Research & Discovery

Circadian Clock Controls Sunflower Blooms, Optimizing for Pollinators

An internal circadian clock controls the distinctive concentric rings of flowering in sunflowers, maximizing visits from pollinators, a new study from plant biologists at the University of California, Davis, shows. The work was published Jan. 13 in eLife.

A sunflower head is made up of hundreds of tiny florets. Because of the way sunflowers grow, the youngest florets are in the center of the flower face and the most mature at the edges, forming a distinctive spiral pattern from the center to the edge.

How Dragonflies Catch Prey in Midair

Despite their small size, dragonflies are arguably one of the most impressive predators in the animal kingdom. According to Rachel Crane, a biologist at the University of California Davis, dragonflies often catch up to 95% of the prey they go after, a rate she described as “wildly high compared to where most predators are.” 

More incredible still, this prey capture all happens in midair.

“Dragonflies are doing these really, really fast, high-speed aerial captures,” said Crane. 

Aged Before Their Time: Atrazine and Diminished Egg Quality in Mice

Female infants are born with several million immature egg cells, or oocytes. Over the course of the reproductive years, a few hundred of them will develop into mature eggs for potential fertilization. Because of this extended maturation process, the oocytes of humans and other mammals are vulnerable to both developmental exposures and the aging process.

Making Prosthetics More Lifelike

David Brockman, a retired CalFire captain and avid outdoorsman, built a deck in the backyard of his home last year, without the use of his dominant right hand, which he lost in an accident. The prosthetic hand he used instead was a crude but functional steel hook-and-harness device.

Brockman has tried other artificial limbs, including a high-tech prosthesis called a myoelectric. It looks like a hand and works by using electrical signals from muscles in the forearm. But that one just didn’t work for him.

Corals Saving Corals

Under the right living arrangement, disease-resistant corals can help “rescue” corals that are more vulnerable to disease, found a study from the University of California, Davis, that monitored a disease outbreak at a coral nursery in Little Cayman, Cayman Islands. 

Biodiversity Genomics Europe Aims to Reverse Biodiversity Loss

UC Davis is a collaborating partner in a new European effort to use DNA data to characterize and conserve life on Earth. The Biodiversity Genomics Europe consortium, launched Sept. 26, is affiliated with the Earth BioGenome Project, which has its administrative headquarters at UC Davis. Harris Lewin, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, chairs the EBP Working Group.

Study Identifies Key Mechanism for Protein Trafficking in Plants and Bacteria

Plants photosynthesize to survive, and bacteria divide to reproduce, but to accomplish these necessary biological functions, the cells of these organisms employ protein trafficking. More specifically, these functionalities, among many others, rely on the twin-arginine translocation (Tat) pathway, which, when properly functioning, allows for the transportation of proteins across cellular membranes.

Single-protein Images Show How E. coli Repairs DNA While Replicating It

The success of E. coli bacteria depends on their ability to multiply very rapidly by dividing into new cells. The bacteria can divide as quickly as they can make an entire new copy of their DNA while minimizing errors. New work from researchers at the University of California, Davis College of Biological Sciences answers a key question about how E. coli fixes damage to DNA in the middle of duplicating it.

Understanding Growth Regulation by Protein Degradation in Trees for Bioenergy

The U.S. Department of Energy is funding a project at the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences to study the function of genes that regulate growth and wood formation in poplar trees. The three-year, $2.5 million project is led by Nitzan Shabek, assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Plant Biology together with Andrew Groover at the USDA Pacific Southwest Research Station in Davis and Justin Walley, Iowa State University.

Understanding Healthy Function of Tau, Protein Associated with Dementia

In Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative dementias, proteins that normally play a role in healthy brain tissue turn bad, clumping together to form insoluble plaques and tangles as neurons wither and die. Exactly how these proteins are connected to disease — and whether they can be targeted in some way to slow, stop or reverse its progression — remains a challenging problem.

Study Reveals How the Ovarian Reserve is Established

Fertility is finite for mammalian females. From birth, females possess a limited number of primordial follicles that are collectively called the ovarian reserve. Within each follicle is an oocyte that eventually becomes an egg. But with age, the viability of the ovarian reserve decreases.

“Despite its fundamental importance, our understanding how the ovarian reserve is established and maintained remains poor,” said UC Davis Professor Satoshi Namekawa, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics.