“Cystic Fibrosis: A Heterozygote Advantage” – The Title of the Next Hit Movie

By Kelly Bonnville If you’ve ever seen “Five Feet Apart”, a 2019 movie starring Cole Sprouse and Haley Lu Richardson, which tells the dramatic love story of two teenaged cystic fibrosis patients who can never be together due to their disease, you may be under the impression that cystic fibrosis mainly involves not being able … Continue reading “Cystic Fibrosis: A Heterozygote Advantage” – The Title of the Next Hit Movie

Bring on the Heat: The Evolution of Spiciness in Chilies

As someone who likes to play with fire in my cooking, I always have a hearty stock of chili peppers in my kitchen.  Depending on the dish, I’ll use anything from canned chipotles, ground cayenne, and paprika to fresh jalapeños and habaneros.  All peppers, hot and sweet, are cultivars of five species from the genus … Continue reading Bring on the Heat: The Evolution of Spiciness in Chilies

Global birth canal variation gives insight into human evolutionary past and modern obstetric practices

  A recent examination of pelvises from human skeletons indicate migration patterns and climate may be responsible for global variation in birth canal size and shape. This variation likely represents neutral evolution by random chance and not necessarily the selection for pelvic adaptations, challenging long-held theories for human evolution and modern obstetric protocols. You might … Continue reading Global birth canal variation gives insight into human evolutionary past and modern obstetric practices

Seeing red in a new light: Peacock spider courtship defies our human assumptions

The pattern on male Maratus volans' tails is noticeable even without their red coloration

How do animals choose their mates? Dr. Maddie Girard and Dr. Damian Elias were pretty sure they knew what female peacock spiders found sexy—it had to be the red. Found throughout Australia, these tiny jumping spiders have excellent vision, and instead of a making a web, they sneak, climb, and pounce to catch their food. … Continue reading Seeing red in a new light: Peacock spider courtship defies our human assumptions

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