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Corals' Fluorescent ''Sunscreen'' May Help Resist Bleaching

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Much like the sunscreen-toting crowds hitting the beaches this summer, coral reefs may be carrying some protection from the sun’s strong rays.

In the case of corals, however, the “sunscreen” may come in the form of fluorescent proteins—and the protection is not from sunburn but from a fatal phenomenon known as bleaching.

Bleaching occurs when coral polyps, the animals that make coral reefs, expel photosynthetic algae under environmental stress, including too much sunlight. Under normal conditions, the algae, which give coral its brown color, are important symbiotic partners: embedded under the polyps’ skin, they produce carbohydrates that the polyps depend on for most of their energy.

Corals, in turn, need sunlight to fuel the algae’s photosynthesis. But too much sunlight can damage the algae’s photosynthetic machinery, leading them to produce damaging free radicals. This stress, combined with stress from warming seawater, can lead to bleaching.

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Prendini-250

Training Colleagues Around the World to Collect Scorpions

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For the last two months, scorpion expert Lorenzo Prendini has been criss-crossing the globe to train others in finding, collecting, and preserving scorpion specimens for study.

In May, Dr. Prendini, an associate curator in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology, traveled to Pakistan as a guest of the country’s Higher Education Commission to present a lecture at the University of Sargodha and to train a team of local scientists. One of these researchers, Dr. Muhammad Tahir, was recently awarded a grant by Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission to carry out a survey of local scorpion species, which include species of interest to medical research, and he will travel to the U.S. this fall to spend nine months working with Prendini at the Museum.

Tags: Richard Gilder Graduate School

Podcast

Podcast: Forgetting Fear with Daniela Schiller

Podcasts

Fear can take many forms, from minor phobias to life-altering conditions such as PTSD. Now, new research is shedding light on how these so-called fear memories could be changed. In this podcast, neuroscientist Daniela Schiller discusses the neural mechanisms of emotional control and potential ways to modify or “erase” fear memories.

Dr. Schiller’s talk was recorded at the Museum on June 6, 2012.

Podcast: Download | RSS | iTunes (56 mins, 67 MB)

Tags: Brain, Podcasts

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