Hot Student Papers

Ontogeny reveals function and evolution of the hadrosaurid dinosaur dental battery

29 Aug 2016 - 9:08am
hadrosaur teeth model

There is nothing duck-like in the maw of Duck-billed Dinosaurs (hadrosaurs), according to the research of UTM Biology’s newest Ph.D. – Dr. Aaron Leblanc (Reisz Lab). Aaron just published “Ontogeny reveals function and evolution of the hadrosaurid dinosaur dental battery” in BMC Evolutionary Biology.This is the first in-depth look inside the dental batteries of hadrosaurs. Like many plant-eating mammals that have very complex grinding teeth for dealing with tough plant material, hadrosaurs evolved an impressive battery of teeth on each side of the jaw. Each battery is made of multiple stacks of interlocked teeth that behaved like a single giant grinding surface, but could be made of over 300 individual teeth fused together with a flexible network of ligaments!

Identification and Characterization of the Corazonin Receptor and Possible Physiological Roles of the Corazonin-Signaling Pathway in Rhodnius prolixus

15 Aug 2016 - 10:48am
Rhodnius prolixus on a person's lips

Our graduate students work at the frontiers of biology, evidenced by Zina Hamoudi’s (Orchard and Lange Labs) first lead-authored paper in Frontiers in Neuroscience. Neuropeptides control many physiological and endocrinological processes in animals, acting as neuroactive chemicals within the central and peripheral nervous systems. Corazonin (CRZ) is one such neuropeptide that has a variety of physiological roles. To understand the role of the corazonin (CRZ)-signaling pathway in Rhodnius prolixus, the vector for Chagas disease, Zina isolated the cDNA sequence encoding the Rhopr-CRZ receptor (CRZR) and characterized it using a functional receptor assay. She then used qPCR to give clues for possible functions of CRZ by seeing where the CRZR was expressed.

Influence of postsynaptic structure on missing quanta at the Drosophila neuromuscular junction

3 Aug 2016 - 9:05am
drosophila

Ever wonder why you can’t remember where you put your keys? In her first lead-authored paper, M.Sc. student Christine Nguyen (Stewart Lab) figured out a piece of that puzzle. Christine’s paper “Influence of postsynaptic structure on missing quanta at the Drosophila neuromuscular junction” recently appeared in BMC Neuroscience. In this publication, Christine found that a fraction of the electrical signaling that occurs when nerve cells communicate actually goes missing. Using fruit flies as her experimental system, Christine showed that the effectiveness of the signal from a neuron to a target cell depends on the complexity of structures specialized to receive the signals. The more complex it is, the more likely some of the signal goes missing.

Layered social nework analysis reveals complex relationships in kindergarteners

21 Jun 2016 - 8:31am
children sitting at a table

Whether we are looking at primates, birds, fish, or insects, social networks are often assumed to be hierarchical: if individual A is dominant over B, and B is over C, then A is also dominant over C. This assumption has been applied to humans including kindergarten school children, but the assumption is rarely tested in any species. In her first paper, graduate student Mireille Golemiec collaborated with PDF Jonathan Schneider (Levine Lab) and researchers from UCSF to develop a method that can evaluate how social networks based on mate choice, aggression, and proximity (time hanging out together) might be interrelated using flies. They applied their method to a data set based on interactions among kindergarten children which they recently published in Frontiers in Psychology.

Nonsystemic fungal endophytes increase survival but reduce tolerance to simulated herbivory in subarctic Festuca rubra

31 May 2016 - 12:53pm
fungal endophytes in plant tissue

Fungal endophytes – fungi that live within plant tissues (see photo) – are common in nature, but whether they are mutualists, parasites or living within plants as commensals is poorly understood. Former undergraduate student James Santangelo (Kotanen Lab) sought to disentangle the effects of endophytes on plants and the results of his study were just published in Ecoshpere in his article “Nonsystemic fungal endophytes increase survival but reduce tolerance to simulated herbivory in subarctic Festuca rubra”. James studied a group of endosymbionts infecting the leaves of red fescue, a widespread grass, to examine their role in altering their host’s ability to survive under saline soil conditions and frequent herbivore damage.

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