Yearbook 2012

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Symbioses are ubiquitous in the natural environment and enormously important for the survival of animals and plants. A group of digger wasps, the so-called beewolves, engage in a remarkable defensive alliance with bacteria: By producing a cocktail of different antibiotics, the symbionts protect the wasps’ offspring in the subterranean cocoon against mold fungi and bacteria. In turn, the beewolf provides nutrition and shelter for the bacteria in its antennae. This symbiosis already evolved in the cretaceous and may have represented a key adaptation for the evolutionary success of beewolves. more

Bark beetle induced defense strategies in Norway Spruce

Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology Schmidt, Axel; Hammerbacher, Almuth; Nagel, Raimund; Gershenzon, Jonathan
Norway spruce developed constitutive and induced defense responses against herbivores and pathogens. Attack by herbivores like the bark beetle and his associated fungus induces the production of additional new resin in newly formed traumatic resin ducts and the accumulation of a mixture of polyphenolic compounds in specialized cambial cells. We investigate the regulation of terpenoids and polyphenolics by characterizing branch point enzymes that control the flow of metabolites during biosynthesis for a better understanding how both defense strategies function in an ecological context. more
Metallic materials are the backbone of modern industrial societies establishing their competitiveness in the production of complex products and processes. The basic research on metals has undergone a revolution in recent years, based on the fact that the structure and properties of alloys can be predicted and experimentally verified at the atomic level. These methods enable us to design new materials on the basis of their atomic structure. more
The necessity for a sustainable energy economy beyond fossil fuels and nuclear energy has nowadays found broad consensus. The transformation of the present technologies is a huge challenge for society as a whole, which will dominate the following decades politically and economically. Basic research can deliver insights, which will lead to novel and essential technologies. With the foundation of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion the MPG has set the course for this important development. more
Our brain is constantly bombarded with sensory information. However, only a fraction of this information may be behaviorally relevant at a given moment in time. How such selection processes are realized in the brain is in the focus of current research. A possible mechanism for the dynamic routing of information is the selective, rhythmic synchronization between populations of neurons. Experimental results support this hypothesis and expand our knowledge about the processing of sensory information in the brain. more
Over the last years, evidence has accumulated that evolution can take place much more rapid than previously thought, occurring within a few generations. This finding is not only important for evolutionary biology, but also for ecology because the recognition that evolutionary change can act on ecological timescales makes the two processes ultimately entangled. Scientists at the MPI for Evolutionary Biology combine laboratory studies, analysis of mathematical models and genomic approaches to study the consequences of the interaction of ecological and evolutionary change on one time scale. more
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