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Tufts University bioengineers discover secret of spider, silkworm fiber strength
Tufts University bioengineers have discovered how spiders and silkworms are able to spin webs and cocoons made of incredibly strong fibers. The answer lies in how they control the silk protein solubility and structural organization in their glands. (2003-08-27)

Predators: an overlooked player in plant-pollinator relationships
Biologists have recognized that predators help to shape ecological communities. Yet we have seldom considered the consequences of predation on animals that help plants reproduce Ecology Letters, August, suggests that such predation influences reproduction in flowering plants. Kenwyn Suttle describes a field study where spiders that ambush pollinating insects decrease seed production in flowers on which they hunt. Suttle suggests that such interactions are common in nature and biologists have only to look for them. (2003-08-13)

Parasites prevent ants from protecting coffee plants
Azteca ants are voracious predators that live on coffee plants and aggressively defend their territories. That's generally good for the coffee plants, which are protected in the process against all sorts of insect pests. (2003-08-05)

Earthworm invasion will change forests
A new survey by University of Minnesota researchers implicates human activity in the spread of earthworms and strengthens the idea that earthworms significantly change northern hardwood forest understory and that the invasion is in an advanced, but incomplete, stage. (2003-08-03)

Fungi found to be natural plant disease control agent by Hebrew University scientists
A biological, environmentally non-polluting process using fungi to control plant diseases has been discovered by scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences. (2003-03-17)

What are 3-D spider webs for?
In an article published in the January 2003 issue of Ecology Letters, researchers led by a team at Cornell University report that three-dimensional spider webs are associated with a dramatic decrease in predation by mud-dauber wasps, major worldwide predators of spiders. (2003-01-02)

2,000+ brown recluse spiders in a Kansas home inflict no bites in the occupants, UCR study notes
A UC Riverside study shows that where brown recluse spiders are common, people can co-habitate with them and bites are infrequent. The study focused on 2,055 brown recluse spiders collected in a Kansas home of a family of four. Despite the abundance of spiders, no one in the family received bites from the potentially dangerous arachnids. Throughout the United States, however, physicians routinely make brown recluse bite diagnoses when no brown recluses are known to exist in their states. (2002-12-02)

Field Museum plays key role in massive project to map Tree of Life
National Science Foundation has launched an ambitious, multi-disciplinary, 15-20 year program to fill in and flesh out the Tree of Life. Field Museum scientists will help lead three of the seven grants awarded to researchers worldwide to construct a new framework for understanding the evolutionary relationships between all species, extinct and living. Phylogenetic information helps scientists focus research; track the spread of diseases; develop medicines and agrochemical products; conserve species; control invasive species; restore ecosystems. (2002-10-30)

Ecological significance of tool-use in the woodpecker finch Cactospiza pallida
In a paper soon to appear in Ecology Letters, Tebbich and colleagues present the first study on the ecological relevance of tool-use by a bird species. Woodpecker finches acquire a greater proportion of food with this technique than any other animal hitherto studied. (2002-09-06)

Researchers at UCLA create better materials by emulating spiders' techniques
Researchers at UCLA believe that the secret to creating stronger, better materials may be solved by studying an unlikely source: the common spider. Engineers can improve the design and processing of materials by emulating the spider's web-spinning abilities, resulting in enhanced products, from tennis rackets to stealth bombers. (2002-08-06)

Studies of spider's silk reveal unusual strength
University of California, Santa Barbara scientists and U.S. Army researchers are making progress in the study of spider dragline silk, according to recently published proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The protein that lets spiders drop and helps the web to catch prey is what interests the researchers. The molecules are designed to be pulled; they are elastic and very strong. (2002-06-17)

Death by color: Spiny spiders' bright stripes attract prey
The orb-weaving spiny spider flashes its colorful back to lure quarry into its web, Cornell researchers find, contrary to the long-held belief that in the animal kingdom color is used generally to attract mates rather than to entice prey. (2002-06-14)

University of California, Riverside to host spider experts
This year's national meeting of the American Arachnological Society, scheduled for June 25th through June 29th, will take place at the University of California, Riverside. The meeting is expected to attract approximately 125 arachnologists. (2002-06-14)

New methods for detecting brown recluse spider venom
The diagnosis of a brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa) bite is often misapplied and difficult to identify, according to the author of an editorial in the May 2002 Annals of Emergency Medicine. Two new studies also in this issue unveil better methods for physicians to make a diagnosis. (2002-05-03)

Nexia and US Army spin the world's first man-made spider silk performance fibers
Nexia Biotechnologies Inc. and the U.S. Army Soldier Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM) have made the world's first spider silk fibers from man-made materials with properties similar to natural spider silk. Spider silk has long been admired by material scientists for its unique combination of high-performance properties including toughness, strength, lightness and biodegradability. Nexia is developing recombinant spider silk, trade named BioSteelĀ®, for applications in the medical, military and industrial performance fiber markets. (2002-01-17)

'Skeletons' in the closet
Many species have invalid names, creating havoc for those scientists who are in the business of classifying both fossils and current living things, as well as for others who rely on this information. (2001-11-13)

