Category Archives: Evolution

Parasite gives wolves what it takes to be pack leaders

Nature reports: Wolves infected with a common parasite are more likely than uninfected animals to lead a pack, according to an analysis of more than 200 North American wolves1. Infected animals are also more likely to leave their home packs and strike out on their own. The parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, makes its hosts bold —… Read More »

How supergenes fuel evolution despite harmful mutations

Carrie Arnold writes: Thousands of miles from home in the steamy Amazon rainforest in the mid-1800s, the British naturalist Henry Walter Bates had a problem. More than one, really; there were thumb-size biting insects, the ever-present threat of malaria, venomous snakes, and mold and mildew that threatened to overtake his precious specimens before they could… Read More »

Ancient virus may be protecting the human placenta

Science reports: About 30 million years ago, a virus infected our primate ancestors and one of its genes got trapped in their genomes. Over time, this viral gene became “domesticated”—and territorial. It helped primates fight off other viruses by preventing them from entering cells. The invader—known as Suppressyn (SUPYN)—is still around today, and it’s still… Read More »

How xenobots reshape our understanding of genetics

Philip Ball writes: Where in the embryo does the person reside? Morphogenesis – the formation of the body from an embryo – once seemed so mystifying that scholars presumed the body must somehow already exist in tiny form at conception. In the 17th century, the Dutch microscopist Nicolaas Hartsoeker illustrated this ‘preformationist’ theory by drawing… Read More »

What animal intelligence reveals about human stupidity

By Rachel Nuwer, August 26, 2022 The German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was, by all accounts, a miserable human being. He famously sought meaning through suffering, which he experienced in ample amounts throughout his life. Nietzsche struggled with depression, suicidal ideation, and hallucinations, and when he was 44 — around the height of his philosophical… Read More »

Revelations from 17-million-year-old ape teeth could lead to new insights on early human evolution

Fossilised jaws from the 17 million-year-old Kenyan ape Afropithecus turkanensis. Tanya M. Smith/National Museums of Kenya, Author provided By Tanya M. Smith, Griffith University and Daniel Green, Columbia University The timing and intensity of the seasons shapes life all around us, including tool use by birds, the evolutionary diversification of giraffes, and the behaviour of… Read More »

Electric fish genomes reveal how evolution repeats itself

Joanna Thompson writes: Along the murky bottom of the Amazon River, serpentine fish called electric eels scour the gloom for unwary frogs or other small prey. When one swims by, the fish unleash two 600-volt pulses of electricity to stun or kill it. This high-voltage hunting tactic is distinctive, but a handful of other fish… Read More »

The problems of seeing evolution as a ‘March of Progress’

Alexander Werth writes: Herschel Walker, the former football star–turned–U.S. Senate candidate from Georgia, made headlines when he recently asked at a church-based campaign stop, if evolution is true, “Why are there still apes?” This chestnut continues to be echoed by creationists, despite being definitively debunked. Anthropologists have repeatedly explained that modern humans did not evolve… Read More »

No music training? No problem: Even novices intuit complex music theory

Science reports: Your co-worker’s annoying humming may be more virtuosic than you think. People without musical training naturally improvise melodies that have hallmarks of tunes composed by professionals, a new study shows. It seems that most individuals follow the arcane rules of music composition, even those who are unaware those rules exist. “It’s cool,” says… Read More »

The deep mystery at the heart of life on Earth

  Viviane Callier writes: All living cells power themselves by coaxing energetic electrons from one side of a membrane to the other. Membrane-based mechanisms for accomplishing this are, in a sense, as universal a feature of life as the genetic code. But unlike the genetic code, these mechanisms are not the same everywhere: The two… Read More »