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Charles Darwin

Why do organisms build tissues they seemingly never use?

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1000pa (Aug. 10, 2012) — Why, after millions of years of evolution, do organisms build structures that seemingly serve no purpose? Share This: See Also: Plants & AnimalsEvolutionary BiologyDevelopmental BiologyEarth & ClimateRecycling and WasteSustainabilityFossils & RuinsEvolutionCharles DarwinReference Developmental biologyHuman biologyNeotenyMorphogenesis

A study conducted at Michigan State University and published in the current issue of The American Naturalist investigates the evolutionary reasons why organisms go through developmental stages that appear unnecessary.

"Many animals build tissues and structures they don't appear to use, and then they disappear,"...

Physics and math shed new light on biology by mapping the landscape of evolution

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1000pa (Aug. 8, 2012) — Although the qualitative description of evolution -- its observed behavior and characteristics -- is well-established, a comprehensive quantitative theory that captures general evolution dynamics is still lacking. There are also many lingering mysteries surrounding the story of life on Earth, including the question of why sex is such a prevalent reproductive strategy. A team of scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences; Jilin University in Jilin, China; and...

Shedding new light on how jaws evolve

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1000pa (Aug. 7, 2012) — If you're looking for information on the evolution and function of jaws, University of Notre Dame researcher Matt Ravosa is your man. Share This: See Also: Plants & AnimalsEvolutionary BiologyEndangered AnimalsEarth & ClimateFossils & RuinsEvolutionEarly MammalsReference Parallel evolutionSpeciesR/K selection theory in ecologyThe evolution of human intelligence

His integrative research program...

Research into oaks helps us understand climate change

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1000pa (Aug. 2, 2012) — Jeanne Romero-Severson, associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Notre Dame, and her collaborators, are tracking the evolution of the live oaks of eastern North America, seeking to understand how the trees adapted to climate change during glacial periods. Share This: See Also: Plants & AnimalsTreesNew SpeciesEarth & ClimateExotic SpeciesForestFossils & RuinsEvolutionEarly ClimateReference Oak...

Actinobacteria as the base of the evolutionary tree

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1000pa (July 26, 2012) — Ever since Darwin first published The Origin of the Species, scientists have been striving to identify a last universal common ancestor of all living species. Paleontological, biochemical, and genomic studies have produced conflicting versions of the evolutionary tree. Now a team of researchers, led by a professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo and including area high school students, has developed a novel method to search the vast archives of...

Big horns trump smooth pickup lines every time

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1000pa (July 26, 2012) — Elk and rhinoceros beetles aren't diabetic, but to grow big horns and attract mates it appears that the males are insulin-dependent.

Ian Dworkin, Michigan State University zoologist, was part of a team that for the first time ever showed why horns -- from elk to rhinoceros beetles -- and other decorative, mate-attracting structures are sensitive to changes in nutrition. As reported in the current issue of Science, the key ingredient for this growth is...

Biological mechanism for growing massive animal weapons, ornaments discovered

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1000pa (July 26, 2012) — In the animal kingdom, huge weapons such as elk antlers or ornaments like peacock feathers are sexy. Their extreme size attracts potential mates and warns away lesser rivals.

Now researchers led by scientists at the University of Montana and Washington State University have discovered a developmental mechanism they think may be responsible for the excessive growth of threatening horns or come-hither tail feathers. Published in the July 26 online edition...

Mass extinctions reset the long-term pace of evolution

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1000pa (July 2, 2012) — A new study indicates that mass extinctions affect the pace of evolution, not just in the immediate aftermath of catastrophe, but for millions of years to follow. The study's authors, University of Chicago's Andrew Z. Krug and David Jablonski, will publish their findings in the August issue of the journal Geology.

Scientists expected to see an evolutionary explosion immediately following a mass extinction, but Krug and Jablonski's findings go far beyond...

Study on fungi helps explain coal formation and may advance future biofuels production

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1000pa (June 28, 2012) — A new study--which includes the first large-scale comparison of fungi that cause rot decay--suggests that the evolution of a type of fungi known as white rot may have brought an end to a 60-million-year-long period of coal deposition known as the Carboniferous period. Coal deposits that accumulated during the Carboniferous, which ended about 300 million years ago, have historically fueled about 50 percent of U.S. electric power generation.

In addition...

Searching for the origin of muscles

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1000pa (June 28, 2012) — A characteristic feature of most animals is their ability to move quickly with the help of their musculature. Animals that can move are able to flee, hunt for prey, travel long distances or conquer new habitats. The evolution of muscles was thus a fundamental step during animal evolution. While the structure and function of muscles, especially of vertebrates, have been intensively studied, the evolutionary origin of smooth and striated muscles has so far been...

