Do Zebra stripes confuse biting flies?

Audio: Listen to this story on our podcast, Three Minute Egghead. 


Zebra stripes have fascinated people for millennia, and there are a number of different theories to explain why these wild horses should be so brightly marked. A handful of laboratories around the world – including one lead by UC Davis wildlife biologist Tim Caro – have been putting these theories to the test. A new paper from Caro’s group, led by Ken Britten at the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience, puts a hole in one idea: that the stripes confuse biting flies by breaking up polarized light.

Brown pelicans released following Refugio oil spill

By Kat Kerlin

Rehabilitated pelicans once covered in oil from last month’s Refugio oil spill in Santa Barbara County were released today (June 12) at Goleta Beach.

Video: Rehabilitated pelicans returned into wild (LA Times)

Wildlife responders from the UC Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network and California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) placed satellite tracking devices on 12 brown pelicans affected by the spill.

Study to track rehabilitated birds’ survival

UC Davis leads new effort in livestock genomics

By Pat Bailey

Scientists and breeders working with poultry and livestock species will get a new set of tools from an international project that includes the University of California, Davis.

The UC Davis team is led by functional genomicist Huaijun Zhou, an associate professor and Chancellor’s Fellow in the Department of Animal Science. The researchers will focus on the genomes of the chicken, cow and pig, which make up the largest meat-producing industries in the United States.

Functional genomics can reveal how DNA controls genes that improve livestock species.

Functional genomics can reveal how DNA controls genes that improve livestock species.

Engineering students host “make-a-thon” for bats

While many Americans were enjoying a holiday weekend, biomedical engineering students at UC Davis worked straight through Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 17-18, to design and prototype a medical device…for bats. The effort was the first “Make-a-thon” organized by the UC Davis Biomedical Engineering Society.

“It’s the design process on steroids,” said Anthony Passerini, associate professor of biomedical engineering and director of the department’s senior design program. “The teams were doing over two days what they normally do over two quarters. They were highly constrained by time, materials, and manufacturing techniques. It was a great learning experience and a lot of fun for everyone.”

New anthrax-killing virus from Africa is unusually large

From a zebra carcass on the plains of Namibia in Southern Africa, an international team of researchers has discovered a new, unusually large virus (or bacteriophage) that infects the bacterium that causes anthrax. The novel bacteriophage could eventually open up new ways to detect, treat or decontaminate the anthrax bacillus and its relatives that cause food poisoning. The work is published Jan. 27 in the journal PLOS One.

Bad news for pears, but let the cows eat cake

Two sort-of nutrition related items that caught my eye today: Firstly, researchers at the UC Davis School of Medicine contradict the notion that a “pear-shaped” body is healthier than an “apple-shaped” one; second, some cattle ranchers stung by the high cost of corn are feeding cattle stale cookies, cake and other sweet leftovers.

It’s long been thought that “apples” with fat mostly around their abdomen are at higher risk of heart disease and diabetes than “pears” who carry their weight on the butt and thighs. But a new study by Professor Ishwarlal Jialal and colleagues found that wasn’t so.

BGI President Yang: “Let’s collaborate” on century of life science

Big numbers — of DNA base pairs sequenced, numbers of genomes completed, volumes of data collected and dollars invested — were in the air Nov. 9 when Dr. Huanming (Henry) Yang, president and cofounder of BGI (formerly the Beijing Genomics Institute) gave a talk on campus.

Henry Yang

Huanming (Henry) Yang, president of BGI, answering a question following his talk at UC Davis, Nov. 9. (Joe Proudman)

During his visit to campus, Yang visited the new BGI@UC Davis joint facility at the Sacramento campus as well as the Genome Center on the Davis campus. His visit was sponsored by the Office of Research and the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology.

Plastics chemical shows two-generation effect in pregnant monkeys

Exposure of pregnant monkeys to the widely-used chemical bisphenol A (BPA) disrupts development of fetal ovaries, potentially causing birth defects and reproductive problems that would not emerge for a generation, according to research by scientists at Washington State University and the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis.

(A news release from Washington State University can be found here.)

BPA is a chemical used in plastics, epoxy resins that line cans and cash register receipts. Most people in the United States have measurable levels of BPA in their blood that indicate that exposure is nearly continuous.

People’s Choice Awards, science edition!

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is opening up its “HHSInnovates” program to public voting for the first time, and one of the projects in contention is the UC Davis-based 100K Genome Project to sequence the DNA of 100,000 microbes that cause foodborne disease.

The HHSInnovates program is a way to highlight projects that involve the Department, which includes the National Institutes of Health. Twice a year, HHS employees are invited to submit innovations for voting within the Department to choose six finalists.  The Secretary then picks a winner and the public picks the “People’s Choice.”  The winning innovations are recognized by the Secretary in an awards ceremony and the innovators are personally invited to headquarters to share their innovations with the Department’s leadership.

Talk: Forecasting to prevent the next viral storm

Nathan Wolfe, Lorry I. Lokey Visiting Professor of Human Biology at Stanford University and Director of the Global Viral Forecasting Network Initiative will give a public talk at UC Davis on May 24, “Before it Strikes: Forecasting the Next Viral Storm.” His talk will begin at 4.10 pm in room 180, Medical Sciences C building on the UC Davis campus (near Tupper Hall and the Genome and Biomedical Sciences Facility).