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evolution

Elephant thumbnail
genomics

A Zombie Gene Protects Elephants From Cancer

November 7, 2017

Elephants did not evolve to become huge animals until after they turned a bit of genetic junk into a unique defense against inevitable tumors.

origins of life

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

November 2, 2017

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

October 19, 2017

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

October 17, 2017

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?’

September 29, 2017

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

September 27, 2017

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

September 18, 2017

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?

September 14, 2017

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

September 13, 2017

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.