How sticky toepads evolved in geckos and what that means for adhesive technologies

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1000pa (June 28, 2012) — Geckos are known for sticky toes that allow them to climb up walls and even hang upside down on ceilings. A new study shows that geckos have gained and lost these unique adhesive structures multiple times over the course of their long evolutionary history in response to habitat changes.

"Scientists have long thought that adhesive toepads originated just once in geckos, twice at the most," says University of Minnesota postdoctoral researcher Tony Gamble...

Mercury mineral evolution tied to Supercontinent assembly over last 3 billion years

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1000pa (June 25, 2012) — Mineral evolution posits that Earth's near-surface mineral diversity gradually increased through an array of chemical and biological processes. A dozen different species in interstellar dust particles that formed the solar system have evolved to more than 4500 species today. Previous work from Carnegie's Bob Hazen demonstrated that up to two thirds of the known types of minerals on Earth can be directly or indirectly linked to biological activity. Now Hazen has...

Origin of limbs in the evolutionary lineage of vertebrates

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1000pa (June 21, 2012) — A chromosomal rearrangement in the genome could be the genetic base of the origin of limbs in vertebrates, according to a new research published online in the Nature Scientific Reports and which has been led by experts Jordi Garcia-Fernández and Manuel Irimia, from the Department of Genetics and from the Institute of Biomedicine of the University of Barcelona (IBUB), affiliated centre to the campus of international excellence Barcelona Knowledge Campus...

Darwin’s principles say cancer will always evolve to resist treatment

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1000pa (June 21, 2012) — According to researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center, cancer is subject to the evolutionary processes laid out by Charles Darwin in his concept of natural selection. Natural selection was the process identified by Darwin by which nature selects certain physical attributes, or phenotypes, to pass on to offspring to better "fit" the organism to the environment.

As applied to cancer, natural selection, a key principle of modern biology, suggests that...

Does cooperation require both reciprocity and alike neighbors?

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1000pa (June 8, 2012) — Max Planck scientists have developed a new theoretical model on the evolution of cooperation.

Evolution by definition is cold and merciless: it selects for success and weeds out failure. It seems only natural to expect that such a process would simply favour genes that help themselves and not others. Yet cooperative behaviour can be observed in many areas, and humans helping each other are a common phenomenon. Thus, one of the major questions in science...

Chemical substitution: On early Earth, iron may have performed magnesium's RNA folding job

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1000pa (May 31, 2012) — On the periodic table of the elements, iron and magnesium are far apart. But new evidence suggests that 3 billion years ago, iron did the chemical work now done by magnesium in helping RNA fold and function properly.

There is considerable evidence that the evolution of life passed through an early stage when RNA played a more central role before DNA and coded proteins appeared. During that time, more than 3 billion years ago, the environment lacked...

Evolution of birds is result of a drastic change in how dinosaurs developed

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1000pa (May 30, 2012) — Researchers from Harvard University, The University of Texas at Austin and elsewhere have found evidence that the evolution of birds is the result of a drastic change in how dinosaurs developed. Scientists have long understood that modern birds descended from dinosaurs. Rather than take years to reach sexual maturity, as many dinosaurs did, birds sped up the clock -- some species take as little as 12 weeks to mature -- allowing them to retain the physical...

Tiny genetic variations led to big changes in the evolving human brain

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1000pa (May 30, 2012) — Changes to just three genetic letters among billions contributed to the evolution and development of the mammalian motor sensory circuits and laid the groundwork for the defining characteristics of the human brain, Yale University researchers report.

In a study published in the May 31 issue of the journal Nature, Yale researchers found that a small, simple change in the mammalian genome was critical to the evolution of the corticospinal neural circuits...

Nnew genetic method developed to pinpoint individuals' geographic origin

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1000pa (May 24, 2012) — Understanding the genetic diversity within and between populations has important implications for studies of human disease and evolution. This includes identifying associations between genetic variants and disease, detecting genomic regions that have undergone positive selection and highlighting interesting aspects of human population history.

Now, a team of researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, UCLA's...

New genetic method developed to pinpoint individuals' geographic origin

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1000pa (May 24, 2012) — Understanding the genetic diversity within and between populations has important implications for studies of human disease and evolution. This includes identifying associations between genetic variants and disease, detecting genomic regions that have undergone positive selection and highlighting interesting aspects of human population history.

Now, a team of researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, UCLA's...

'Battle of the sexes' offers evolutionary insights: Role of genital spines in reproductive success of fruit flies

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1000pa (May 3, 2012) — At one University of Cincinnati laboratory, the phrase "battle of the sexes" is taking on new meaning, with implications for our understanding of evolution.

In a paper published May 3, in the journal Evolution, University of Cincinnati graduate student Karl Grieshop and Michal Polak, associate professor of biological sciences at UC, examine the role of genital spines in the reproductive success of a species of fruit fly. Their investigation identifies the...

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