Category Archives: Evolution

The complex truth about ‘junk DNA’

Jake Buehler writes: Imagine the human genome as a string stretching out for the length of a football field, with all the genes that encode proteins clustered at the end near your feet. Take two big steps forward; all the protein information is now behind you. The human genome has three billion base pairs in… Read More »

How will the coronavirus evolve?

Dhruv Khullar writes: In 1988, Richard Lenski, a thirty-one-year-old biologist at UC Irvine, started an experiment. He divided a population of a common bacterium, E. coli, into twelve flasks. Each flask was kept at thirty-seven degrees Celsius, and contained an identical cocktail of water, glucose, and other nutrients. Each day, as the bacteria replicated, Lenski… Read More »

What misspellings reveal about cultural evolution

Helena Miton writes: Something about me must remind people of a blind 17th-century poet. My last name, Miton, is French, yet people outside of France invariably misspell it as “Milton”—as in the famed English author, John Milton, of the epic poem Paradise Lost. It is not uncommon for people to misspell an unfamiliar name—yet 99… Read More »

Cats’ genomes are surprisingly similar to humans’

Katherine J. Wu writes: The genome of a mouse is, structurally speaking, a chaotic place. At some point in its evolutionary past, the mouse shuffled its ancestral genome like a deck of cards, futzing up the architecture that makes most other mammalian genomes look, well, mammalian. “I always consider it the greatest outlier,” Bill Murphy,… Read More »

DNA has four nucleotide bases. Some viruses swap in a fifth

Jordana Cepelewicz writes: All life on Earth rests on the same foundation: a four-letter genetic alphabet spelling out a repertoire of three-letter words that specify 20 amino acids. These basic building blocks — the components of DNA and their molecular interpreters — lie at biology’s core. “It’s hard to imagine something more fundamental,” said Floyd… Read More »

Beyond coronavirus: the virus discoveries transforming biology

Nature reports: Mya Breitbart has hunted novel viruses in African termite mounds, Antarctic seals and water from the Red Sea. But to hit pay dirt, she has only to step into her back garden in Florida. Hanging around her swimming pool are spiny-backed orbweavers (Gasteracantha cancriformis) — striking spiders with bulbous white bodies, black speckles… Read More »