaling circuitry can be reliably quantified using [...] Read more.
Melanopsin-containing retinal ganglion cells play an important role in the non-image forming effects of light, through their direct projections on brain circuits involved in circadian rhythms, mood and alertness. Individual differences in the functionality of the melanopsin-signaling circuitry can be reliably quantified using the maximum post-illumination pupil response (PIPR) after blue light. Previous protocols for acquiring PIPR relied on the use of mydriatics to dilate the light-exposed eye. However, pharmacological pupil dilation is uncomfortable for the participants and requires ophthalmological expertise. Hence, we here investigated whether an individual’s maximum PIPR can be validly obtained in a protocol that does not use mydriatics but rather increases the intensity of the light stimulus. In 18 participants (5 males, mean age ± SD: 34.6 ± 13.6 years) we evaluated the PIPR after exposure to intensified blue light (550 µW/cm2) provided to an undilated dynamic pupil. The test-retest reliability of the primary PIPR outcome parameter was very high, both between day-to-day assessments (Intraclass Correlation Coefficient (ICC) = 0.85), as well as between winter and summer assessments (ICC = 0.83). Compared to the PIPR obtained with the use of mydriatics and 160 µW/cm2 blue light exposure, the method with intensified light without mydriatics showed almost zero bias according to Bland-Altman plots and had moderate to strong reliability (ICC = 0.67). In conclusion, for PIPR assessments, increasing the light intensity is a feasible and reliable alternative to pupil dilation to relieve the participant’s burden and to allow for performance outside the ophthalmological clinic. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circadian Rhythms from Bench to Bedside)
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Article
Quantifying Mosaic Development: Towards an Evo-Devo Postmodern Synthesis of the Evolution of Development via Differentiation Trees of Embryos
Biology 2016, 5(3), 33; https://doi.org/10.3390/biology5030033 - 18 Aug 2016
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 3875
Abstract
Embryonic development proceeds through a series of differentiation events. The mosaic version of this process (binary cell divisions) can be analyzed by comparing early development of Ciona intestinalis and Caenorhabditis elegans. To do this, we reorganize lineage trees into differentiation trees using [...] Read more.
Embryonic development proceeds through a series of differentiation events. The mosaic version of this process (binary cell divisions) can be analyzed by comparing early development of Ciona intestinalis and Caenorhabditis elegans. To do this, we reorganize lineage trees into differentiation trees using the graph theory ordering of relative cell volume. Lineage and differentiation trees provide us with means to classify each cell using binary codes. Extracting data characterizing lineage tree position, cell volume, and nucleus position for each cell during early embryogenesis, we conduct several statistical analyses, both within and between taxa. We compare both cell volume distributions and cell volume across developmental time within and between single species and assess differences between lineage tree and differentiation tree orderings. This enhances our understanding of the differentiation events in a model of pure mosaic embryogenesis and its relationship to evolutionary conservation. We also contribute several new techniques for assessing both differences between lineage trees and differentiation trees, and differences between differentiation trees of different species. The results suggest that at the level of differentiation trees, there are broad similarities between distantly related mosaic embryos that might be essential to understanding evolutionary change and phylogeny reconstruction. Differentiation trees may therefore provide a basis for an Evo-Devo Postmodern Synthesis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Beyond the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis- what have we missed?)
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Article
Dissociation and Re-Aggregation of Multicell-Ensheathed Fragments Responsible for Rapid Production of Massive Clumps of Leptothrix Sheaths
Biology 2016, 5(3), 32; https://doi.org/10.3390/biology5030032 - 01 Aug 2016
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2630
Abstract
Species of the Fe/Mn-oxidizing bacteria Leptothrix produce tremendous amounts of microtubular, Fe/Mn-encrusted sheaths within a few days in outwells of groundwater that can rapidly clog water systems. To understand this mode of rapid sheath production and define the timescales involved, behaviors of sheath-forming [...] Read more.
Species of the Fe/Mn-oxidizing bacteria Leptothrix produce tremendous amounts of microtubular, Fe/Mn-encrusted sheaths within a few days in outwells of groundwater that can rapidly clog water systems. To understand this mode of rapid sheath production and define the timescales involved, behaviors of sheath-forming Leptothrix sp. strain OUMS1 were examined using time-lapse video at the initial stage of sheath formation. OUMS1 formed clumps of tangled sheaths. Electron microscopy confirmed the presence of a thin layer of bacterial exopolymer fibrils around catenulate cells (corresponding to the immature sheath). In time-lapse videos, numerous sheath filaments that extended from the periphery of sheath clumps repeatedly fragmented at the apex of the same fragment, the fragments then aggregated and again elongated, eventually forming a large sheath clump comprising tangled sheaths within two days. In this study, we found that fast microscopic fragmentation, dissociation, re-aggregation and re-elongation events are the basis of the rapid, massive production of Leptothrix sheaths typically observed at macroscopic scales. Full article
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Review
Circadian Regulation of Synaptic Plasticity
Biology 2016, 5(3), 31; https://doi.org/10.3390/biology5030031 - 13 Jul 2016
Cited by 22 | Viewed by 3986
Abstract
Circadian rhythms refer to oscillations in biological processes with a period of approximately 24 h. In addition to the sleep/wake cycle, there are circadian rhythms in metabolism, body temperature, hormone output, organ function and gene expression. There is also evidence of circadian rhythms [...] Read more.
Circadian rhythms refer to oscillations in biological processes with a period of approximately 24 h. In addition to the sleep/wake cycle, there are circadian rhythms in metabolism, body temperature, hormone output, organ function and gene expression. There is also evidence of circadian rhythms in synaptic plasticity, in some cases driven by a master central clock and in other cases by peripheral clocks. In this article, I review the evidence for circadian influences on synaptic plasticity. I also discuss ways to disentangle the effects of brain state and rhythms on synaptic plasticity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circadian Rhythms from Bench to Bedside)
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Concept Paper
Phenotype as Agent for Epigenetic Inheritance
Biology 2016, 5(3), 30; https://doi.org/10.3390/biology5030030 - 08 Jul 2016
Cited by 21 | Viewed by 2877
Abstract
The conventional understanding of phenotype is as a derivative of descent with modification through Darwinian random mutation and natural selection. Recent research has revealed Lamarckian inheritance as a major transgenerational mechanism for environmental action on genomes whose extent is determined, in significant part, [...] Read more.
The conventional understanding of phenotype is as a derivative of descent with modification through Darwinian random mutation and natural selection. Recent research has revealed Lamarckian inheritance as a major transgenerational mechanism for environmental action on genomes whose extent is determined, in significant part, by germ line cells during meiosis and subsequent stages of embryological development. In consequence, the role of phenotype can productively be reconsidered. The possibility that phenotype is directed towards the effective acquisition of epigenetic marks in consistent reciprocation with the environment during the life cycle of an organism is explored. It is proposed that phenotype is an active agent in niche construction for the active acquisition of epigenetic marks as a dominant evolutionary mechanism rather than a consequence of Darwinian selection towards reproductive success. The reproductive phase of the life cycle can then be appraised as a robust framework in which epigenetic inheritance is entrained to affect growth and development in continued reciprocal responsiveness to environmental stresses. Furthermore, as first principles of physiology determine the limits of epigenetic inheritance, a coherent justification can thereby be provided for the obligate return of all multicellular eukaryotes to the unicellular state. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Beyond the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis- what have we missed?)
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