Spider silk is an impressive material; lightweight and stretchy yet stronger than steel. But the challenge that spiders face to produce this substance is even more formidable. Silk proteins, called spidroins, must convert from a soluble form to solid fibers at ambient temperatures, with water as a solvent, and at high speed.
“FOR the Wapichan, our forests are our life.” Nicholas Fredericks, a local leader of these indigenous South American people, peers out from his village into the bush. “Outsiders have a financial view of the land,” he says. “They see our forests as money. We see them as life. We have to protect them for the future of our people.”
Sense of smell is critical for survival in many mammals. The ability to distinguish different odors, which is important for sniffing out food, avoiding predators, and finding mates, depends on the number and type olfactory receptors found in an organism’s genome. In a study published today in Genome Research, researchers examined the olfactory receptor (OR) repertoire encoded in 13 mammalian species and found that African elephants have the largest number of OR genes ever characterized; more than twice that found in dogs, and five times more than in humans.