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Volume 8 Issue 6, June 2024

Urban mutations

Ring-billed Gull in Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton, Canada, with steel-plant smokestacks in the background. The smokestacks emit polycyclic hydrocarbons that have been shown to induce heritable mutations in herring gulls and mammals. A Perspective by Johnson et al. highlights how such mutations may be important for the ecology, evolution and health of diverse organisms.

See Johnson et al.

Image: Marc Johnson. Cover Design: Allen Beattie.

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  • The volatile compound methyl jasmonate is emitted from plant roots and has been shown to trigger the formation of biofilms of beneficial bacteria in the rhizosphere, which suggests an active role of plants in luring microorganisms to aid them.

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  • A cell population in the neural plate border region of embryos of ascidians, the closest relatives of vertebrates, has properties similar to those of the neural crest cells and neuromesodermal cells of vertebrate embryos. The evolutionary origin of these multipotent cells may date back to the common ancestor of vertebrates and ascidians.

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