Biology is the study of living things; generally, this refers to plants and animals, though biological research takes an interest in microorganisms as well. It is primarily concerned with physiochemical processes, and it endeavors to research and gather scientific knowledge related to the field of living things.
Biology has several subsets, however all of the branches relate to the basic universal principles in the field. The study of plants is referred to as botany while the study of animals is zoology. The study of the structure of organisms is called morphology, while the study of the body functions is called physiology.
No matter which subset appeals to you, all of biology approaches its given niche in a way that focuses on the fundamentals of life. Molecular biology, for instance, focuses on the chemical composition and energy changes that happen in the many chemical structures that constitute an organism.
Biology is also one of the most exciting fields of study. Scientists make new discoveries and scientific breakthroughs on a daily basis. Let’s take a look at the 5 most interesting current events in biology:
The Relationship Between Cerebellar Degeneration and the Perception of Verticality
Researchers involved in a recent study sought to prove that the cerebellum has an impact on our perception of vertical images. When people perceive verticality, this sensory data does not just come from one source, but a combination of sources. A lot of research on different species of animals has indicated that the cerebellum plays a key role in the perception of verticality in sentient beings.
However, this assumption has not been questioned, as these researchers found that the degradation of the human cerebellum due to disease did not affect one’s perception of verticality.
In the experiment, researchers compared control groups (of various ages) with a group with cerebellar degeneration. Individuals from each group saw the image of a rotated bar. The researchers then instructed the participants to return the bar to a vertical position. In their peripheral vision, dots rotated in a certain patterns to distract them from the task. By the end of the experiment, the participants with cerebellar degeneration did not underperform as expected.
Coherent Mapping During Long Timescales
In order to remember the location that an event has happened, place cells in the hippocampus must encode the location across long timescales. However, in most instances, place cells experience instability caused by random reorganization in the place fields between events, making the process more of a challenge.
It is evident that some causes of instability result from rotation of place fields in a coherent manner, as well as random reorganization. A calcium imaging was performed using mice as the test subjects. The experiment explored two different areas with different visual cues for eight days. The two fields rotated at random between sessions, and then later connected with each other, giving researchers the ability to study the cue rotations. This enabled them to learn how new information gets integrated from the environment and how the passage of time affects the spatial consistency of place. Let’s take a look at the results:
“The two arenas were rotated randomly between sessions and then connected, allowing us to probe how cue rotations, the integration of new information about the environment, and the passage of time concurrently influenced the spatial coherence of place fields. We found that spatially coherent rotations of place-field maps in the same arena predominated, persisting up to 6 days later, and that they frequently rotated in a manner that did not match that of the arena rotation. Furthermore, place-field maps were flexible, as mice frequently employed a similar, coherent configuration of place fields to represent each arena despite their differing geometry and eventual connection. These results highlight the ability of the hippocampus to retain consistent relationships between cells across long timescales and suggest that, in many cases, apparent instability might result from a coherent rotation of place fields.”
Motion by Biological Organisms Being an Innate Perceptual Mechanism
Perceptual recognition shared by a given species guides collective behavior. In one experiment, researchers focus on the shoaling in certain kinds of fish. It is not easy for researchers to distinguish between these precise sensory cues and normal social behavior in a species. However, researchers have overcome this obstacle with the help of the zebrafish.
The researchers quickly realized that some of the peculiarities in a specific movement worked as sailing prompts for other animals. Using virtual reality, they witnessed individual fish shoaling for long hours, their movements imitating those of the zebrafish. Over time, the movements of the fish evolved, even for those raised in isolation.
These researchers discovered that zebrafish shoal autonomously, leaving no evidence of reciprocal choreography. The results reveal that at an individual level, “innate perceptual rules of engagement in mutual affiliation and provide experimental access to the neural mechanisms of social recognition.”
Interactions between specimens of the same or similar species are important for their survival. The results indicate that neuronal links do exist to encode relevant information. However, they also show causal roles for social responsibilities, like social recognition, relations, and mating. The modulators in the neurons such as tachykinin, serotonin, and oxytocin govern the behaviors among the species. They also provide an outstanding example of the regulation of social relations, showing the capability to study critical social norms in certain types of organisms.
