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evolution

origins of life

Life’s First Molecule Was Protein, Not RNA, New Model Suggests

Which mattered first at the dawn of life: proteins or nucleic acids? Proteins may have had the edge if a theorized process let them grow long enough to become self-replicating catalysts.

The delicate specialized structure of the water strider genus Rhagovelia looks like a Japanese fan.
evolution

Insects Conquered a Watery Realm With Just Two New Genes

Minor genetic changes can have big evolutionary consequences. When a gene duplication gave some water striders a novel leg part, it opened up a new world for them.

evolution

Simple Bacteria Offer Clues to the Origins of Photosynthesis

Studies of the energy-harvesting proteins in primitive cells suggest that key features of photosynthesis might have evolved a billion years earlier than scientists thought.

Selfish DNA
insights puzzle

Solution: ‘Are Genes Selfish or Cooperative?’

Puzzle solvers rediscovered a simple mathematical result of Mendelian genetics and weighed in on a Richard Dawkins metaphor.

Birds and mitonuclear conflict
evolution

Genetic Struggles Within Cells May Create New Species

Mitonuclear conflict — a struggle between the genes in a cell’s nucleus and its mitochondria — might sometimes split species in two.

Modern humans (at left) and Neanderthals (right)
evolution

Genetics Spills Secrets From Neanderthals’ Lost History

How many Neanderthals were there? Archaeology and genetics have given very different answers. A new study reconciles them and reveals the lost history of these ancient people — including an early brush with extinction.

Selfish Genes
insights puzzle

Are Genes Selfish or Cooperative?

Can you discover a simple mathematical result of Mendelian genetics that describes how genes interact with each other?

A boy and his dog and its viruses
evolution

Viruses Would Rather Jump to New Hosts Than Evolve With Them

The discovery that viruses move between species unexpectedly often is rewriting ideas about their evolutionary history — and may have troubling implications for the threat from emerging diseases.

Nigel Goldenfeld
Q&A

Seeing Emergent Physics Behind Evolution

Nigel Goldenfeld applies the physics of condensed matter to understand how evolution sprinted for the earliest life — and then slowed down.