What's up in

evolution

A split level photo shows algae growing on rocks both above and below the surface of the water at a margin of a Welsh glacial lake.
Abstractions blog

Billion-Year-Old Algae and Newer Genes Hint at Land Plants’ Origin

March 26, 2020

A recently unearthed fossil and new genomic discoveries are filling important gaps in scientists’ understanding of how primitive green algae eventually evolved into land vegetation.

Paleontologist Pincelli Hull
Q&A

A Rapid End Strikes the Dinosaur Extinction Debate

March 25, 2020

The paleontologist Pincelli Hull has nailed down the timing and speed of the extinction that killed off the dinosaurs — details that carry ominous warnings for today.

A mother armadillo, lying on her side, nurses four baby armadillos.
developmental biology

Nature Versus Nurture? Add ‘Noise’ to the Debate.

March 23, 2020

We give our genes and our environment all the credit for making us who we are. But random noise during development might be just as important.

Illustration of a connection between a bat and a human, with a backdrop of coronaviruses.
Quantized Columns

The Animal Origins of Coronavirus and Flu

February 25, 2020

Zoonotic diseases like influenza and many coronaviruses start out in animals, but their biological machinery often enables them to jump to humans.

Abstractions blog

Biodiversity Alters Strategies of Bacterial Evolution

January 6, 2020

In evolution, context is everything: Bacteria with neighbors evolve to rebuff viruses in a different way.

Art for "Quanta’s Year in Biology (2019)"
2019 in Review

The Year in Biology

December 23, 2019

Researchers explored the zone between life and death, charted the mind’s system for arranging ideas and memories and learned how life’s complexity emerged.

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.

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.