Category Archives: Evolution

Plant cells of different species can swap organelles

Viviane Callier writes: More than a decade ago, plant geneticists noticed something peculiar when they looked at grafted plants. Where two plants grew together, the cells of each plant showed signs of having picked up substantial amounts of DNA from the other one. In itself, that wasn’t unprecedented, because horizontal transfers of genes are not… Read More »

How ‘neutral theory’ altered ideas about biodiversity

Christie Wilcox writes: If you had braved the jungles of China’s Fujian province in the early 20th century, various accounts say you could have witnessed a stunningly unexpected animal: a blue tiger. These tigers were described as “marvelously beautiful” with bodies “a deep shade of Maltese, changing into almost deep blue on the under parts.”… Read More »

Is the Earth an evolving organism?

W Ford Doolittle writes: Many of us, scientists included, harbour contradictory intuitions about Mother Nature. We can see that ecosystems often have an inherent ability to self-stabilise, and we know we wouldn’t be here if the planet hadn’t maintained conditions suitable for life for almost 4 billion years. One reaction is to claim that some… Read More »

Did viruses create the nucleus? The answer may be near

Christie Wilcox writes: Different as the cells from animals, plants, fungi and protozoa can be, they all share one prominent feature: a nucleus. They have other organelles, too, like the energy-producing mitochondria, but the presence of a nucleus — a well-defined porous pouch full of genetic material — is what inspired the biologist Édouard Chatton… Read More »

What complexity science says about what makes a winning team

Jessica Flack and Cade Massey write: In Philip K Dick’s classic science fiction novel Ubik, one of the main characters, Runciter, is in charge of assembling a team of individuals called ‘inertials’. The hope is that they will counteract the power of ‘precogs’ and ‘telepaths’, recruited by corporations to carry out espionage and other nefarious… Read More »

Evolutionary adaptations to viruses have made us what we are

Science Daily (2016): The constant battle between pathogens and their hosts has long been recognized as a key driver of evolution, but until now scientists have not had the tools to look at these patterns globally across species and genomes. In a new study, researchers apply big-data analysis to reveal the full extent of viruses’… Read More »

Humans evolved to get along with one another

Bret Stetka writes: In 1959, Dmitri Belyaev made his way to Siberia to look for the most polite foxes he could find. A Soviet geneticist, Belyaev was interested in how animal domestication occurs — and in what happens biologically when the wild canine evolves into the mild-mannered dog. The thousands of fox fur farms stippling… Read More »

The wisdom of pandemics

David Waltner-Toews writes: Wisdom is the ability to discern inner qualities and subtle relationships, then translate them into what others recognise as good judgment. If it comes to us at all, wisdom is the product of reflection, time and experience. A person might achieve wisdom after decades; a community after centuries; a culture after millennia.… Read More »

Turbulent environment set the stage for leaps in human evolution and technology 320,000 years ago

Drilling 139 meters down to volcanic rock provided scientists with a million-year environmental record. Human Origins Program, Smithsonian By Richard Potts, Smithsonian Institution People thrive all across the globe, at every temperature, altitude and landscape. How did human beings become so successful at adapting to whatever environment we wind up in? Human origins researchers like… Read More »