What's up in

evolution

ecology

A Timely Fix for a Grand Theory of Nature

March 11, 2016

A disarmingly simple model of ecology does everything well — except predict how rapidly nature can change. Can it become more realistic while still avoiding all of biology’s messy complexities?

origins of life

How to Build Life in a Pre-Darwinian World

February 16, 2016

Perhaps chemistry played a more instrumental role in the origin of life than scientists thought.

astrobiology

Scientists Debate Signatures of Alien Life

February 2, 2016

Searching for signs of life on faraway planets, astrobiologists must decide which telltale biosignature gases to target.

Biology

The Incredible Shrinking Sex Chromosome

December 1, 2015

Nature offers species a panoply of ways to determine an organism’s sex. That flexibility suggests we need not be concerned about losing sex chromosomes, but it raises the question of why such a fundamental property is so variable.

Q&A

The Information Theory of Life

November 19, 2015

The polymath Christoph Adami is investigating life’s origins by reimagining life as self-perpetuating information strings.

Life’s Big Leaps: Critical Moments in Evolution

How Humans Evolved Supersize Brains

November 10, 2015

Scientists have begun to identify the symphony of biological triggers that powered the extraordinary expansion of the human brain.

Life’s Big Leaps: Critical Moments in Evolution

The Woman Who Stared at Wasps

November 5, 2015

The biologist Joan Strassmann discusses cooperation in social insects, how amoebas can teach us about competition, and why the definition of “organism” needs an overhaul.

Life’s Big Leaps: Critical Moments in Evolution

Life’s Secrets Sought in a Snowflake

November 3, 2015

A single genetic change and some clever geometry show how single-celled organisms can band together to form cooperative multicellular entities.

Life’s Big Leaps: Critical Moments in Evolution

Mongrel Microbe Tests Story of Complex Life

October 29, 2015

A newly discovered class of microbe could help to resolve one of the biggest and most controversial mysteries in evolution — how simple microbes transformed into the complex cells that produced animals, plants and fungi.