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evolution

Art for "Evolutionary Math and Just-So Stories"
insights puzzle

Solution: ‘Evolutionary Math and Just-So Stories’

September 7, 2018

How much stock should we put in mathematical models of evolution that have not been validated by rigorous empirical data?

Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum leaf
botany

DNA Analysis Reveals a Genus of Plants Hiding in Plain Sight

September 4, 2018

Gene-sequence data is changing the way that botanists think about their classification schemes. A recent name-change for a common houseplant resulted from the discovery that it belonged in an overlooked genus.

Art for "Evolutionary Math and Just-So Stories"
insights puzzle

Evolutionary Math and Just-So Stories

August 15, 2018

Evolutionary stories like the grandmother hypothesis are easy to construct from mathematical models, but how well do they reflect reality?

Abstractions blog

How Insulin Helped Create Ant Societies

August 14, 2018

Evolution may have coopted an ancient metabolic mechanism to set social insects on the path toward one of the most puzzling behaviors found in nature.

Abstractions blog

Why Nature Prefers Couples, Even for Yeast

July 17, 2018

Some species have the equivalent of many more than two sexes, but most do not. A new model suggests the reason depends on how often they mate.

Illustration for "Mathematics Shows How to Ensure Evolution"
mathematical biology

Mathematics Shows How to Ensure Evolution

June 26, 2018

New results emerging from graph theory prove that the way a population is organized can guarantee the eventual triumph of natural selection — or permanently thwart it.

Photo of a grasshopper poised to jump.
biophysics

Too Small for Big Muscles, Tiny Animals Use Springs

June 13, 2018

Elastic springs help tiny animals stay fast and strong. New work is finding what size critters must be to benefit from the springs.

Photo of a diver between two tectonic plates in Silfra. reykjavik. Iceland
geophysics

Why Earth’s Cracked Crust May Be Essential for Life

June 7, 2018

Life needs more than water alone. Recent discoveries suggest that plate tectonics has played a critical role in nourishing life on Earth. The findings carry major consequences for the search for life elsewhere in the universe.

Lede photo for "How Vaccines Can Drive Pathogens to Evolve"
immunology

Vaccines Are Pushing Pathogens to Evolve

May 10, 2018

Just as antibiotics have bred resistance in bacteria, vaccines can potentially lose their effectiveness over diseases they controlled. Researchers are working to head off the evolution of new threats.