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Charles Darwin

Far from random, evolution follows a predictable genetic pattern

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Dogbane beetle. The Princeton researchers sequenced the expression of a poison-resistant protein in insect species that feed on plants such as milkweed and dogbane that produce a class of steroid-like cardiotoxins called cardenolides as a natural defense. The insects surveyed spanned three orders: butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera); beetles and weevils (Coleoptera); and aphids, bed bugs, milkweed bugs and other sucking insects (Hemiptera). (Credit: Photo courtesy of Peter Andolfatto)

1000pa (Oct. 25, 2012) — Evolution, often perceived as a series of random changes, might in fact be driven by a simple and repeated genetic solution to an environmental pressure that a broad range of species happen to share...

Genetic tradeoff: Harmful genes are widespread in yeast but hold hidden benefits

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Sacharomyces cerevisiae cells in DIC microscopy. (Credit: By Masur (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

1000pa (Oct. 25, 2012) — The genes responsible for inherited diseases are clearly bad for us, so why hasn't evolution, over time, weeded them out and eliminated them from the human genome altogether? Part of the reason seems to be that genes that can harm us at one stage of our lives are necessary and beneficial to us at other points in our...

Flycatchers' genomes explain how one species became two

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Collared flycatcher. (Credit: Johan Träff)

1000pa (Oct. 24, 2012) — Just how new species are established is still one of the most central questions in biology. In an article in the leading scientific journal Nature, researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden describe how they mapped the genomes of the European pied flycatcher and the collared flycatcher and found that it is disparate chromosome structures rather than separate adaptations in individual genes...

Evolution of new genes captured

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Like job-seekers searching for a new position, living things sometimes have to pick up a new skill if they are going to succeed. Researchers have shown for the first time how living organisms do this. The observation closes an important gap in the theory of natural selection. (Credit: © Dmytro Tolokonov / Fotolia)

1000pa (Oct. 22, 2012) — Like job-seekers searching for a new position, living things sometimes have to pick up a new skill if they are going to...

Evolution: New understandings of how populations change over time

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Fruit flies are bred in special containers. (Credit: Vetmeduni Vienna/Kapun)

1000pa (Oct. 19, 2012) — Since 1859, when Darwin's classic work "On the Origin of Species" was published, we have known that populations change over the course of time. The ability to adapt to changing surroundings is the basis for evolution and is crucial for animals and plants to come to terms with new environmental conditions, for example as a consequence of climate change. Despite the...

Evolutionary origins of our pretty smile

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Sculptured reconstruction of the placoderm Dunkleosteus. (Credit: Image by Esben Horn, 10tons; supervised by Martin Rücklin, John Long and Philippe Janvier)

1000pa (Oct. 17, 2012) — It takes both teeth and jaws to make a pretty smile, but the evolutionary origins of these parts of our anatomy have only just been discovered, thanks to a particle accelerator and a long dead fish.

All living jawed vertebrates (animals with backbones, such as humans) have...

Scientists identify likely origins of vertebrate air breathing

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Screenshot of a video recorded in Michael Harris' lab shows the difference between gill ventilation and a 'cough' in a larval lamprey. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Alaska Fairbanks)

1000pa (Oct. 16, 2012) — University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists have identified what they think is the ancestral trait that allowed for the evolution of air breathing in vertebrates.

They will present their research at the 42nd annual meeting of the Society for...

Early-Earth cells modeled to show how first life forms might have packaged RNA

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Shown are RNA strands (blue) and RNA enzymes (red) coming together within droplets of dextran. Scientists at Penn State have shown that this compartmentalization helps to catalyze chemical reactions. (Credit: C. A. Strulson)

1000pa (Oct. 14, 2012) — Researchers at Penn State University have developed a chemical model that mimics a possible step in the formation of cellular life on Earth four-billion years ago. Using large "macromolecules" called polymers, the...

Fly genomes show natural selection and return to Africa

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The Drosophila melanogaster fruit fly is returning to Africa and showing new insights into the forces that shape genetic variation. (Credit: By André Karwath aka Aka (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons)

1000pa (Oct. 11, 2012) — When ancestral humans walked out of Africa tens of thousands of years ago, Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies came along with them. Now the fruit flies, widely used for genetics research, are returning to Africa and...

Developmental biologist proposes new theory of early animal evolution that challenges basic assumption of evolution

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Developing bodies go on to fold, elongate, and extend appendages, and in some species, generate endoskeletons with repeating elements (e.g., the human hand). (Credit: © koszivu / Fotolia)

1000pa (Oct. 11, 2012) — A New York Medical College developmental biologist whose life's work has supported the theory of evolution has developed a concept that dramatically alters one of its basic assumptions -- that survival is based on a change's functional advantage if it...

Marine worms reveal the deepest evolutionary patterns

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Priapulid. (Credit: Bruno Vellutini, Sars Centre, Bergen Norway)

1000pa (Oct. 9, 2012) — Scientists from the universities of Bath and Lincoln have revealed new findings on the evolutionary relationships and structure of priapulids -- a group of carnivorous mud-dwelling worms living in shallow marine waters.

