Male-killing bugs hold key to butterflies’ curious colour changes

 The international study, led by the University of Edinburgh, analysed the entire DNA of the bacteria and the female butterflies’ chromosomes. The findings reveal that the bacteria ensures the survival of one particular colour pattern gene, one that is always passed from mother to daughter. However, this same gene causes the daughter to resemble her father, rather than her mother. Scientists say that by forcing its way into daughters only, the colour gene genetically hitchhikes with the bacteria to evade death.

Gene editing toolkit allows scientists to simultaneously create various strains of malaria

A toolkit which allows researchers to modify or remove genes in malaria, to create up to three strains of the parasite simultaneously, has been developed by researchers at the Crick. Studying different strains of the disease at the same time could help scientists uncover future drug targets. In the research scientists adapted gene editing processes, allowing them to create up to three different versions of the malaria parasite (Plasmodium falciparum) at the same time.

Baldness gene discovery reveals origin of hairy alpine plants

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh identified the gene that controls hair production – which they named the Hairy gene – in snapdragons by breeding alpine and lowland species with each other. They found that the gene is switched off in alpine plants.  Their findings show that the first snapdragons – which grew around 12 million years ago – were bald, and that newer, alpine species evolved as a result of mutations that deactivated the gene. 

Autonomous guided vehicles to transform horticultural labour shortage

An Autonomous Guided Vehicle is being designed by researchers at WMG, University of Warwick in a bid to help the horticultural sector tackle a labour shortage. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) launched the project in 2018 in a bid to help the sector’s economy by reducing labour requirements in horticulture through new technology and automation. The model will have the potential to work in both glasshouse and outdoor environments to automate the movement of trays and boxes around the production area, speeding up production.