Origin and evolution of life

  • 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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  • Pruning the Tree of Life
    The relationship between species has historically been depicted as a tree of life. Branches on this tree are assigned based on genetic similarities. But is there a better way to prune the family tree that comprise the great kingdoms?
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  • Life’s a Gas
    How did the first amino acids form the first peptides? It is the important question that may point the pathway towards understanding the primordial soup. Researchers now suggest that the binder for linking together building blocks may have been volcanic gases--or carbonyl sulfide.
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  • Designing Darwin’s Finches
    Charles Darwin first looked to the beak of different finches as evidence of natural adaptation, as their beak shapes reflected their niches in the food chain. New efforts have tried to find what underlying biochemistry can account for the birth of a beak.
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  • How Life First Bubbled Up
    If evolution is viewed as a battle of the fittest, it becomes possible to imagine a battle even at the chemical level for what might ultimately act as a single cell. In what biochemists might term, the battle of the bubbles, competition for encapsulating a
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    An often cited two-percent genetic difference between humans and primates may not tell the whole story, since the quality of human "junk" DNA may make the difference.
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  • Piggybacking DNA
    The DNA molecule's prolific capacity to multiply has been employed by Harvard biochemists to template new libraries of organic reactions. Retooling this central molecule as a carrier offers a chance to explore new branches of how biochemistry might work--or might once have worked in the
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  • The Olympics on Animal Planet
    In part IV of this Olympic series, the question of how humans might compete against other species is considered. Are we so sure in our pride as a species, that our champions are the same as the planet's winners?
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  • Francis Crick Remembered
    The British molecular biologist Francis Harry Crick died on Wednesday at the age of 88. Crick won the Nobel Prize for the co-discovery of a double helical structure for all our DNA. Crick also studied the origin of life, which he considered to be that
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  • Life Born Left-Handed
    Key biomolecules such as amino acids and sugars have a property called chirality--they favor a direction of light rotation and carry the name as left- or right-handed. Puzzling through how all building blocks became left-handed from an initially random mixture has become one of
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  • Earliest Bilateral Fossil Discovered
    Scientists have reported that bilateral animals appeared 600 million years ago, about 50 million years before the Cambrian Explosion.
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  • When Did Bacteria Appear?
    The Earth's earliest organisms survived on sulfur and carbon, but what happened after the first billion years when the Earth's temperature reached such high temperatures that photosynthesis can be thwarted. Was this the tipping point when microbial life took over for plant life, when bacteria
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  • Walking Under Water
    The Darwinian picture of the first fish venturing out of a muddy pond to become a lizard, has always had a certain simplistic appeal, but recent findings suggest this transitional puzzle has new fossil evidence.
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