News

DURHAM, N.C. – Mantis shrimp don’t need baby food. They start their life as ferocious predators who know how to throw a lethal punch. A new study appearing April 29 in the Journal of Experimental Biology shows that larvae of the Philippine mantis shrimp (Gonodactylaceus falcatus) already display the ultra-fast movements for which these animals are known, even when they are smaller than a short grain of rice. Their ultra-fast punching appendages measure less than 1 mm, and develop right when the larva exhausts its yolk… read more about Baby Mantis Shrimp Don’t Pull Their Punches »

In a challenging year for collaboration, three members of the Class of 2022 are being honored for using the moment to ask big research questions and produce scholarship that shows originality and creative thinking. Katherine Gan, Logan Glasstetter and Xinyu (Norah) Tan are the recipients of this year’s Faculty Scholars Awards, the highest bestowed by Duke faculty on undergraduates with a record of independent research and scholarship. Working across three different disciplines, the students have already produced… read more about The 2021 Faculty Scholars: Three Undergraduates Showing an Exceptional Research Record  »

Six members of the Class of 2022 have been named to the inaugural class of Nakayama Scholars.  Juniors Sydney Albert, Carlee Goldberg, Erica Langan, Yi Xian “Lyndon” Lee, Ahn-Huy Nguyen, and Micalyn Struble were chosen for their stellar academics, leadership and demonstrated commitment to a career in public service. The Nakayama Public Service Scholarship is part of the university’s efforts to encourage students to use their Duke experience to engage with the large challenges facing communities around the world. The… read more about Six Students Named Inaugural Nakayama Public Service Scholars »

DURHAM, N.C. -- When marine biologist Eleanor Caves of the University of Exeter thinks back to her first scuba dives, one of the first things she recalls noticing is that colors seem off underwater. The vivid reds, oranges, purples and yellows she was used to seeing in the sunlit waters near the surface look increasingly dim and drab with depth, and before long the whole ocean loses most of its rainbow leaving nothing but shades of blue. “The thing that always got me about diving was what happens to people's faces and lips… read more about Warming Seas Might Also Look Less Colorful to Some Fish. Here’s Why it Matters.  »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Female baboons may not have bills to pay or deadlines to meet, but their lives are extremely challenging. They face food and water scarcity and must be constantly attuned to predators, illnesses and parasites, all while raising infants and maintaining their social status. A new study appearing April 21 in Science Advances shows that female baboons with high life-long levels of glucocorticoids, the hormones involved in the ‘fight or flight’ response, have a greater risk of dying than those with lower levels… read more about Stress and Death in Female Baboons -- as Measured by Hormones in Poop »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Some guys have it all: the muscle, the power, the high social status, the accelerated aging. But wait. Faster aging? Who wants that? For male baboons, it’s the price they pay to be at the top. New research appearing April 6 in eLife by Jenny Tung, associate professor of evolutionary anthropology and biology at Duke University, and her colleagues shows that male baboons that climb the social ladder age faster than males with lower social standing. If a male drops in social status, his estimated rate of… read more about A Male Baboon’s Dominance Gives Him Babies, but Costs Him Years »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Emily Ury remembers the first time she saw them. She was heading east from Columbia, North Carolina, on the flat, low-lying stretch of U.S. Highway 64 toward the Outer Banks. Sticking out of the marsh on one side of the road were not one but hundreds dead trees and stumps, the relic of a once-healthy forest that had been overrun by the inland creep of seawater. “I was like, ‘Whoa.’ No leaves; no branches. The trees were literally just trunks. As far as the eye could see,” said Ury, who recently earned a… read more about Mapping North Carolina’s Ghost Forests From 430 Miles Up »

In a new paper in Advanced Genetics, Dr. Charmaine Royal and colleagues say an array of factors — including environmental and social conditions — shape the course of illness. read more about Sickle Cell Disease: More Than A Genetic Condition »

You can blame the Boy Scouts for Dr. William Morris’ career. That wouldn’t be such an unusual origin story for an ecologist. What is unusual are the lengths to which Morris takes his passion for the great outdoors. Studying nature wasn’t enough: he wanted to study nature in extreme environments. Morris’ research focuses on understanding how plants and the insects that eat and pollinate them respond to climate change. His work takes him to some of the most severe environments on Earth, including the 10,000-foot peaks of… read more about Professor Bill Morris Named a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America »

This year, 18 Duke Ph.D. students were selected as part of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). This competitive fellowship provides students with a stipend, money for their research, and covers their tuition. It is considered the most prestigious fellowship a young researcher may receive in the United States.  Katie Henson will use her fellowship to explore the secret language of zebra finches. More specifically, she will look at the role of black and white striped feather patterns (also known as barred… read more about Ph.D. Student Katie Henson selected for NSF's Graduate Research Fellowships Program (GRFP) »

DURHAM, N.C. -- If you binged on high-calorie snacks and then spent the winter crashed on the couch in a months-long food coma, you’d likely wake up worse for wear. Unless you happen to be a fat-tailed dwarf lemur. This squirrel-sized primate lives in the forests of Madagascar, where it spends up to seven months each year mostly motionless and chilling, using the minimum energy necessary to withstand the winter. While zonked, it lives off of fat stored in its tail. Animals that hibernate in the wild rarely do so in zoos… read more about An Unusual Creature Is Coming Out of Winter’s Slumber, and Here’s Why Scientists Are Excited »

Dr. Paul Manos was interviewed by the North Carolina journal The News and Observer, to talk about the future of oak trees in light of climate change. The research Triangle area, composed of Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill, is home to several species of oak, such as red oak, water oaks, darlington oaks, and overcup oak. Raleigh itself is known as The City of Oaks. Dr. Manos studies the evolution of morphological characteristics and the phylogenetic relationships of several species of hard wood families, including oaks.… read more about Prof. Paul Manos Interviewed by The News and Observer »