Behaviors are sparked through and governed by specific triggers that are both brief nature and critical for social interactions. The pheromones which govern inborn behaviors via well defined olfactory circuits are just one of many prime examples. Another example is Drosophila Melanogaster, the pheromone that activates the sensory neurons and implicates the olfactory receptor.
Coding Of RNA Expression On Genes
Extensive non-coding RNAs have always worked in the control of gene expression at the development stages. Recently, scientists carried out a survey investigating RNA expression and function during drosophila embryogenesis. This experiment looked at multiple stages of the process, including nuclear localization, genetic backgrounds, and tissue specificity.
The results indicated virtually two times the previously recorded number of RNAs displayed at these developmental stages. RNA ranges are always positively related to their common genes, which contain very little transcriptional interference.
Making use of fluorescent hybridization, they have reported the expression of 15 new RNAs. Deletions in two RNAs yields change in a small number of genes, implying that they fine-tune the expression of the non-essential genes. Various RNAs also contain a unique expression showing rigidity in a given population. The elements with variation between genetic traits are, therefore, an important to factor to differentiate between fast evolving RNAs and non-essential roles.
Like many other examples, RNAs generally go through transcription by RNA polymerase. In this case, they might get spliced, or capped. This is in contrast to protein-coding genes, which undergo a different process.
In most instances, unique expression trends result in their work. This can suggest bystander transcription for the limited tissue-unique coding of protein genes. The human genome has facilitated many studies, indicating genetic differences and disrupting RNA whose gene traits are specific.
However, due to there low stability of many RNAs, they represent a strong argument against possible function of the RNA molecule. Even if it may not grow to high levels, the transcription of some RNAs may affect the expression of neighboring genes.
Foraging in Bats
When animals are observed feeding in large numbers, this is generally assumed to be an example of social foraging. However, the reasons and causes of foraging in these instances can be difficult to determine. For example, a group of animals might have collectively searched for a good sight to feed, or perhaps they began following a leader. In other cases, animals individually find a certain feeding site. Researchers then observe these animals in large numbers and assume that they worked collectively.
Differentiating between these causes and intentions is important, because they can have vastly different behavioral implications. In the first two examples above, the animals are generally working together, but in the last example, the animals are all working in direct competition. Thankfully, researchers developed the following experiment to differentiate between these behaviors:
“Using novel miniature sensors, we recorded GPS tracks and audio of five species of bats, monitoring their movement and interactions with conspecifics, which could be inferred from the audio recordings. We examined the hypothesis that food distribution plays a key role in determining social foraging patterns. Specifically, this hypothesis predicts that searching for an ephemeral resource (whose distribution in time or space is hard to predict) is more likely to favor social foraging than searching for a predictable resource.”
The experiment showed that the foraging habits of the bats differed based on the location and the availability of resources. Ephemeral resources caused bats to change their feeding sites. It also caused them to vary the amount of time that they spent at individual sites. In direct contrast, bats who fed on more predictable resources showed preference for specific feeding sites on a nightly basis. The results suggest that the predictability of resources influences the costs and benefits of social foraging.
The researchers compared the foraging responses of five different species. Based on past experiments, the researchers knew that these species practiced unique foraging styles. They wanted to conduct the experiment in this way so that no one method of resource consumption would be given priority. Generally, bats that relied on ephemeral resources hunted in groups. Bats that foraged for fished communicated regularly with conspecifics during the hunt, while many other bats did not. The researchers also noted that the bats never communicated with each other during the commute. They only began communicating once they had reached the desired feeding sight.
In addition to the direct results of the research, this study also sheds light on the benefits of advanced technology. By using the latest technology to record sounds, the researchers were able to observe the collective behavior of the bats. This kind of research is vital for the study of biology and behavioral ecology.
From these examples, it is easy to see that new findings in biology are important for scientific advancement. Biology is vitally important for carrying out experiments in ecological research, medical research and environmental research. It is one of the central pillars of science. Many would also argue that it is the most fundamental of all scientific disciplines.
It is easy to see that we must attribute many great advancements to biological research and academic publications. Thousands of scientists have worked towards understanding the most fundamental structures of living things. Theories and hypotheses became investigations into the treatment of diseases. In many cases, these investigations led to groundbreaking discoveries in medicine.
It will be exciting to see what comes next in biological research. While these current events in biology are exciting, they are just paving the way for even greater discoveries.