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evolution

developmental biology

Cells Form Into ‘Xenobots’ on Their Own

March 31, 2021

Embryonic cells can self-assemble into new living forms that don’t resemble the bodies they usually generate, challenging old ideas of what defines an organism.

A mosaic of five microscope images of igneous rocks. The rocks are dappled with blue, pink, orange and multicolor inclusions.
geology

Scientists Pin Down When Earth’s Crust Cracked, Then Came to Life

March 25, 2021

New data indicating that Earth’s surface broke up about 3.2 billion years ago helps clarify how plate tectonics drove the evolution of complex life.

The zoologist Arik Kershenbaum of the University of Cambridge and his dog.
Q&A

Why Extraterrestrial Life May Not Seem Entirely Alien

March 18, 2021

The zoologist Arik Kershenbaum argues that because some evolutionary challenges are truly universal, life throughout the cosmos may share certain features.

Quantized Columns

How to Understand COVID-19 Variants and Their Effects on Vaccines

February 25, 2021

Researchers are tracking the different strains of SARS-CoV-2 and studying how they spread through our population and our bodies.

A drawing of a piece of folded paper going back and forth between paper airplane and paper bird shapes.
Abstractions blog

Some Proteins Change Their Folds to Perform Different Jobs

February 3, 2021

Unusual proteins that can quickly fold into different shapes provide cells with a novel regulatory mechanism.

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.