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The Elusive Calculus of Insects’ Altruism and Kin Selection
How the ultra-cooperative behavior of ants, bees and other social insects could have evolved continues to challenge formal analysis. But a new theory about hedging bets against nature’s unpredictability may change the math and shift the debate.
Complex Animals Led to More Oxygen, Says Maverick Theory
For decades, researchers have commonly assumed that higher oxygen levels led to the sudden diversification of animal life 540 million years ago. But one iconoclast argues the opposite: that new animal behaviors raised oxygen levels and remade the environment.
Oxygen and Stem Cells May Have Reshaped Early Complex Animals
An unlikely team offers a controversial hypothesis about what enabled animal life to get more complex during the Cambrian explosion.
New Giant Viruses Further Blur the Definition of Life
A newfound pair of giant viruses have massive genomes and the most complete resources for building proteins ever seen in the viral world. They have refreshed the debate about the origins of these cellular parasites.
Evolution Saves Species From ‘Kill the Winner’ Disasters
Modelers find evidence that a combination of competition, predation and evolution will push ecosystems toward species diversity anywhere in the universe.
In Birds’ Songs, Brains and Genes, He Finds Clues to Speech
The neuroscientist Erich Jarvis found that songbirds’ vocal skills and humans’ spoken language are both rooted in neural pathways for controlling learned movements.
A Domesticated Dingo? No, but Some Are Getting Less Wild
Near an Australian desert mining camp, wild dingoes are losing their fear of humans. Their genetic and behavioral changes may echo those from the domestication of dogs.
With ‘Downsized’ DNA, Flowering Plants Took Over the World
Compact genomes and tiny cells gave flowering plants an edge over competing flora. This discovery hints at a broader evolutionary principle.
Is a Bigger Genetic Code Better? Get Ready to Find Out
Evolution settled on a genetic code that uses four letters to name 20 amino acids. Synthetic biologists adding new bases to DNA will be free to improve on nature — if they can.