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evolution

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.

Photo of 12 petri dishes holding brightly colored fungi.
Abstractions blog

‘Zombie’ Microbes Redefine Life’s Energy Limits

August 12, 2020

A new model shows that the denizens of a vast, ancient biome beneath the seafloor use barely enough energy to stay alive — and broadens understanding of what life can look like.

Photo of one of the Russian sturgeon-paddlefish hybrids called sturddlefish.
Abstractions blog

Extra DNA May Make Unlikely Hybrid Fish Possible

August 5, 2020

The unintentional creation of “sturddlefish” hybrids may illuminate the genomic mechanisms that govern whether species can interbreed.

Photo of green leafy plants in close-up.
Abstractions blog

Why Are Plants Green? To Reduce the Noise in Photosynthesis.

July 30, 2020

Plants ignore the most energy-rich part of sunlight because stability matters more than efficiency, according to a new model of photosynthesis.

Side-by-side images of a rabbit, bees in a hive, and a tornado.
information theory

What Is an Individual? Biology Seeks Clues in Information Theory.

July 16, 2020

To recognize strange extraterrestrial life and solve biological mysteries on this planet, scientists are searching for an objective definition for life’s basic units.

A DNA double helix being struck by a cosmic ray.
Abstractions blog

Cosmic Rays May Explain Life’s Bias for Right-Handed DNA

June 29, 2020

Cosmic rays may have given right-handed genetic helixes an evolutionary edge at the beginning of life’s history.

Illustration of a flying albatross, a swimming basking shark and the Lévy walk paths they take.
behavior

Random Search Wired Into Animals May Help Them Hunt

June 11, 2020

The nervous systems of foraging and predatory animals may prompt them to move along a special kind of random path called a Lévy walk to find food efficiently when no clues are available.

The skeletons of a man and woman, showing the difference in their heights.
Abstractions blog

Males Are the Taller Sex. Estrogen, Not Fights for Mates, May Be Why.

June 8, 2020

To explain why men are on average taller than women, scientists theorized about competition for mates. But the effects of estrogen on bone growth may be answer enough.