I have two jobs, and one thing I especially love about each is keeping an eye on breaking science stories from week to week.
There is, for instance, the description of a master-gene that controls female or male traits in a species of beetle. Not like an on/off switch, but like a regulator, a conductor, a puppeteer, tweaking the expression of multiple genes to grow male horns or female genitalia.
The possibility that the woolly mammoths had entered an sticky evolutionary pool full of stagnant water, their dwindling populations forcing impromptu pairings leading to poor genes and low genetic diversity. I had recently read about the tiny population of vaquitas, the world's smallest cetacean - 30 left in the wild! How can the giant panda and European bison plod on, while this mammal species is thrown to the wayside? - and wonder what genetic diversity could be left to them. At university I learned that the cheetah population was so small and closely related, squeezed through the genetic bottleneck, that cheetahs could share skin-grafts without immune rejection. The cheetah had been one of my favourite animals as a child, yet only when I was an adult would I understand the genetic consequences of being endangered.
An article describing a serotonin transporter (SERT) gene which, in some forms, can make a child more prone to anxiety and lower maternal attachment. I read about similar genes, SERT and MAOA, in Lone Frank's fascinating book, My Beautiful Genome. It's suggested that while these genes affect how a child's personality develops, the negative impact of the genes can be avoided by environmental intervention. Good parenting. Nurturing. The individual's own cognitive effort. But it's too early to start screening for these genes; we don't understand enough - neither scientists, nor us.
This blog is OLD... I'm working it over...