To climb like a gecko, robots need toes!

Biologists from the University of California, Berkeley, and Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics observed geckos running horizontally along walls to learn how they use their five toes to compensate for different types of surfaces without slowing down.

The research helped answer a fundamental question: Why have many toes?” said Robert Full, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology.

Congratulations to Julianne Peláez for being selected as a recipient of the 2020-2021 STEM Chateaubriand Fellowship!

The Chateaubriand Fellowship is a grant offered by the Embassy of France in the United States. It supports outstanding Ph.D. students from American universities who wish to conduct research in France for a period ranging from 4 to 9 months. Chateaubriand fellows are selected through a merit-based competition, through a collaborative process involving expert evaluators in both countries.

 

What do soap bubbles and butterflies have in common?

Edith Smith bred a bluer and shinier Common Buckeye at her butterfly farm in Florida, but it took University of California, Berkeley, graduate student Rachel Thayer to explain the physical and genetic changes underlying the butterfly’s newly acquired iridescence.

In the process, Thayer discovered how relatively easy it is for butterflies to change their wing colors over just a few generations and found the first gene proven to influence the so-called “structural color” that underlies the iridescent purple, blue, green and golden hues of many butterflies.

As COVID-19 hits Peru, a brave Berkeley Ph.D. student finds her way home

Giovanna Figueroa, a UC Berkeley Ph.D. student in the Department of Integrative Biology, had just arrived in the village the previous day, after a 16-hour boat trip from her base in Iquitos, the rainforest’s largest city and one that can’t be reached by roads. When the local guide she’d hired told her the latest, Figueroa was pressing herbarium specimens, preserving palm fruit pulp samples and pleased with her first day of research in Pucaurco on a two-week trip along the Nanay, a 196-mile tributary of the Amazon River.

How do you cultivate a healthy plant microbiome?

A new study by University of California, Berkeley, microbial ecologists used experimental evolution to help identify the core microbiome of commercial tomatoes. They selected for those microbial taxa that best survived on the plants and then showed that these “domesticated” microbial communities are able to effectively fend off random microbes that land on the plants. In other words, these selected communities look like a stable, healthy plant microbiome, akin to what a robust tomato plant might pass to its offspring.

These Butterflies Evolved to Eat Poison. How Could That Have Happened?

Monarch butterflies eat only milkweed, a poisonous plant that should kill them. The butterflies thrive on it, even storing milkweed toxins in their bodies as a defense against hungry birds. For decades, scientists have marveled at this adaptation. On Thursday, a team of researchers announced they had pinpointed the key evolutionary steps that led to it...