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evolution

A hollow, cylindrical skeleton formed from a lattice of glass strands shown against a black background.
Abstractions blog

The Curious Strength of a Sea Sponge’s Glass Skeleton

January 11, 2021

A glass sponge found deep in the Pacific shows a remarkable ability to withstand compression and bending, on top of the sponge’s other unusual properties.

2020 in Review

The Year in Biology

December 23, 2020

While the study of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was the most urgent priority, biologists also learned more about how brains process information, how to define individuality and why sleep deprivation kills.

Abstractions blog

The Mystery of Mistletoe’s Missing Genes

December 21, 2020

Mistletoes have all but shut down the powerhouses of their cells. Scientists are still trying to understand the plants’ unorthodox survival strategy.

Illustration of a blue tiger.
Abstractions blog

How Neutral Theory Altered Ideas About Biodiversity

December 8, 2020

The simple insight that most changes are random had a profound effect on genetics, evolution and ecology.

Looping video that shows transformations between African cichlid species.
Abstractions blog

New Fish Data Reveal How Evolutionary Bursts Create Species

December 1, 2020

In three bursts of adaptive change, one species of cichlid fish in Lake Tanganyika gave rise to hundreds.

Colorized micrograph of a cell’s nucleus, showing euchromatin and heterochromatin.
Abstractions blog

Scientists Find Vital Genes Evolving in Genome’s Junkyard

November 16, 2020

Even genes essential for life can be caught in an evolutionary arms race that forces them to change or be replaced.

ecology

A Physicist’s Approach to Biology Brings Ecological Insights

October 13, 2020

The physicist Jeff Gore tests theories about microbe communities experimentally and finds new rules governing ecological stability.

Close-up photo of a carpenter ant queen carrying eggs.
evolution

How Two Became One: Origins of a Mysterious Symbiosis Found

September 9, 2020

Carpenter ants need endosymbiotic bacteria to guide the early development of their embryos. New work has reconstructed how this deep partnership evolved.

Illustration of two fantastical creatures. One lifts an urn in its arms. The other lacks arms but lifts the urn on its tail.
evolution

By Losing Genes, Life Often Evolved More Complexity

September 1, 2020

Recent major surveys show that reductions in genomic complexity — including the loss of key genes — have successfully shaped the evolution of life throughout history.