Beer, snowflakes, and the origins of life

The craft beer movement gave rise to an immense diversity of brews. From porters and pale ales to dubels and dunkels, there is a seemingly infinite supply of tasty adult beverages to enjoy. Even within the ales, beer drinkers can choose among ambers, blondes, browns, coffees, and creams. Each of these brews is defined by … Continue reading Beer, snowflakes, and the origins of life

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Marine mammals and the legacy of gene loss: evolutionary biology informs policy

Life began in the water.  Microbes swarmed around in primordial ooze, banded together to form multicellular organisms, and eventually grew complex enough to leave their watery homes and become the terrestrial animals that exist today.  Some of those land-dwelling creatures became mammals, and in a surprising twist, three separate lineages of ancient mammals then returned … Continue reading Marine mammals and the legacy of gene loss: evolutionary biology informs policy

Lessons from the Urban Pigeon

There is an entire community of pigeon collectors living amongst us. They marvel at the diversity of plumage, color, and patterning that this single species displays. In fact, none other than Charles Darwin himself fancied the pigeon species. These pigeon enthusiasts understand that we can learn a lot from pigeon diversity. In a recent publication, … Continue reading Lessons from the Urban Pigeon

New firefly breeding patterns light the way for changes in color vision

A staple of warm summer nights, fireflies have charmed generations with their magical evening glow. Children setting out to capture them in jars can tell you the trick is to catch sight of each flash of light as the bugs fly around. What we might not realize as children is that fireflies emit their greenish … Continue reading New firefly breeding patterns light the way for changes in color vision

Strength in numbers: extra copies of the TP53 gene helps elephants fight cancer

Today’s story begins with Peto’s paradox – the observation that larger animals should have higher cancer incidence than smaller animals, but don’t (1).  Fundamentally, cancer is caused by DNA damage.  Large animals have many cells and usually also have long lifespans.  As a result, their numerous cells duplicate many times and are exposed to a … Continue reading Strength in numbers: extra copies of the TP53 gene helps elephants fight cancer

If you talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk: mimicry of ant locomotion in jumping spiders

If it looks like an ant and walks like an ant, it must be an ant, right? Thanks to evolution, this isn’t always the case. Plants and animals can evolve to mimic other species in appearance, behavior, sound, or smell. By doing so, mimics can reap benefits such as increased access to food, enhanced reproduction, … Continue reading If you talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk: mimicry of ant locomotion in jumping spiders

I’ll have what she’s having: Manipulation in chimpanzee copulation calls

When we think about animal relationships, some endearing examples of devoted couples come to mind: emperor penguins that faithfully guard their hatchlings for weeks while they wait for their mate to return; love birds (not surprisingly) that groom and feed each other during courtship, and some species of monkeys that intertwine their tails as they … Continue reading I’ll have what she’s having: Manipulation in chimpanzee copulation calls