The sewer gnat is a common nuisance around kitchen and bathroom drains that’s no bigger than a pea. But magnified thousands of times, its compound eyes and bushy antennae resemble a first place winner in a Movember mustache contest.
Each day, tens of thousands of patients on waiting lists across the United States await a simple phone call: one that says a match has been found and an organ is available for transplant. Despite a growing demand for donors, organ shortages continue to hinder many patients’ chances in receiving their potentially life-saving call.
To most people, majestic trees like this white oak are the stuff of wine and whiskey barrels, flooring and furniture, red fall color and shade from the sun. But to biology professor Paul Manos and postdoc John McVay, they’re part of a story. By analyzing the genetic similarities across 81 species, the researchers have reconstructed the relationships among different oaks as they diverged from one another over 30 million years.
These egg varieties are no accident -- they’re an anti-counterfeit strategy. Some birds lay lookalike eggs in other species’ nests to trick the foster parents into raising their chicks. While the impostors try to go undetected, their victims evolve more distinctive eggs to make them harder to fake. Duke graduate student Eleanor Caves analyzed the color patterns of hundreds of eggs from 11 African warbler species and the cuckoo finches that imitate them.
One way to learn how something works is to take it apart. But researchers in Nenad Bursac’s lab use the opposite approach – to understand human tissue, they build it themselves. Graduate student Chris Jackman is engineering synthetic tissue that mimics the structure and function of heart muscle. To create this heart-in-a-dish, he embedded red-striped mouse heart muscle cells into a hydrogel base.
This stunning x-ray of a Callimico monkey skeleton, posed as if preparing to jump, was collected by visiting Professor Hesham Sallam at the Duke SMIF lab. In the wild, these pint-sized monkeys can be found in the dense underbrush of the upper Amazon rainforest, leaping from branch to branch in search of tasty berries or bugs.
You can’t measure the length of a humpback whale with a tape measure. So biologists at the Duke Marine Lab have found a way to estimate whale size from above, using cameras mounted on flying drones. To perfect this technique, graduate student Elizabeth Mason took aerial images of this life-sized inflatable whale laid out across the football field at Eugene Ashley High School in Wilmington, NC.
This Valentine’s day, everything is coming up roses -- even our guts. This cellular bouquet, composed by research associate Chong Li Yen at Duke-NUS in Singapore, is in fact a slice of human colon tissue viewed under a microscope. The tissue is cut to reveal the cross-sections of intestinal glands, tiny wells in the gut wall that absorb water and nutrients while oozing mucus and digestive enzymes.
Humpback whales face a dilemma when foraging for dinner: take physically demanding dives to depths where prey is more plentiful, or stick to easy-to-reach shallows? To find out which way whales go, Duke researchers tagged and tracked five humpbacks off the Alaskan coast and compared their movements to the locations of large schools of krill, detected via SONAR.