Origin and evolution of life

  • Seeing Forests in the Tree of Life
    Peter Ward, speaking at a NASA Director's Seminar, presented some ideas for changing the tree of life. This restructuring would not only embrace things like viruses, which are banished from the current tree, but would allow us to put into context some even odder
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  • Long-haired, Long-lost Cousins
    Conservation biologists have found Africa's first new species of monkey in over 20 years. The latest find is named the "Highland Mangabey" (Lophocebus kipunji), a long-haired forest primate first discovered on the flanks of the 10,000 ft (2961 m) volcano Mt. Rungwe and in the
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  • Life Without -or Before- Planets?
    The theory of panspermia proposes that life really gets around, jumping from planet to planet - or even from star to star. Assuming this is true, how do single-celled bacteria make the journey through the vacuum of space? Easy, they use chunks of rock as
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  • Live Faster, Die Younger
    What is the shortest lifespan of any animal with a backbone? In a rushed existence, a dwarf fish has been found to complete its cradle-to-grave journey in two short months.
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  • Roots, Shoots and Leaves
    A team of biologists from the University of California, Riverside has used chemical genomics to identify novel compounds that affect the ability of plants to alter their direction of growth in response to gravity, a phenomenon known as gravitropism. Combined with a plant's formidable genetic
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  • Doing Nature’s Work
    No single domesticated species has changed human evolution as much as the horse. Long-standing hypotheses about equine size, range and age are thus intimately tied to understanding our own cultural origins. New fossil evidence points to older and perhaps smaller ancient horse that adapted from
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  • The Other Human Species?
    The discovery of an island-dwelling pygmy in anthropological records raises a host of contentious questions, such as is the skeleton representative of a different, smaller human species? Or is the pygmy just an example of one individual's growing pains?
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  • Priming the Human Primate
    Sharing ninety-nine percent of a chimpanzee's DNA code does not tell the story of its distance from humans, according to a new report in Science Magazine. The code itself is just part of the story. The cut points or hotspots that combine mates to yield
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  • How the Fruitfly Got Its Spots
    The evolutionary mystery of how a leopard got its spots illustrates the challenges of tracing changes in form and pattern. A new model system in fruitflies shows how colorful decoration may enhance reproductive chances for success. It turns out that mutations may stick around if
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  • Piranha to Petunia
    If it's pretty easy to spot different species in the human-scale part of the plant and animal kingdoms. But a new study shows that species differences aren't so clear, at least as currently measured, when it comes to microscopic bacteria.
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  • Was Life Wasted on the Young?
    Did life shape the early Earth, or did the early Earth shape life? The choice may be a false dichotomy, but living without light, water or oxygen gave the earliest microbes a limited menu to order their lives around.
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  • Mind the Gap
    Scientists have unearthed skeletal fossils of a human ancestor believed to have lived about 4.5 million years ago. From the Gona Study Area in northern Ethiopia, the fossils will help scientists piece together the mysterious transformation of primitive chimp-like hominids into more human forms.
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  • More than Monkey See, Monkey Do?
    Language has long been considered one of the defining characteristics for humans, but recent work with Tamarin monkeys and rats suggest that picking up speech cues has a rhythmic quality throughout the mammalian world.
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  • Ordering Genes
    Less can be more, at least with regard to how genes organize themselves into an entire ecosystem. Two new studies reveal how genes maintain control and don't run wild in a single organism, and then how few genes it may take to predict new branches
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  • Running Key to Shapely Human
    The evolution of the human form may be tied to the survival benefits of endurance running, according to a recent examination of seemingly inconsequential traits. The development of the neck and skull have implications for human intelligence.
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