Jordana Cepelewicz

Staff Writer

Lede art for "Chronological Clues to Life’s Early History Hide in Gene Transfers"
Abstractions blog

Chronological Clues to Life’s Early History Lurk in Gene Transfers

To date the branches on the evolutionary tree of life, researchers are looking at horizontal gene transfers among ancient microorganisms, which once seemed only to muddle the record.

Photo of ants holding larvae.
evolution

The Elusive Calculus of Insects’ Altruism and Kin Selection

How the ultra-cooperative behavior of ants, bees and other social insects could have evolved continues to challenge formal analysis. But a new theory about hedging bets against nature’s unpredictability may change the math and shift the debate.

Abstractions blog

Complex Animals Led to More Oxygen, Says Maverick Theory

For decades, researchers have commonly assumed that higher oxygen levels led to the sudden diversification of animal life 540 million years ago. But one iconoclast argues the opposite: that new animal behaviors raised oxygen levels and remade the environment.

Illustration of life evolving to use oxygen
evolution

Oxygen and Stem Cells May Have Reshaped Early Complex Animals

An unlikely team offers a controversial hypothesis about what enabled animal life to get more complex during the Cambrian explosion.

Lede photo of a giant virus under a microscope
Abstractions blog

New Giant Viruses Further Blur the Definition of Life

A newfound pair of giant viruses have massive genomes and the most complete resources for building proteins ever seen in the viral world. They have refreshed the debate about the origins of these cellular parasites.

520px photo of Barbara Engelhardt
Q&A

A Statistical Search for Genomic Truths

The computer scientist Barbara Engelhardt develops machine-learning models and methods to scour human genomes for the elusive causes and mechanisms of disease.

520px illustration of genome packaging
genomics

How Cells Pack Tangled DNA Into Neat Chromosomes

For the first time, researchers see how proteins grab loops of DNA and bundle them for cell division. The discovery also hints at how the genome folds to regulate gene expression.

520px photo of lit neurons
Abstractions blog

With Strategic Zaps to the Brain, Scientists Boost Memory

Stimulating part of the cortex as needed during learning tasks improves later recall. The finding reveals more about the brain’s memory network and points toward possible therapies.

520px photo of Jarvis holding a zebra finch
Q&A

In Birds’ Songs, Brains and Genes, He Finds Clues to Speech

The neuroscientist Erich Jarvis found that songbirds’ vocal skills and humans’ spoken language are both rooted in neural pathways for controlling learned movements.