AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: alleele

Does The Time of Day Control Memory Ability?

Researchers University of Tokyo Department of Applied Biological Chemistry have found evidence that the time of day may influence one’s forgetfulness. They were able to study this by identifying and studying a gene in mice that controls memory. 

The key to their research was making a test that differentiates between never learning information versus not remembering information. To ensure that the mice learned new information, the mice were given a new object and then given the same object later in the day. The mice were considered to have “learned” new information if they spent less time exploring the new object. 

Researchers repeated this experiment with mice that had BMAL1 and with mice that did not have BMAL1. BMAL1 is a protein that controls different genes and normally fluctuates between high and low levels. Through tests, researchers discovered that the mice without the BMAL1 (normal mice), were more forgetful when they first woke up. 

Though the researcher’s findings may indicate that humans are also more forgetful early in the morning, more research meeds to be done. Scientists are currently trying to find ways to strengthen memory through the BMAL1 pathway, that can possibly help cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. They are also curious to determine the evolutionary benefit of having less memory ability later in the day. This study can be seen as the first step towards a major scientific discovery. 

Is it Time For a Raw Food Diet?

A recent article details a study by scientists at UC San Francisco details the effects of cooked food versus raw food on the gut microbiomes of mice. By feeding some mice raw potato and others cooked potato, scientists discovered that in mice, raw food damages certain microbes. Scientists discovered that raw foods contain antimicrobial compounds that damaged microbes in mice. Surprisingly, differences between the mice were due to chemicals found in plants. Turnbaugh’s is currently analyzing the specific chemical changes that occur after cooking in order to further understand how cooked food impacts the mice microbiomes.


Another interesting effect of the raw food on mice was weight loss. The researchers were curious as to whether the weight loss was due to the altered microbiomes. They were ultimately not due to the microbiomes, because when the altered microbiomes were put into mice eating a normal diet, those mice put on fat. The researchers are currently unsure of why this happens.

Interested in the possible ramifications of his discovery on human diets, Turnbaugh  conducted a second experiment using human test subjects. The raw food diets altered the microbiomes of the human test subjects, an exciting find for the researchers. The effects of these altered microbiomes are still unclear and is being further researched. For now, raw food diets don’t seem to have massive benefits and in cases of contaminated meat can be harmful to humans, but only further research will tell.

The Effects of Climate Change on Plants and Animals

Extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Dorian, have recently become more frequent due to climate change. Changing weather patterns can effect species, but it is unknown what these effects will look like. To solve this problem, Assistant professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis Carlos Botero and Thomas Haaland, formerly a graduate student at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, develop models to predict the effects of changing climate on biological species.

Botero and Haaland used computer simulations to highlight certain factors and traits that put a species at risk for extinction. A key finding was that species that breed a single time in their lifetime evolve as if they were going to experience environmental extreme often while species that breed multiple times in their lifetime evolve as if environmental extremes never happen. The two categories of species are called “conservative” and “care-free” by Botero and Haaland. The former can adapt to frequent, less intense extremes, while the latter can adapt to infrequent, more intense extremes. Because of the rising intensity of natural disasters as a result of climate change, the “care-free” category of animals is less prone to extinction and the “conservative” category of animals is more prone to extinction. Thus, their findings challenge the widely-accepted idea that species with more exposure to environment changes will more easily adapt to climate change.

For example, species in areas with more frequent heat waves are more prone to extinction. Specifically, species that are in these areas with a small geographic distribution are more in danger. This logic can be applied to any kind of environmental extreme, including hurricanes, floods, and wildfires, say Botero and Haaland.

Botero and Haaland also discovered that species with traits that cause them to evolve quicker tend to worsen adaptation to events such as natural disasters. This is partly because of the high mutation rates that accompany faster evolution rates.

Understanding how climate change effects animal species and knowing which species are in the most danger helps aid conservation efforts. People and the governments are able to start by helping protect species that are at the highest level of risk.

Do you think this is enough to offset the effects of climate change? How else can climate change be addressed?


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