Duke pilot testing effectiveness of campus wastewater sampling to detect SARS-CoV-2, and comparing it to nasal swabs Using established methods for screening human sewage for the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, Duke University is piloting a study to compare what can be learned from sewage with what can be learned from a rigorous nasal swab testing program. The university has been testing wastewater from three residence halls for the virus and comparing that data to what is being learned from swab… read more about Comparing the Swab to the Sewer »

DURHAM, N.C. – As a next step in Duke University’s exhaustive, campus-wide testing program during the COVID pandemic, the university is employing a genome sequencing core facility in downtown Durham to identify the specific strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that have been found on the campus and in the Duke Health system. So far, the gene sequencing effort has turned up two ‘variant’ forms of the virus, the California variant (B.1.427/B.1.429), which showed up in campus and health system samples after the holiday break, and… read more about Duke Starts Sequencing COVID Genes, Finds Two Known Variants »

HHMI has just announced its 2020 Hanna Gray Fellows to support diversity in biomedical research: Dr. Edgar Medina, a Duke Biology Ph.D., is part of this exceptional cohort of fellows! Hanna Gray Fellows receive funding for their postdoc training and may continue to receive funding during their early career years as independent faculty. In total, fellows may receive up to $1.4 million each and be supported for up to eight years.  Edgar Medina studies chytrids, one of the most ancient lineages of fungi, to explore the… read more about BioGrad Alum Edgar Medina Awarded Prestigious HHMI fellowship! »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke researchers have been studying something that happens too slowly for our eyes to see. A team in biologist Philip Benfey’s lab wanted to see how plant roots burrow into the soil. So they set up a camera on rice seeds sprouting in clear gel, taking a new picture every 15 minutes for several days after germination. When they played their footage back at 15 frames per second, compressing 100 hours of growth into less than a minute, they saw that rice roots use a trick to gain their first foothold in the… read more about Time-Lapse Reveals the Hidden Dance of Roots »

Duke's primate researchers travel the globe to observe wild primates, including the chimpanzees of Gombe who were first studied by Jane Goodall, and the baboons of Amboseli, who have been studied for five decades. Longevity in Humans and Chimpanzees Many humans live to see their 80s, some even reach 100. But chimpanzees rarely make it past 50, despite sharing 99% of our genetic code. While modern medicine has added years to human lifespans, a Sept. 2020 Duke study points to a more ancient explanation why humans are the long… read more about Learning From Our Closest Relatives »

The United Nations has declared February 11 the sixth International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Presently, less than a third of scientists worldwide are women, and only about a third of women in college are pursing STEM fields. How many more great, female minds are out there who might help solve the world’s problems? We’d like to celebrate the day, and Duke’s path-breaking women scientists, by sharing some highlights of their work over the last year.   Amanda Hargrove Duke chemist Amanda Hargrove identified a small… read more about Duke Celebrates Women and Girls in Science Day »

DURHAM, N.C. -- The world’s most technologically advanced robots would lose in a competition with a tiny crustacean. Just the size of a sunflower seed, the amphipod Dulichiella cf. appendiculata has been found by Duke researchers to snap its giant claw shut 10,000 times faster than the blink of a human eye. The claw, which only occurs on one side in males, is impressive, reaching 30% of an adult’s body mass. Its ultrafast closing makes an audible snap, creating water jets and sometimes producing small bubbles due to rapid… read more about Tiny Crustacean Redefines Ultra-Fast Movement »

The Graduate School has announced eight recipients for the 2021 Dean’s Awards, recognizing outstanding efforts in mentoring and teaching. The recipients will be honored at a virtual ceremony on March 31. More details about each recipient will be posted closer to the event. Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring Each faculty award winner receives a $3,000 prize, while each student recipient gets $2,000. Faculty Makeba Wilbourn, Associate Professor of the Practice of Psychology and Neuroscience Marcos A. Rangel,… read more about 8 Graduate Students, Faculty Receive 2021 Dean’s Awards »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Malaria is an ancient scourge, but it’s still leaving its mark on the human genome. And now, researchers have uncovered recent traces of adaptation to malaria in the DNA of people from Cabo Verde, an island nation off the African coast. An archipelago of ten islands in the Atlantic Ocean some 385 miles offshore from Senegal, Cabo Verde was uninhabited until the mid-1400s, when it was colonized by Portuguese sailors who brought enslaved Africans with them and forced them to work the land. The Africans who… read more about Malaria Threw Human Evolution Into Overdrive on this African Archipelago »

The beauty of research is that it allows you to take control of your own path. “We are very lucky to be in the position to decide what we love to do and do it,” says Tai-ping Sun, a Duke biology professor studying the plant hormone GA. Researchers get to take control of their own path, she said. Every day is an opportunity to learn something new, design and analyze experiments and decide what direction to take. Sun studies the GA signaling pathway because it regulates plant growth and development. She got interested in GA… read more about Her Research Path Winds Through a Plant’s Growth »

Dr. Sönke Johnsen and PhD student Alex Davis' study on ultra-black deep-sea fishes was highlighted by the Smithsonian Magazine as one of the top 10 Ocean Stories of 2020. In a partnership with the Smithsonian, Dr. Johnsen and Davis described how some deep-sea fishes have a special arrangement of black pigments within their skin that absorb at least 99.5 percent of light.  Read more about these ultra-black fishes on the Duke Today. The scientific paper by DR. Johnsen, Davis and collaborators is here. Read the Smithsonian'… read more about Ultra-black fishes on the Smithsonian Magazine!  »