What's up in

insects

Photo of the female penis structure of the cave insect Neotrogla aurora.
Abstractions blog

Why Evolution Reversed These Insects’ Sex Organs

January 30, 2019

Among these cave insects, the females evolved to have penises — twice. The reasons challenge common assumptions about sex.

Art for "How Equality and Inequality Shape the Birds and the Bees"
insights puzzle

Solution: ‘How Equality and Inequality Shape Birds and Bees’

November 9, 2018

Puzzle solvers explored how evolution may have used negative and positive control mechanisms to shape the conflicting parental functions of reproduction and child rearing.

Art for "How Equality and Inequality Shape the Birds and the Bees"
insights puzzle

How Equality and Inequality Shape the Birds and the Bees

October 17, 2018

Two dynamic, seemingly opposing forces likely played an important role in the evolution of reproduction and child rearing in social animals like bees and humans.

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.

Photo of Corina Tarnita 520px
Q&A

A Mathematician Who Decodes the Patterns Stamped Out by Life

December 20, 2017

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

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.

Tiny parasitoid wasps
evolution

Moonlighting Genes Evolve for a Venomous Job

June 22, 2017

An unexpected mechanism allows wasps to rapidly co-opt genes for new toxic functions.

evolution

The Thorny Truth About Spine Evolution

June 14, 2017

A definitive explanation for why plants evolved spines remains elusive, and human biases compound the problem.

Life’s Big Leaps: Critical Moments in Evolution

The Woman Who Stared at Wasps

November 5, 2015

The biologist Joan Strassmann discusses cooperation in social insects, how amoebas can teach us about competition, and why the definition of “organism” needs an overhaul.