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Charles Darwin

Evolution of sex differences: Battles of sexes shown to spur adaptive sex differences

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1000pa (May 3, 2012) — Sex differences account for some of the most spectacular traits in nature: the wild colours of male guppies, the plumage of peacocks, tusks on walruses and antlers on moose. Sexual conflict -- the battle between males and females over mating -- is thought to be a particularly potent force in driving the evolution traits that differ in males and females.

However, the genetic processes responsible for producing such traits are not well understood, nor how they evolved from their simpler less elaborate ancestral forms. We tend to assume that each tiny step in evolution is an advantage. But are they really?

To investigate, a research team led by Locke Rowe of the Department of Ecology and...

Rare protozoan from sludge in Norwegian lake does not fit on main branches of tree of life

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1000pa (Apr. 26, 2012) — Humankind's remotest relative is a very rare micro-organism from south-Norway. The discovery may provide an insight into what life looked like on earth almost one thousand million years ago.

Biologists all over the world have been eagerly awaiting the results of the genetic analysis of one of the world's smallest known species, hereafter called the protozoan, from a little lake 30 kilometer south of Oslo in Norway.

When researchers from the...

Geneticists identify genes linked to Western African Pygmies' small stature

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1000pa (Apr. 26, 2012) — If Pygmies are known for one trait, it is their short stature: Pygmy men stand just 4'11" on average. But the reason why these groups are so short and neighboring groups are not remains unclear. Scientists have proposed various theories based on natural selection, including that Pygmies' reduced size lowered nutritional requirements, helped them better handle hot climates, or allowed them to reach sexual maturity at an earlier age.

Now a new study of the...

Evolution on an island: Fossils show secret for a longer life

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1000pa (Apr. 25, 2012) — ICP researchers have discovered one of the first fossil-based evidences supporting the evolutionary theory of aging, which predicts that species evolving in low mortality and resource-limited ecosystems tend to be more long-lived.

The study shows that the tooth height of endemic insular mammals is an indicator of longevity, and questions the use of this morphological characteristic as an exclusive indicator to infer the diet of fossil species, and to...

First fertile, then futile: Ammonites change in reproductive strategy helped them survive three mass extinctions

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1000pa (Apr. 23, 2012) — Ammonites changed their reproductive strategy from initially few and large offspring to numerous and small hatchlings. Thanks to their many offspring, they survived three mass extinctions, a research team headed by paleontologists from the University of Zurich has discovered.

For 300 million years, they were the ultimate survivors. They successfully negotiated three mass extinctions, only to die out eventually at the end of the Cretaceous along with the...

Evolution: Vangas beat Darwin’s finches in diversity

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1000pa (Apr. 19, 2012) — The diversity of the Madagascan vangas is unique. The bird family only consists of 22 species, but these cover the whole range of body size of the passerines, the bird group vangas belong to (6,000 species). Whereas smaller species use their comparatively small bill to feed by picking up insects, the largest among the vanga species may even catch amphibians with its very large bill. Thus vangas are much more diverse than Darwin’s finches, known to be a model...

Strange cousins: Molecular alternatives to DNA, RNA offer new insight into life’s origins

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1000pa (Apr. 19, 2012) — Living systems owe their existence to a pair of information-carrying molecules: DNA and RNA. These fundamental chemical forms possess two features essential for life: they display heredity -- meaning they can encode and pass on genetic information, and they can adapt over time, through processes of Darwinian evolution.

A long-debated question is whether heredity and evolution could be performed by molecules other than DNA and RNA.

John Chaput, a...

Scientists confirm limited genetic diversity in the extinct Tasmanian tiger

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1000pa (Apr. 18, 2012) — A team of international scientists including from the University of Melbourne have discovered the unique Tasmanian Tiger or thylacine had limited genetic diversity prior to its extinction.

The results published April 18 in the international journal PLoS One, provide insights into the genetic health of the thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) before it was exterminated by hunting.

Lead author Dr Brandon Menzies, an Honorary Fellow of the University...

Genetic similarity promotes cooperation

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1000pa (Apr. 18, 2012) — In a dog-eat-dog world of ruthless competition and 'survival of the fittest,' new research from the University of Leicester reveals that individuals are genetically programmed to work together and cooperate with those who most resemble themselves.

A tendency for similar individuals to cooperate selectively with one another, even if they are not close relatives, can evolve spontaneously in simple organisms. This may help to explain why cooperation is so...

Genetic similarity promotes cooperation: Study of simple organisms reveals preference for those who resemble themselves

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1000pa (Apr. 18, 2012) — In a dog-eat-dog world of ruthless competition and 'survival of the fittest,' new research from the University of Leicester reveals that individuals are genetically programmed to work together and cooperate with those who most resemble themselves.

A tendency for similar individuals to cooperate selectively with one another, even if they are not close relatives, can evolve spontaneously in simple organisms. This may help to explain why cooperation is so...

