Life Sciences

A tiny marsupial is upending ideas about the origins of flying mammals
April 17, 2023
Written by Liz Fuller-Wright, Office of Communications

Flying squirrels, sugar gliders and bats haven’t had a common ancestor in 160 million years, but they form their wing flaps using some of the same genetic ingredients.

That’s the intriguing finding from a Princeton-led team of biologists, detailed recently in the journal Science Advances. In other words, when the seven known flying…

Rabinowitz: Cancerous tumors are sluggardly … and thrifty
Feb. 2, 2023
Written by Wendy Plump, Department of Chemistry

Scientists have never known precisely how much energy a cancerous tumor expends growing in the mammalian body.

They hypothesized that it consumes a great deal of energy, churning through nutrients and putting healthy tissue – the heart, the liver, the pancreas – at a disadvantage as the metabolic system spreads the nutritive…

Kristina Olson's keen scholarship is informing the conversation on gender identity
Dec. 2, 2022
Written by Liz Fuller-Wright, Office of Communications

When a friend asked Kristina Olson how to support their young child — who heard “It’s a boy!” at birth but who was now saying “I’m a girl” — Olson thought, “I’m a developmental psychologist. I’ll read the literature, and then I can tell her what it says.”

But she quickly discovered that there were no papers in the peer-reviewed…

Bumblebees kept in isolation make up for it by being more social later
July 6, 2022
Written by Alaina O'Regan, Office of the Dean for Research

A new study shows that social isolation changes the behavior and brain development of bumblebees, but not in the way researchers expected.

The study explored how bumblebees, which depend largely on their social instincts for survival, were impacted by being socially isolated during a key developmental period.

The researchers…

'Fantastic giant tortoise,' believed extinct, confirmed alive in the Galápagos
June 9, 2022
Written by Liz Fuller-Wright, Office of Communications

A tortoise from a Galápagos species long believed extinct has been found alive and now confirmed to be a living member of the species. The tortoise, named Fernanda after her Fernandina Island home, is the first of her species identified in more than a century.

The Fernandina Island Galápagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis phantasticus

How fast-growing algae could enhance growth of food crops
May 19, 2022
Written by Caitlin Sedwick for the Department of Molecular Biology

Researchers used computer modeling to identify the features that green algae use to enhance carbon usage, providing a blueprint for engineering this approach into crop plants. 

Tethers bring distant genes together to coordinate embryo development
May 4, 2022
Written by by Caitlin Sedwick for the Department of Molecular Biology

Organisms such as plants, mammals and insects undergo a carefully orchestrated developmental program as they transition from single-celled embryos to their multicellular adult forms. In a paper that appeared May 4, 2022 in the journal Nature, researchers at

Coronavirus researcher Cameron Myhrvold is using 'spectacular' new technologies to seek and destroy viral pathogens
Nov. 24, 2021
Written by Liz Fuller-Wright, Office of Communications

In April 2020, as microbiologist Cameron Myhrvold had just finished his second interview to join Princeton’s faculty, his paper was published in Nature introducing the revolutionary CARMEN system that simultaneously tests for the 170 most prevalent human-infecting viruses — including the then-novel coronavirus. At the time, only 39 of those…

Princeton team discovers new organelle involved in cancer metastasis
March 9, 2021
Written by Liz Fuller-Wright, Office of Communications

Some of Princeton’s leading cancer researchers were startled to discover that what they thought was a straightforward investigation into how cancer spreads through the body — metastasis — turned up evidence of liquid-liquid phase separations: the new field of biology research that investigates how liquid blobs of living materials merge into…

How we can use psychological principles to foster collaboration in the fight against COVID-19
Feb. 24, 2021
Written by Liana Wait, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

COVID-19 can be thought of as a game of chicken, except instead of driving head-on towards each other and betting the other person will swerve at the last minute, we’re going out when we should be staying home and foregoing social distancing, masks and hygiene measures.

“If we can rely on other people to follow the rules, we can get…