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Biology

Illustration of DNA that combines elements of mealybug and bacterial imagery.
evolution

Cell-Bacteria Mergers Offer Clues to How Organelles Evolved

October 3, 2019

Cells in symbiotic partnership, sometimes nested one within the other and functioning like organelles, can borrow from their host’s genes to complete their own metabolic pathways.

Scanning electron micrograph of a cluster of coccolithophores.
ecology

How Jurassic Plankton Stole Control of the Ocean’s Chemistry

October 1, 2019

Only 170 million years ago, new plankton evolved. Their demand for carbon and calcium permanently transformed the seas as homes for life.

An osprey flying low over a river holds a trout in its claws.
Abstractions blog

Your Brain Chooses What to Let You See

September 30, 2019

Beneath our awareness, the brain lets certain kinds of stimuli automatically capture our attention by lowering the priority of the rest.

The illustration shows ghostly hands partially obstructing a person’s sight and hearing.
neuroscience

To Pay Attention, the Brain Uses Filters, Not a Spotlight

September 24, 2019

A brain circuit that suppresses distracting sensory information holds important clues about attention and other cognitive processes.

An illustration that shows a fanciful view of cells in terms of electrical circuitry.
synthetic biology

Math Reveals the Secrets of Cells’ Feedback Circuitry

September 18, 2019

Maintaining perfect stability through negative feedback is a basic element of electrical circuitry, but it’s been a mystery how cells could do it — until now.

3D illustration of a complex atomic structure.
Abstractions blog

Origin-of-Life Study Points to Chemical Chimeras, Not RNA

September 16, 2019

Origin-of-life researchers have usually studied the potential of pure starting materials, but messy mixtures of chemicals may kick-start life more effectively.

Cichlid fish of diverse colors and shapes swim together.
evolution

New Hybrid Species Remix Old Genes Creatively

September 10, 2019

Clues from fish diversity suggest that interbreeding between species could be a major mechanism of fast speciation.

cell biology

Bacterial Clones Show Surprising Individuality

September 4, 2019

Genetically identical bacteria should all be the same, but in fact, the cells are stubbornly varied individuals.

3D illustration of three human skulls, split into left and right halves and nested one inside the next.
evolution

Fossil DNA Reveals New Twists in Modern Human Origins

August 29, 2019

Modern humans and more ancient hominins interbred many times throughout Eurasia and Africa, and the genetic flow went both ways.