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insects

Abstractions blog

How Insulin Helped Create Ant Societies

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

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

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

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

evolution

The Thorny Truth About Spine Evolution

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

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.

Q&A

An Explorer of Life’s Deepest Partnerships

The biologist Nancy Moran has spent a career investigating the surprising nature of symbiosis, a phenomenon in which two species can appear to merge into one.

genetics

In Bees, a Hunt for Roots of Social Behavior

By comparing the genomes of social and solitary bees, scientists hope to uncover the basis for communal behavior.

A living bridge.
Biology

The Remarkable Self-Organization of Ants

Knowing the rules behind ant-made structures could help scientists understand how other complex systems emerge in nature.