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evolution

Illustration of life evolving to use oxygen
evolution

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.

Lede photo of a giant virus under a microscope
Abstractions blog

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.

520px photo of phytoplankton
Abstractions blog

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.

520px photo of Jarvis holding a zebra finch
Q&A

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.

520px photo of a dingo
evolution

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.

Aribidopsis thaliana inflorescence
Abstractions blog

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.

Illustration: altered DNA in bears
synthetic biology

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.

Photo of Corina Tarnita 520px
Q&A

A Mathematician Who Decodes the Patterns Stamped Out by Life

Corina Tarnita deciphers bizarre patterns in the soil created by competing life-forms.

New finch species "Big Bird "(offspring)
Abstractions blog

New Bird Species Arises From Hybrids, as Scientists Watch

The rapid, unorthodox emergence of a new finch in the Galápagos hints that speciation isn’t rare. New hybrid species may quietly appear and disappear without anyone noticing.