• Interpreting the colours of damselflies darting by the campus pond

    If you have spent some time by the pond near the main canteen on campus, you might have noticed tiny damselflies zipping along by the edge of the pond. Because they are so small, you have to look closely to see their beautiful, vivid reds and blues. What do these colours mean? Do they signal something, and to whom? As humans, we signal a lot with the colour of our clothes, and have the luxury of changing them at will. For most animals, colour is not really a behavioural choice, but reflects myriad selection pressures in their evolutionary history.

  • Insect virtual reality: What it’s really like to be the fly on the wall

    If you’ve ever tried to swat a fly, you know how hard it is to follow its movements as it ducks and weaves around to escape. You can easily appreciate that a scientist trying to observe and understand the behavior of insects in the natural world has their work cut out.

  • Molecular route to bacterial evolution

    “The world will not be inherited by the strongest; it will be inherited by those most able to change.”

    This quote by evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin is quite appreciable in the microscopic world of bacteria and viruses.

    Bacteria, in the natural world are swamped by a myriad of environmental stressors. Changes at the genetic level often beget bacterial adaptations to these challenges, helping them find a fine balance between growth and stress tolerance.

  • Mistakes can be good

    Mistakes are rarely rewarded. Intuitively, one would imagine that a shoddy typist at an office who keeps generating typos would either quickly lose their job, or at least be overlooked for promotion. The idea that this person could in fact benefit from being shoddy and rise above others professionally is counter intuitive, and yet we see this in cells! Like humans, cells too constantly make mistakes. Most of the work within cells is carried out by biomolecules called proteins; without these, cells would not exist.

  • The need for speed: Zebrafish study at NCBS

    Whether running away from a predator or to win an Olympic gold, how fast we run determines the final outcome. Locomotion is produced when limb muscles contract in a co-ordinated fashion. This, in turn, is caused by electrical impulses sent by nerve cells called motor neurons located in the spinal cord. Earlier work showed that based on an animal’s momentary needs, brain circuits select a suitable course of action and set the frequency of motion. Then, just like engaging gears in an automobile, spinal ‘speed’ modules are selectively activated to achieve a certain speed.

  • NCBS researchers develop test to detect a virus in cancer cells

    Scientists from the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bangalore, have developed a test to detect the presence of Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV) in Merkel cell carcinomas.

  • NCBS team finds how microRNA gene regulators are generated in plants

     Image: miRNAs stop specific mRNAs from making proteins. This study shows how specific sequences (shown in black stars) in the hairpin loops from which miRNAs originate are essential for the selection of miRNA regions.

     

  • Bacteria get free lunch with butterflies and dragonflies

    For humans, trade is second nature and civilizations have flourished and fallen with the fate of their trade. In fact, the mutual scratching of backs is a cornerstone of many animal societies. On the other hand, deep and sustained mutualisms across species were long thought to be quirks of evolution, where radically different players managed to stick together and trade for mutual benefit.

  • Visit by Dr Pascal Cossart and Dr Didier Roux

    Recently, the campus had the pleasure of hosting two eminent French scientists. Dr Pascale Cossart of the Institut Pasteur and Dr Didier Roux of the National Academy of Technologies of France spent time at the Cluster over two days this October.

  • The fly on the wall: ever wondered how it lands there?

    A new study from the National Centre of Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bangalore, has thrown some light on the mystery of how flies can land on vertical and upside-down surfaces. Sanjay Sane’s group at NCBS has shown that fly landing maneuvers have two distinct modules of behavior – deceleration and leg extension. The team has found that deceleration or slowing down, is like a reflex action, and sets in at a distance proportional to the speed of flight. In other words, at higher flight speeds, deceleration sets in earlier and further away from the landing surface.

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