My picks from ScienceDaily

What Is A Virus? Research Suggests A Broader Definition May Be Needed:

The strange interaction of a parasitic wasp, the caterpillar in which it lays its eggs and a virus that helps it overcome the caterpillar's immune defenses has some scientists rethinking the definition of a virus. In an essay in the journal Science, Donald Stoltz, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and James Whitfield, a professor of entomology at the University of Illinois, report that a new study also appearing in Science shows how the diverse ways in which viruses operate within and among the organisms they encounter may not be fully appreciated. The study, from a team of researchers led by the Université François Rabelais, in Tours, France, found that the genes that encode a virus that helps wasps successfully parasitize caterpillars are actually integrated into the wasps' own chromosomes. These genes, which they show to be related to those from another known group of viruses, are an indivisible part of the wasp's genetic heritage; they are passed down from one generation to another of parasitoid wasps.

While it is not unusual for virus DNA to become embedded in the chromosomes of their hosts, in this case the wasp is not the only "host" of the virus. The viral genes do replicate (copy themselves) inside the wasp (the permanent host), but they actually target - and act upon - the immune system of the caterpillar (a more transient host).

Birds' Movements Reveal Climate Change In Action:

The northward and inland movement of North American birds, confirmed by thousands of citizen-observations, has provided new and powerful evidence that climate change is having a serious impact on natural systems, according to a new report by Audubon (BirdLife in the USA). The findings signal the need for dramatic policy changes to combat pervasive ecological disruption.

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Mystery Of Deep-sea Fish With Tubular Eyes And Transparent Head Solved:

Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute recently solved the half-century-old mystery of a fish with tubular eyes and a transparent head. Ever since the "barreleye" fish Macropinna microstoma was first described in 1939, marine biologists have known that it's tubular eyes are very good at collecting light.

Information Superhighway's Trash Yields A Super Highway Asphalt:

Discarded electronic hardware, including bits and pieces that built the information superhighway, can be recycled into an additive that makes super-strong asphalt paving material for real highways, researchers in China are reporting in a new study.They describe development of a new recycling process that can convert discarded electronic circuit boards into an asphalt "modifier."

Does Sex Sell? New Study Shows How To Make Women Respond To Sexy Ads:

Do sexy images sell products? It depends, says a new study in Journal of Consumer Research. If marketers are determined to use sex in advertising, there may be ways to do it that can attract customers of both sexes.

Trust Your Heart: Emotions May Be More Reliable When Making Choices:

When choosing a flavor of ice cream, an item of clothing, or even a home, you might be better off letting your emotions guide you, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

If Something Is Difficult, Most People Believe It Must Be Important To Achieving Goals:

Try the following experiment with two young children. To one child, hold a toy out just beyond their grasp and watch them bounce all over the place trying to reach it. With the second child, just hand the toy over to them. Is the first child likely to find the toy more interesting than the other child?

Could Online Social Networks Help Process Enormous Backlog Of U.S. Patent Applications?:

Experts in intellectual property and patents explain how tools, such as online social networking could be used to eradicate the enormous backlog of patent applications in the US. Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace allow visitors to create networks of friends and contacts, upload images, music, videos, and news stories. Members can discuss, blog, and rate different media on such sites and provide useful feedback to the content creators. Analyzing social networks can uncover patterns of interaction between people and reveal what is important and well-ranked in a given group, or community.

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This is the seventh of eight posts on evolutionary research to celebrate Darwin's bicentennial. It combines many of my favourite topics - symbiosis, horizontal gene transfer, parasitic wasps and viruses. Parasitic wasps make a living by snatching the bodies of other insects and using them as…
Here's a sharper version: Parasitic Cotesia wasp attacks a Manduca larva The story itself is amazing.  It's been known for some time that Ichneumonid and Braconid wasps inject circular strands of DNA- called polydnaviruses- into their host insects along with their eggs.  This DNA is encoded by…
Few humans have been as successful in Hollywood as parasitoids. Parasitoids are a particularly gruesome kind of parasite that invariably kills its host by the time it becomes an adult and is ready to leave the host's body. A parasitoid female wasp, to give one example, will fly along until it finds…
There are so many fascinating stories about parasitic wasps that they have become a regular feature in this blog. Usually, their prey come off poorly in these tales, with caterpillars being reduced to little more than living, paralysed larders for macabre wasp grubs. But not always - some hosts don…