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evolution

Art for "Evolutionary Math and Just-So Stories"
insights puzzle

Evolutionary Math and Just-So Stories

Evolutionary stories like the grandmother hypothesis are easy to construct from mathematical models, but how well do they reflect reality?

Abstractions blog

How Insulin Helped Create Ant Societies

Evolution may have coopted an ancient metabolic mechanism to set social insects on the path toward one of the most puzzling behaviors found in nature.

Abstractions blog

Why Nature Prefers Couples, Even for Yeast

Some species have the equivalent of many more than two sexes, but most do not. A new model suggests the reason depends on how often they mate.

Illustration for "Mathematics Shows How to Ensure Evolution"
mathematical biology

Mathematics Shows How to Ensure Evolution

New results emerging from graph theory prove that the way a population is organized can guarantee the eventual triumph of natural selection — or permanently thwart it.

Photo of a grasshopper poised to jump.
biophysics

Too Small for Big Muscles, Tiny Animals Use Springs

Elastic springs help tiny animals stay fast and strong. New work is finding what size critters must be to benefit from the springs.

Photo of a diver between two tectonic plates in Silfra. reykjavik. Iceland
geophysics

Why Earth’s Cracked Crust May Be Essential for Life

Life needs more than water alone. Recent discoveries suggest that plate tectonics has played a critical role in nourishing life on Earth. The findings carry major consequences for the search for life elsewhere in the universe.

Lede photo for "How Vaccines Can Drive Pathogens to Evolve"
immunology

Vaccines Are Pushing Pathogens to Evolve

Just as antibiotics have bred resistance in bacteria, vaccines can potentially lose their effectiveness over diseases they controlled. Researchers are working to head off the evolution of new threats.

Lede art for Embryo Development
developmental biology

Scientists Map the Genetic Steps as Eggs Become Animals

For the first time, researchers have traced the genetic programs that guide the development of each cell in early embryos. Surprisingly, even cells that start out different can end up the same.

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.