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Bacterial Nanny:  Beewolf Grows Microbe for Protecting Youth-For a new twist on child care, consider the wasp called the European beewolf. The mom leaves a smear of bacteria near each of her eggs as protection against the perils of youth.....Read more from Science News. 5/13/05

Killer Tree-Ants Snare Prey in Gruesome Traps-Amazonian ants rig up gruesome traps to snare prey before stinging them to death and carving them up to eat, a new study reveals.
Allomerus decemarticulatus is a tiny tree-dwelling ant which lives in the forests of the northern Amazon. Researchers examining the relationship between different ant species and their host plants noticed that this particular ant lived on only one plant - Hirtella physophora - and that they built galleries hanging under its stems......  Read more from NewScientist.  4/24/05

Digital Evolution-Discover Magazine, (Testing Darwin, Feb. 2005 pp 29-35), reports on a joint project between Michigan State University’s Digital Evolution Laboratory and Caltech’s Digital Life Laboratory.  The heart of this project is a program called Avida, which was created to simulate the struggle to survive and reproduce for digital organisms.  The digital organisms are designed to meet the definition of biological life as closely as possible.  They are given a set of initial environmental conditions. Characteristics are defined as beneficial or harmful, and then they are allowed to reproduce with variable degrees of genetic fidelity, allowing for mutations.  Beneficial characteristics are rewarded with increased reproductive abilities and harmful ones are given decreased reproductive abilities.  An example of a beneficial characteristic might be the ability to perform a computation such as adding 2 numbers.  Apparently these digital organisms can come up with an unlimited number of instructions for performing these tasks.  It looks like these developments are going to provide a bounty of answers to biological and evolutionary questions.  Perhaps even more intriguing is the implications it will have for computer programming-here’s the virtual environment, here’s the task, create the solution in the fewest steps.  There are also concerns that these or similar programs may someday lead to virulent mutating computer viruses.   Some of the Leading researchers in this project are Chris Adami, Charles Ofria, and Richard Lenski.  1/30/05


Evolution-Check out this excellent website on evolution from PBS.   Here is a description from the site's info page:  "The Evolution project is a seven-part, eight-hour television broadcast series, an extensive Web site, a far-reaching educational outreach initiative, and a HarperCollins companion book by acclaimed science writer Carl Zimmer." 1/25/05