Evidence for a geologic trigger of the Cambrian Explosion

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1000pa (Apr. 18, 2012) — The oceans teemed with life 600 million years ago, but the simple, soft-bodied creatures would have been hardly recognizable as the ancestors of nearly all animals on Earth today.

Then something happened. Over several tens of millions of years -- a relative blink of an eye in geologic terms -- a burst of evolution led to a flurry of diversification and increasing complexity, including the expansion of multicellular organisms and the appearance of the...

Direct transfer of plant genes from chloroplasts into the cell nucleus: Gene function preserved despite structural differences in the dna

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1000pa (Apr. 13, 2012) — Chloroplasts, the plant cell's green solar power generators, were once living beings in their own right. This changed about one billion years ago, when they were swallowed up but not digested by larger cells. Since then, they have lost much of their autonomy. As time went on, most of their genetic information found its way into the cell nucleus; today, chloroplasts would no longer be able to live outside their host cell. Scientists in Ralph Bock's team at the Max...

Could 'advanced' dinosaurs rule other planets?

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1000pa (Apr. 11, 2012) — New scientific research raises the possibility that advanced versions of T. rex and other dinosaurs -- monstrous creatures with the intelligence and cunning of humans -- may be the life forms that evolved on other planets in the universe. "We would be better off not meeting them," concludes the study, which appears in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

In the report, noted scientist Ronald Breslow, Ph.D., discusses the century-old mystery of...

Study shows unified process of evolution in bacteria and sexual eukaryotes

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1000pa (Apr. 5, 2012) — Bacteria are the most populous organisms on the planet. They thrive in almost every known environment, adapting to different habitats by means of genetic variations that provide the capabilities essential for survival. These genetic innovations arise from what scientists believe is a random mutation and exchange of genes and other bits of DNA among bacteria that sometimes confers an advantage, and which then becomes an intrinsic part of the genome.

But...

Stickleback genome holds clues to adaptive evolution

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1000pa (Apr. 4, 2012) — It has long been recognized that autism runs in families, suggesting a substantial genetic component to the disease. Yet few genes have so far been identified and the underlying genetic architecture of autism -- that is, how many genes contribute and to what extent they influence a person's chances of developing the disorder -- remains poorly understood.

Now, a consortium led by researchers from the Broad Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)...

Analysis of stickleback genome sequence catches evolution in action: Reuse of key genes is common theme

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1000pa (Apr. 4, 2012) — Three-spine sticklebacks aren't as pretty as many aquarium fish, and anglers don't fantasize about hooking one. But biologists treasure these small fish for what they are revealing about the genetic changes that drive evolution. Now, researchers have sequenced the stickleback genome for the first time, and they have discovered that as fish in different parts of the world adapted to live in fresh water, the same sites in the genome were changed time and...

Game changer for evolutionary theory?

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1000pa (Apr. 4, 2012) — A new hypothesis posed by a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, associate professor and colleagues could be a game changer in the evolution arena. The hypothesis suggests some species are surviving by discarding genes and depending on other species to play their hand.

The groundbreaking "Black Queen Hypothesis" got its name from the game of Hearts.

In Hearts, the goal is to avoid "winning" the Queen of Spades (the Black Queen), which is worth a lot...

Darwin in the genome: Research on stickleback fish shows how adaptation to new environments involves many genes

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1000pa (Apr. 3, 2012) — A current controversy raging in evolutionary biology is about whether adaptation to new environments is the result of many genes, each of relatively small effect, or just a few genes of large effect. A new study published in Molecular Ecology strongly supports the first "many-small" hypothesis.

McGill University professor Andrew Hendry, from the Department of Biology and the Redpath Museum, and evolutionary geneticists at Basel University in Switzerland...

Plants mimic scent of pollinating beetles

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1000pa (Apr. 3, 2012) — The color and scent of flowers and their perception by pollinator insects are believed to have evolved in the course of mutual adaptation. However, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Zurich has now proved that this is not the case with the arum family at least, which evolved its scent analogously to the pre-existing scents of scarab beetles and thus adapted to the beetles unilaterally. The mutual adaptation between plants and pollinators therefore...

New light shone on photosynthesis

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1000pa (Apr. 3, 2012) — Photosynthesis is one of the fundamental processes of life on Earth. The evolutionary transition from anoxygenic (no oxygen produced) to oxygenic (oxygen-producing) photosynthesis resulted in the critical development of atmospheric oxygen in amounts large enough to allow the evolution of organisms that use oxygen, including plants and mammals.

One of the outstanding questions of the early Earth is how ancient organisms made this transition. A team of...

Divergent evolution illuminated: Light shed on reasons behind genome differences between species

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1000pa (Mar. 29, 2012) — A new study explains the divergent evolution of the genomes of different groups of species. The connection between the function of enzymes and the composition of the genomes shed light on the evolution and structure of genes, and explains differences between archaebacteria, bacteria and eukaryotes.

All living organisms on Earth are divided into three large domains: Archaea, Bacteria and Eukarya, and from the beginning of life -more than 3,000 million...

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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...