For hundreds of years, naturalists and scientists have identified new species based on an organism’s visible differences. But now, new genetic techniques are revealing that different species can show little to no visible differences. In a just-published study, evolutionary biologists at UMass Amherst and the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) combine traditional morphological tests plus genetic techniques to describe new species. Groups of morphologically similar organisms that show very divergent genetics are generally termed “cryptic species.” Lead authors of an article describing their work with scale insects in the current issue of the journal ZooKeys are AMNH’s Isabelle Vea, Ben Normark of UMass Amherst and Rodger Gwiazdowski, once Normark’s doctoral student and now a postdoctoral research fellow at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, Guelph.
News from the Media
Eric Decker, food science, says Omega-3 fats decrease mortality and the odds of sudden cardiac arrest in people who have already suffered a heart attack. He says Omega-3s may lower triglyceride levels by as much as 35 percent and studies show that fish oil consumption can reduce risk of depression and dementia.
Lynn Adler, biology, says the discovery that some plants use caffeine to boost the memory of bees when they drink nectar is exciting news. She also says there are many unknown compounds in nectar that serve some purpose for plants.
Paul Catanzaro, environmental conservation, says maple sugaring is part of the regional tradition and has become popular not just as a way to make money, but also as a way to connect to nature.
Ruth Hazzard, UMass Extension, comments in a story about the many types of small tomatoes that are available at this time of year. She says there are many factors that affect the flavor of the tomatoes, including when they were picked, whether they were vine-ripened and how far they have traveled.
Lyle Craker, Stockbridge School of Agriculture, is interviewed about his more than a decade-long battle with federal authorities to secure permission to grow marijuana so he can study its medicinal effects.
New research conducted by Julian McClements, food science, and Cheryl Chung, a postdoctoral associate, looks into major factors that influence the formulation of high quality reduced-fat food emulsions.
Stephen M. Rich, microbiology and director of the Laboratory of Medical Zoology, has led a research team who report a promising new low-cost combined therapy with a much higher chance of outwitting P. falciparum, the mosquito-borne parasite which causes the deadliest form of malaria than current modes. He and plant biochemist Pamela Weathers at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), with research physician Doug Golenbock at the UMass Medical School, also in Worcester, have designed an approach for treating malaria based on a new use of Artemisia annua, a plant employed for thousands of years in Asia to treat fever.
Stephen Rich, microbiology and director of the Laboratory of Medical Zoology, comments in a story about a new and as-yet unnamed tick-borne illness that has been discovered on Nantucket. He says ticks contain more than 250 bacteria, any one of which could cause disease.
Joseph Elkinton of UMass Extension, talks about how scientists are trying to control the winter moth by using another insect that feeds on the moths. Winter moths are considered a menace because in areas where they exist in large numbers they defoliate trees.