Evolution

08/11/2014 - 16:39

The Jurassic and Cretaceous periods were the golden age of dinosaurs, during which the prehistoric giants roamed the Earth for nearly 135 million years. Paleontologists have unearthed numerous fossils from these periods, suggesting that dinosaurs were abundant throughout the world. But where and when dinosaurs first came into existence has been difficult to ascertain.

 

06/11/2014 - 21:35

On the island of Java, in Indonesia, the silvery gibbon, an endangered primate, lives in the rainforests. In a behavior that’s unusual for a primate, the silvery gibbon sings: It can vocalize long, complicated songs, using 14 different note types, that signal territory and send messages to potential mates and family.

06/08/2014 - 21:01

When a fruit fly detects an approaching predator, the fly can launch itself into the air and soar gracefully to safety in a fraction of a second. But there's not always time for that. Some threats demand a quicker getaway. New research from scientists at Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Research Campus reveals how a quick-escape circuit in the fly's brain overrides the fly's slower, more controlled behavior when a threat becomes urgent.

05/09/2014 - 09:20

Helicosporidium is a lethal parasite of insects including caterpillars, beetles and blackflies. The evolutionary origins of this parasite have remained shrouded in mystery but recent studies strongly suggested similarity to a green alga called Prototheca. Evolution of parasites from algae is not unheard of. One of the most famous examples is the transition of the malaria parasite Plasmodium from red algae, with loss of genes encoding biological functions that are no longer needed in the organism’s new life as a parasite.

05/08/2014 - 06:47

Polar bears adapted to life in cold Arctic climates in part by relying on a high-fat diet mainly consisting of seals and their blubber. In a study published by Cell Press May 8th in the journal Cell, researchers discovered that mutations in genes involved in cardiovascular function allowed polar bears to rapidly evolve the ability to consume a fatty diet without developing high rates of heart disease. Moreover, the study revealed that polar bears diverged from brown bears less than 500,000 years ago—much more recently than estimates based on previous genomic data.

 

05/07/2014 - 16:00

The Black Death was a devastating medieval epidemic, killing an estimated 30-50% of the European population between the years 1347-1351. Given the extremely high mortality associated with the Black Death, it might be assumed that the disease was indiscriminate in its targeting of individuals. However, a new study on skeletal remains from London cemeteries in the periods before and after the Black Death suggests otherwise.