First pigment-making animal is an aphid!

How cool is this? A species of pea aphid appears to have picked up the genes for making carotenoids from fungi–making it the first known animal to manufacture their own. This adds to the evidence that DNA can transfer laterally from bacteria, yeast, or fungi to animals. The evolutionary story is just getting more and more interesting!

N.A. Moran and T. Jarvik, “Lateral transfer of genes from fungi underlies carotenoid production in aphids,” Science:328:624-7, 2010.

Acacia plant controls ants with chemical signal

The mutually beneficial relationship between acacias and the ants that guard them is a little better understood, thanks to researchers in the UK and Sweden. They found that the ants are deterred from entering the flowers–and thus competing with pollinators–by a chemical the plant produces. This chemical is produced in addition to the food rewards provided to the ants. Continue reading