Snakes and spiders grab our attention and grab it even faster if we're phobic, a sign that perception evolved
It's long been thought that the common phobias of snakes and spiders are reminders of homo sapiens' primal past. Now new studies suggest that human perception evolved to accurately and efficiently spot these environmental threats. The research appears in the September issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, published by the American Psychological Association (APA). (2001-09-09)

Intriguing archaeological sites, isolated lake targets of Kuril Expedition
Intriguing archaeological sites that may go back 15,000 years and a mountain lake pierced by a volcanic cone that has been isolated for at least 30,000 years are among the primary targets for an international team of researchers heading for the North Pacific in the sixth year of the International Kuril Island Project. (2000-07-04)

Can a deadly spider replace chemical pesticides?
Viruses given a gene for the venom of one of the world's deadliest spiders could be used instead of chemical pesticides, say researchers in the US. Field trials are planned but critics fear that the virus will spread into the environment and affect other kinds of insects. (2000-06-13)

Bt corn variety found to be safe to Illinois butterfly
A Bt corn variety grown widely in East Central Illinois in 1999 had no adverse effect on black swallowtail caterpillars that thrive in weeds alongside cornfields, according to both field and laboratory studies at the University of Illinois. (2000-06-05)

Spiders get better web sites by rising early
The early spider catches the web site. Instead of fighting for space, larger spiders in colonies rise early to claim the best spots, Researchers at the University of Cincinnati and Cornell University have discovered. (2000-05-30)

Chemical from venom of Chilean tarantula could aid treatment of heart attack, other major diseases
University at Buffalo biophysicists have identified a component of venom from a Chilean tarantula that blocks the action of ion channels responsible for cellular mechanical responses. These channels in the cell membrane -- called stretch-activated channels -- have been implicated in functions as diverse as the senses of touch and hearing, muscle contraction and coordination, and blood pressure and volume regulation. (2000-05-15)

UW researchers still monitoring plants, forest stands, seismic activity 20 years after eruption of Mount St. Helens
List of experts at the University of Washington who can help reporters who are preparing stories to mark the 20th anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens. (2000-04-12)

Cockroaches beware! This house has been treated with catnip
Researchers have confirmed an old wives' tale: Placing catnip around the house helps keep cockroaches away. Their findings could lead to the development of new natural insect repellents that could be sprayed along baseboards to keep roaches from coming out of the walls. (1999-08-23)

Spiders Can Protect Plants From Insects
Spiders can protect plants from leaf-eating insects in exchange for dollops of sugary nectar. Researchers in New Jersey found that the presence of jumping spiders helped plants boost their seed production and scared off insects. (1999-05-12)

Male Moth's Sperm Protects Females
An enduring nuptial gift is included in every sperm package from a male rattlebox moth (Utetheisa ornatrix) to his freshly mated female: a potent, plant-derived chemical that protects her for life against predatory spiders, biologists at Cornell University have discovered. (1999-05-10)

Goats And Spiders Are Working Together To Create A Novel Material
Goats and spiders are working together to create a new supermaterial strong enough to stop bullets. By lacing goat's milk with synthesised spider proteins, researchers in Quebec plan to make an incredibly light, biodegradable fabric called biosteel. (1998-10-07)

High Carbon Dioxide Levels May Be Killing Insects
While rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide might make plants grow faster, they could be bad news for plant-eating insects. A biologist from Florida has found that subtle increases in CO2 can kill leaf-eating moths by reducing the nutritional value of the leaves they feed on. (1998-08-12)

Study 'Gone With The Wind' Provides Stellar Ecological Example
Biologists at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of California, Davis received a windfall from Hurricane Lili in 1996. Through a quirk of fate, the scientists saw one study metamorphose into a completely different one that graphically reveals how natural forces can tip the balance of nature. (1998-07-30)

Hurricane's Perfect Timing Brings A Scientific Bonanza
Hurricane Lili was a stroke of extraordinary fortune for three American scientists -- a catastrophe that created in hours the natural conditions they had speculated about for 20 years. The resulting information may answer long-standing questions about catastrophic impacts on ecosystems, and could help conservationists plan better ways to preserve natural habitat. (1998-07-30)

Walking, Climbing Wheelchair
By studying how goats and spiders get around, a biomedical engineer at the University of Pennsylvania has designed and patented an all-terrain wheelchair that can climb up to 12- inch steps and amble over obstacles. (1998-03-25)

Female Fireflies Lure Males For Defense Chemical
The characteristic light flashes that summon male fireflies of the genus Photinus could come from female Photinus fireflies. Just as likely, the signaling females are from a different genus. The femmes fatales fireflies are luring unrelated males close enough to eat them. The males contain defensive chemicals that females need to repel predators, such as spiders. (1997-08-26)

A Phoenix From A Ring Of Fire Is A Pattern For The Recovery Of Mount St. Helens
The eruption of the Indonesian volcano Krakatau in 1883 was one of the true cataclysms of our time, generating a tsunami that killed about 30,000 people. Today, the volcanic island has been returned to tropical rain forest. A scientist, recently returned from Krakatau, says that the pattern of regeneration will be repeated on Mount St. Helens (1997-02-24)

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