Wildlife

Where do rubber trees get their rubber?
June 24, 2016 03:33 PM - RIKEN via EurekAlert!

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science (CSRS) in Japan along with collaborators at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) have succeeded in decoding the genome sequence for Hevea brasiliensis, the natural rubber tree native to Brazil. Published in Scientific Reports, the study reports a draft genome sequence that covers more than 93% of expressed genes, and pinpoints regions specific to the biosynthesis of rubber.

Natural rubber flows in latex ducts and protects plants from insects when the plant becomes injured. For humans, it is an important resource for many industrial applications because it has several useful properties that have not been reproducible in synthetic petroleum-based rubber. While some strains of rubber tree yield higher amounts of rubber than others, the reasons for this are still unknown. The team led by Minami Matsui at the RIKEN CSRS and Alexander Chong at USM set out to sequence and analyze the H. brasiliensis genome. Explains first author Nyok Sean Lau, "genomic information can reveal which genes contribute to the rubber tree's capacity to produce high amounts of latex. This in turn will help us develop rubber trees with higher yields."

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How did the giraffe get its long neck?
May 27, 2016 06:09 AM - Penn State University

For the first time, the genomes of the giraffe and its closest living relative, the reclusive okapi of the African rainforest, have been sequenced — revealing the first clues about the genetic changes that led to the evolution of the giraffe’s exceptionally long neck and its record-holding ranking as the world’s tallest land species. The research will be published in the scientific journal Nature Communications on May 17, 2016.

“The giraffe’s stature, dominated by its long neck and legs and an overall height that can reach 19 feet (~ 6 m), is an extraordinary feat of evolution that has inspired awe and wonder for at least 8,000 years — as far back as the famous rock carvings at Dabous in the Republic of Niger,” said Douglas Cavener of Penn State, who led the research team with Morris Agaba of the Nelson Mandela African Institute for Science and Technology in Tanzania.

How did the giraffe get its long neck? Clues now are revealed by new genome sequencing. 

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SPOTLIGHT

California Condor Population Reaches New Heights

Karen Klein, Yale Environment 360

After years of intense — and often controversial — restoration efforts, biologists are finally reporting some good news for the beleaguered California condor: More chicks are surviving in the wild, and the birds are becoming increasingly independent and expanding their range.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced what it called a milestone for the California condor: More chicks had hatched and fledged in the wild during 2015 than the number of condors that had died. In late March, Steve Kirkland, the agency’s condor field coordinator, reported that two more chicks had fledged in 2015 in Baja California, but had only just been discovered, bringing the total in the wild to 270.

It was perhaps the most promising news about the condor in decades.

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