The research, carried out by evolutionary biologists Dr Matthew Wills, Dr Sylvain Gerber, Mr Martin Hughes (all University of Bath) and Dr Marcello Ruta...

Insects a prime driver in plant evolution and diversity

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A caterpillar of the evening primrose moth (Schinia florida) devouring a flower bud of common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis). These moths exclusively feed on the flowers and fruits of evening primrose and in response to natural selection imposed by this and other specialist moths, evening primrose populations evolve to flower later and to produce high levels of toxic chemicals called ellagitannins in their fruits. This evolution effectively reduces damage of the plant’s...

Which came first, shells or no shells? Ancient mollusk tells a contrary story

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A small new fossil found in Great Britain provides the best fossil evidence yet that simpler worm-like mollusks evolved from their more anatomically complex shelled brethren, rather than the other way around.Scientists have discovered a rare fossil called Kulindroplax, the missing link between two mollusc groups, which is revealed in a 3D computer model. (Credit: Image courtesy of Imperial College LondonImage courtesy of Yale University)

1000pa (Oct. 3, 2012) — A...

Mollusc missing link revealed in 3-D

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Scientists have discovered a rare fossil called Kulindroplax, the missing link between two mollusc groups, which is revealed in a 3D computer model. (Credit: Image courtesy of Imperial College London)

1000pa (Oct. 3, 2012) — Scientists have discovered a rare fossil called Kulindroplax, the missing link between two mollusc groups, which is revealed in a 3D computer model, in research published October 3 in the journal Nature.

The researchers have unearthed...

Brain parts can evolve independently, shows analysis of brains of 10,000 mice

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Scientists have found compelling evidence that parts of the brain can evolve independently from each other. (Credit: © Arcady / Fotolia)

1000pa (Sep. 25, 2012) — An evolutionary biologist at The University of Manchester, working with scientists in the United States, has found compelling evidence that parts of the brain can evolve independently from each other. It's hoped the findings will significantly advance our understanding of the brain.

The unique...

In birds' development, researchers find diversity by the peck

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Greater Antillean bullfinches (Loxigilla violacea) use their deep and wide beaks to crush seeds and hard fruits. Harvard researchers have found that the molecular signals that produce a range of beak shapes in birds show even more variation than is apparent on the surface. (Credit: Photo by José M. Pantaleón)

1000pa (Sep. 24, 2012) — It has long been known that diversity of form and function in birds' specialized beaks is abundant. Charles Darwin...

Simplifying genetic codes to look back in time

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1000pa (Aug. 24, 2012) — Tokyo Institute of Technology researchers show simpler versions of the universal genetic code can still function in protein synthesis. In addition to understanding early primordial organisms, the research could lead to applications preventing non-natural genetically modified materials from entering the natural world.

Daisuke Kiga and co-workers at the Department of Computational Intelligence and Systems Science at Tokyo Institute of Technology, together...

Bats evolved more than one way to drink nectar

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1000pa (Aug. 17, 2012) — A team of evolutionary biologists compared the anatomy and genes of bats to help solve a persistent question in evolution: Why do analyses of different features of an organism result in conflicting patterns of evolutionary relationships? Their findings, "Understanding phylogenetic incongruence: lessons from phyllostomid bats," appear in the August 14 edition of Biological Reviews. Share This: See Also: Plants & AnimalsEvolutionary...

Bird louse study shows how evolution sometimes repeats itself

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1000pa (Aug. 16, 2012) — Birds of a feather flock together and -- according to a new analysis -- so do their lice.

A study of the genetic heritage of avian feather lice indicates that their louse ancestors first colonized a particular group of birds (ducks or songbirds, for example) and then "radiated" to different habitats on those birds -- to the wings or heads, for instance, where they evolved into different species. This finding surprised the researchers because wing lice from...

Old skull bone rediscovered in mammals

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1000pa (Aug. 14, 2012) — Although clearly discernible in the embryo, shortly afterwards it fuses with other bones beyond recognition. Consequently, researchers have often missed it. Now, however, paleontologists from the University of Zurich have rediscovered it: the "os interparietale," a skull bone also referred to as the interparietal. Using imaging methods, they were able to detect its presence in all mammals -- including humans, which is new as it was previously believed to have...

Populations survive despite many deleterious mutations: Evolutionary model of Muller's ratchet explored

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1000pa (Aug. 10, 2012) — From protozoans to mammals, evolution has created more and more complex structures and better-adapted organisms. This is all the more astonishing as most genetic mutations are deleterious. Especially in small asexual populations that do not recombine their genes, unfavourable mutations can accumulate. This process is known as Muller's ratchet in evolutionary biology. The ratchet, proposed by the American geneticist Hermann Joseph Muller, predicts that the genome...

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Book review

Dinosaurs Encyclopedia

Book Review

Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-to-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages ... WRITTEN BY A PROFESSIONAL paleontologist specifically for young readers, this guide to the Dinosauria is packed...