Origins

  • Pondering the Planet of the Apes
    In this interview, Charley Lineweaver explains how the movie "Planet of the Apes" is based on a flawed notion of evolution. Understanding this, he says, has implications for our search for life elsewhere in the universe.
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  • Making Heads or Tails of Early Life
    Researchers have modeled a primitive cell, or protocell, that is capable of building, copying and containing DNA. The study could help us understand how the earliest cells on Earth formed and evolved.
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  • Making Sense of Mars Methane
    Research on methane at a Mexican salt flat could help reveal the source of methane that has been detected in the atmosphere of Mars. But first scientists have to decipher the unique – and seemingly contradictory - isotopic signature of the Mexican methane.
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  • How Low Can Life Go?
    A novel, ultra-small bacterial species has been found at a depth of nearly two miles within the ice of a Greenland glacier. The ability of this organism to survive in such a unique environment will help us understand how life could survive elsewhere in the
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  • Swimming in the Gene Pool
    Scientists have discovered numerous pieces of foreign DNA in the genome of a freshwater animal. The study sheds new light on the mechanisms behind the evolution of life.
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  • Seafloor Buffet
    Seafloor bacteria are more abundant and diverse than previously thought. The new finding is shedding light on how life has co-evolved with planet Earth.
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  • Earth’s Late Veneer
    New research questions the idea that water and other elements were added to the Earth late in its formation by impacts with icy comets and meteorites. The finding may cause scientists to rethink theories about the origin of life on our planet.
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  • You Are What You Eat
    By examining marks on the teeth of ancient human ancestors, scientists have found that their diet was far different than previously believed. The research sheds light on the evolutionary history of complex organisms on Earth.
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  • Absolute Argon
    By refining a technique used to date rocks and fossils, scientists have now determined the date of the dinosaurs' extinction with pinpoint accuracy. The finding sheds new light on one of the most dramatic periods in the evolution of life on Earth.
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  • Illuminating Life
    A small, light-weight microscope that can produce high-resolution images is being developed to help astrobiologists study microbial life in some of Earth's most extreme environments. These studies can allow scientists to determine the limits of life and will help define habitable environments on other planets.
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  • The Present is the Key to the Past
    Mike Russell thinks life began in iron sulfide deposits at ocean vents. In this interview, he expands on his theory of how life originated, and explains why "life from space" scenarios are dead wrong.
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  • DNA Barcodes
    Researchers are developing a new and rapid way of identifying an organism's species based on DNA. The technology will help in finding new species and will be a valuable tool in understanding and documenting the evolution of life on Earth.
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  • Earth’s First Animal
    A new study shows that Earth's first animal was probably more complex than previously believed. By analyzing massive volumes of genetic data, scientists have defined the earliest splits at the base of the animal tree of life.
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  • Meteorites Made Life Left-Handed
    Scientists have provided evidence that the building blocks of life could have formed from the interactions of desert heat, water and meteorite impacts. The findings may also explain why amino acids used by life are predominantly 'left-handed'.
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  • Following the Paper Trail of Ancient Life
    Researchers have found the earliest direct evidence of biological material on Earth in the form of cellulose microfibers. The finding also indicates that cellulose could be an excellent biosignature to search for on other planets.
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