Origin and evolution of life

  • One Order of Snake Legs, Please
    Did snakes evolve on land or sea? If related to lizards, what happened to their legs? These evolutionary questions were looked at by Penn State biologists who compared the genetic family trees for the marine and land hypotheses.
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  • Death Valley Holds Key to Life?
    Bake a cake too long and the sugars decompose to a brown tar. Bake the sugary proteins that may have acted as precursors for life's building blocks and the Earth needs some protective agent to help along biology's course.
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  • Birds and the Bees
    The progress of genetic mutation has been thought to move a species slowly towards more adapted forms. A recent plant experiment on the common monkeyflower however suggests that alternations between whether birds or bees might best pollinate future generations has led to new evolutionary proposals.
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  • Life’s Recipe Card
    A defect-free, artificial virus has been created from knowing its published genetic code and stitching together a chemical synthesis. The project is part of a three-year effort to synthesize 'life from scratch', although in this case the real breakthrough may have been that from start
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  • Worms in the Mist
    The wriggling tracks of worm-like creatures can be found in rocks dating back nearly 600 million years ago. Such 'trace' fossils are fairly common in Cambrian rocks, but similar markings also have been found in much older rocks that formed long before multi-cellular mobile animals
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  • Preemies from the Precambrian
    Scientists are using a miniaturized version of the medical CT scanner to look for clues to evolution in the fossilized embryos of some of Earth's earliest animals.
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  • Clays Aided First Life?
    Did clays serve as catalysts to bring the first simple molecules into a template for life? More complex biomolecules may have formed spontaneously from a coating of fatty acids, that eventually built into the first living cells, according to researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical
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  • Biology’s Theme Park: RNA World
    When a laboratory recipe for life starts to look daunting, scientists have retreated to a test-tube for what they term 're-evolving evolution'. Their model is one of the template molecules for life, the counterpart to DNA itself, called RNA, which replicates a pattern for cell
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  • Dune and Salt Hybrids
    Creating hybrids with cross-species breeding has long been used for corn production. But for most attempts, sterile offspring are generated. A new Indiana University study shows that for desert and salt-adapted sunflowers, rapid evolution can be induced from such cross-breeding experiments.
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  • World’s Smallest Power Station
    Turning light into power fuels the biosphere, in a cycle that begins with the lowest part of the foodchain, the microbes. Three international teams have put together a plan to understand genetically how all that light gets harvested.
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  • Life from the Heavens?
    The scientific community has been impressed with the robustness of environments that can support life, ranging from Antarctic lakes to salt mines to nuclear reactors. But conventional wisdom has presumed that life traveling to Earth on a fiery meteor--if possible--would meet a quick sterilizing death.
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  • Gene Menagerie
    A pioneering study comparing the genes of 13 species has uncovered clues to how the vertebrate family tree might have evolved. One intriguing result is that primates, including humans, are closer to rodents than carnivores or cows and pigs.
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  • Spying on Biodiversity
    Monitoring of species which may have natural habitats in remote areas is no easy task. Using internet cameras, a group of Alaska biologists can keep warm, while watching the great outdoors.
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  • Synchronizing Molecular Clocks
    The frequency of changes in a species' genetic code acts like a kind of molecular clock, which can trace the branches of a family tree back to the original root. Evolutionary biologists are using molecular clocks to time how fast a species may be changing,
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  • Shining Light on Life’s Origin
    When ultraviolet radiation was more intense than today, and the early Earth had a mix of nitrogen-rich molecules, how did this primordial soup get cooked? And how did it not burn? Scientists are asking the question: How did the fittest biomolecules survive, before life itself
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