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From the College of Natural Sciences
Virus Discovery Offers Clues About Origins of Complex Life

Virus Discovery Offers Clues About Origins of Complex Life

Eukaryotic cells. Credit: iStock.

Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin report in Nature Microbiology the first discovery of viruses infecting a group of microbes that may include the ancestors of all complex life. The discovery offers tantalizing clues about the origins of complex life and suggests new directions for exploring the hypothesis that viruses were essential to the evolution of humans and other complex life forms.

Holy Bat Memory! Frog-Eating Bats Remember Ringtones Years Later

Holy Bat Memory! Frog-Eating Bats Remember Ringtones Years Later

Frog-eating bat (Trachops cirrhosus). Credit: Marcos Guerra.

Frog-eating bats trained by researchers to associate a phone ringtone with a tasty treat were able to remember what they learned for up to four years in the wild, according to a new study published in Current Biology.

Evolutionary Roots and that Loving Feeling

Evolutionary Roots and that Loving Feeling

In honor of Valentine's Day, we're taking a look at some evolutionary lessons about love and attraction from College of Natural Science researchers in the Department of Integrative Biology.

Biologist Awarded Radcliffe and Guggenheim Fellowships

Biologist Awarded Radcliffe and Guggenheim Fellowships

Steven Phelps, a professor of integrative biology and director of the Center for Brain, Behavior and Evolution at The University of Texas at Austin, has been awarded two prestigious fellowships in the same year related to his work on the biology of intimacy. He received both a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship and was named a 2021-2022 Radcliffe Fellow by the Harvard Radcliffe Institute.

Climate-friendly Microbes Chomp Dead Plants Without Releasing Heat-trapping Methane

Climate-friendly Microbes Chomp Dead Plants Without Releasing Heat-trapping Methane

Tengchong Yunnan hot springs in China, where some of the newly described Brockarchaeota were collected. Photo credit: Jian-Yu Jiao from Sun Yat-Sen University.

The tree of life just got a little bigger: A team of scientists from the U.S. and China has identified an entirely new group of microbes quietly living in hot springs, geothermal systems and hydrothermal sediments around the world. The microbes appear to be playing an important role in the global carbon cycle by helping break down decaying plants without producing the greenhouse gas methane.

7 Emerging Scientific Leaders Among Recipients of Stengl-Wyer Research Support

7 Emerging Scientific Leaders Among Recipients of Stengl-Wyer Research Support

The College of Natural Sciences has recently recruited and supported top leaders among a new generation of scientists through the Stengl-Wyer Endowment – the largest endowment in the college's history. These postdoctoral scholars and graduate students are working on research projects that will promote a deeper understanding of climate change, protect natural habitats and maintain biodiversity in Texas and beyond.

Artificial Intelligence Revs Up Evolution’s Clock (Audio)

Artificial Intelligence Revs Up Evolution’s Clock (Audio)

Evolutionary biologists never have enough time. Some of the most mysterious behaviors in the animal kingdom—like parenting—evolved over thousands of years, if not longer. Human lifespans are just too short to sit and observe such complex behaviors evolve. But computer scientists are beginning to offer clues by using artificial intelligence to simulate the life and death of thousands of generations of animals in a matter of hours or days. It's called computational evolution.

New Initiative Aims to Reveal the Origins of Complex Life

New Initiative Aims to Reveal the Origins of Complex Life

A new research initiative will shed light on how the origin of complex life evolved through symbiosis. The project will be the latest from the Brett Baker laboratory at The University of Texas at Austin's Marine Science Institute, which made recent discoveries of new organisms called Asgard archaea, named after Norse gods, and their metabolisms.

Three UT Austin Faculty Elected to National Academy of Sciences

Three UT Austin Faculty Elected to National Academy of Sciences

L to R: Mark Kirkpatrick, Katherine Freese and John Kormendy have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Astrophysicist Katherine Freese, astronomer John Kormendy and evolutionary biologist Mark Kirkpatrick of The University of Texas at Austin have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. They join 120 new members recognized by the academy this year for distinguished and continuing achievements in original scientific research.

Evolutionary Biologist Mark Kirkpatrick Elected to National Academy of Sciences

Evolutionary Biologist Mark Kirkpatrick Elected to National Academy of Sciences

Mark Kirkpatrick has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Photo by Marsha Miller.

Evolutionary biologist Mark Kirkpatrick of The University of Texas at Austin has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Among his many accomplishments, Kirkpatrick has helped explain how mating preferences drive the evolution of male traits and how sex chromosomes originate and evolve.