Origin and evolution of life

  • 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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  • Dinosaurs in Bullet-Proof Vests
    One just has to skim the terrestrial timeline of species to be astonished at the alien experiments done in Earth's biological history. Animals and plants evolved all sorts of protective methods, but among the mighty dinosaurs, there was one particular animal that was tough to
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  • Birds, Bees and Cool Shades
    When the sky is bright, few may realize it is also polarized. Few humans without sunglasses, that is. Birds and insects may locate their navigational tiepoints using the sun's polarization and their own built-in shades.
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  • Counting on Toes
    A key question for the history of life is the origin of terrestriality, when ancestral species first took advantage of movement on land. New tracks dried into the Canadian mud, shows fingers and toes progressing quite early in the Carboniferous period, tens of millions of
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  • Hatching the First Animal
    Who laid the first egg? Thousands of 600 million years old embryo microfossils have been found in China that may be among the first animals. It is a case of preserving the seemingly unpreserveable.
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  • The Left-Handed Lobster
    Nature versus nurture, what is the cause of the lop-sided claw weight in lobsters? The question borders on watching evolution in action, as a new study reveals that after being born with same-sized claws, the favored one in use becomes the big one.
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  • Folding Flipper’s Brain
    Why are dolphins smart? One clue is how much the dolphin brain folds in to make room for greater neural mass. This encephalization may have arisen when dolphins first started sonar imaging (or echolocating fish underwater) and also when social bonds became important to
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