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evolution

Lede art for Embryo Development
developmental biology

Scientists Map the Genetic Steps as Eggs Become Animals

April 26, 2018

For the first time, researchers have traced the genetic programs that guide the development of each cell in early embryos. Surprisingly, even cells that start out different can end up the same.

Lede art for "Chronological Clues to Life’s Early History Hide in Gene Transfers"
Abstractions blog

Chronological Clues to Life’s Early History Lurk in Gene Transfers

April 24, 2018

To date the branches on the evolutionary tree of life, researchers are looking at horizontal gene transfers among ancient microorganisms, which once seemed only to muddle the record.

Photo of ants holding larvae.
evolution

The Elusive Calculus of Insects’ Altruism and Kin Selection

April 10, 2018

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.

Abstractions blog

Complex Animals Led to More Oxygen, Says Maverick Theory

March 21, 2018

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.

Illustration of life evolving to use oxygen
evolution

Oxygen and Stem Cells May Have Reshaped Early Complex Animals

March 7, 2018

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

March 5, 2018

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

February 12, 2018

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

January 30, 2018

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

January 23, 2018

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.