Origin and evolution of life

  • Tracking Back Animal Evolution
    Unusually preserved fossils discovered by Virginia Tech, Nanjing Institute researchers shed new light on how macroscopic, complex life evolved and lived 550 million years ago.
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  • Parrotting Zero
    During the course of human evolution, our ancestors eventually grasped the abstract concept of counting nothing, or 'zero'. Is this a unique component of human intelligence?
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  • Evolving Away from Extinction
    The fossilized skeleton of a small crocodile relative excavated last year at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona throws a wrench into theories of how and where the dinosaurs arose more than 210 million years ago at the end of the Triassic Period.
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  • Chickadee Intelligence
    The small songbirds, which are common throughout much of North America, use their signature calls in a wide variety of social interactions including warning of predators. And it turns out that those alarms are far more subtle and information-packed than scientists previously imagined.
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  • Brain Adaptation
    Monkeys that learn to use their brain signals to control a robotic arm are not just learning to manipulate an external device, Duke University Medical Center neurobiologists have found. Rather, their brain structures are adapting to treat the arm as if it were their own
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  • 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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