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evolution

Stalks and spore bodies of a slime mold rise above a smooth surface.
Abstractions blog

Out-of-Sync ‘Loners’ May Secretly Protect Orderly Swarms

May 21, 2020

Studies of collective behavior usually focus on how crowds of organisms coordinate their actions. But what if the individuals that don’t participate have just as much to tell us?

A baby lizard emerging from a transparent egg membrane.
Abstractions blog

Egg Laying or Live Birth: How Evolution Chooses

May 18, 2020

A lizard that both lays eggs and gives birth to live young is helping scientists understand how and why these forms of reproduction evolved.

Close-up of water swirling among rocks at the sea’s edge.
microbiology

Inside Deep Undersea Rocks, Life Thrives Without the Sun

May 13, 2020

Newly discovered worlds of microbes far beneath the ocean floor, inside old basaltic rocks, could point to a greater likelihood of life elsewhere in the universe.

Quantized Columns

What Other Coronaviruses Tell Us About SARS-CoV-2

April 29, 2020

As COVID-19 cases continue to increase, our extensive knowledge of other coronaviruses informs our understanding.

Video of two slipper-shaped paramecia engaged in a sexual process called conjugation.
evolution

Why Sex? Biologists Find New Explanations.

April 23, 2020

Why did sex evolve? Theories usually focus on the diversity of future generations, but some researchers find compelling explanations in the immediate benefits to individuals.

An illustration that represents the big differences in size and diversity in the microbiomes of six species.
microbiology

Some Animals Have No Microbiome. Here’s What That Tells Us.

April 14, 2020

To stay healthy, humans and some other animals rely on a complex community of bacteria in their guts. But research is starting to show that those partnerships might be more the exception than the rule.

genomics

Where Do New Genes Come From?

April 9, 2020

In their search for sources of genetic novelty, researchers find that some “orphan genes” with no obvious ancestors evolve out of junk DNA, contrary to old assumptions.

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.