Articles on Evolutionary biology

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The males of one of our closer cousins in the animal kingdom, chimpanzees prefer to mate with older females. CBS Television via Wikimedia Commons

Male desire for young women doesn’t drive menopause

Research claiming that men are to blame for menopause has gone viral in the popular media in the past week. But does the theoretical model’s fundamental assumption – that men prefer young women – stack…
Only a handful of mammals aside from us – primates, some bat species and the elephant shrew – get their period. Image from shutterstock.com

Explainer: why do women menstruate?

For half the population, it comes three to five days each month, 12 months each year, for 40 years of our lives. Menstruation can be debilitating, relieving, disappointing, or simply an inconvenient fact…
The sexual activity of the southern bottletail squid involves choosy females eating losers’ ejaculate. Saspotato

Squid or swallow: the sexual tastes of a cephalopod

In romantic circles, reproduction is viewed as a harmonious venture between the sexes. After all, if you aim to produce the best offspring possible, wouldn’t it also be best to cooperate with your partner…
One suggestion is that menopause enables women to provide for their grandchildren. Image from shutterstock.com

Explainer: why do women go through menopause?

Menstruation is a reproductive quirk that humans share with only a few other mammals. But even stranger is the fact that women stop menstruating when they have a whole third of their lives left to live…
It turns out guppy genital length is genetic – for females as well as males. Alice Chaos

Guppies and sexual conflict? It’s a genital arms race

It’s not always easy to tell if a fish is male or female: they look more or less the same. But there are exceptions, such as guppies and, as with humans, guppy genitalia varies in size across the species…

Sea urchins rolling with the punches

Purple sea urchins have been found to be able to evolve extremely rapidly in relation to their environment. Experiments conducted…
You may not forget the pain, but if you’re lucky, the end will justify the means. Image from shutterstock.com

Monday’s medical myth: women forget the pain of childbirth

In an evolutionary sense, memory of pain serves an important purpose. Pain indicates a threat to our safety or our life, and human survival depends on us avoiding things that are going to kill us. Historically…
How and why have the colour patterns of coral reef fish changed over time? David Cook

Dazzling or deceptive? The markings of coral reef fish

Have you ever wondered why coral reef fishes are so brilliantly coloured and bizarrely patterned? A quick flick through any coral reef fish guide will leave you bewildered and awed. To answer this question…
The discovery of the skeleton of the Homo floresiensis has sparked significant debate among evolutionary scientists. Ryan Somma

Saga of ‘the Hobbit’ highlights a science in crisis

To state the obvious: human evolution is not without its drama – and the latest salvo in the ongoing Hobbit, or Homo floresiensis, battle confirms this yet again. The 2004 announcement of Homo floresiensis…
A female zebra finch finds herself surrounded by male suitors - but who to listen to? Simon Griffith

Birds and boasting: honest when mating, dishonest when dating

A new study has revealed what many people possibly already suspect – males are more honest when displaying their “quality” to a partner than to an unfamiliar female. These findings, from a study of a socially…
The giant river lizard Pannoniasaurus inexpectus (top) was roughly six metres long. In life, the animal would have resembled the smaller, related Aigialosaurus (bottom). FunkMonk/Wikimedia Commons

‘Aquatic Komodo dragon’ was the ultimate river monster

An aquatic lizard twice the length of a Komodo dragon once lurked in rivers during the age of dinosaurs, according to a team of Hungarian-Canadian researchers. The 85 million-year-old Pannoniasaurus is…
In order to drag themselves onto land, fish-like creatures needed limbs. Thierrry

They came from the sea: the gene behind limb evolution

In the late Devonian period, roughly 365 million years ago, fish-like creatures started venturing from shallow waters onto land. Among the various adaptations associated with the switch to land life was…
The butts flicked by smokers can end up lining birds’ nests – but why? Matthew Kenwrick

Urban birds may use cigarettes as medicine

The negative impacts of cigarettes on both smokers and those around them are widely known. While some effects are cosmetic (wrinkling, yellowing of the skin), others, such as cancer, can be fatal. But…
It seems our impressions of faithfulness are distinct from our impressions of trustworthiness. shannonkringen

Women may have the edge on men at detecting unfaithfulness

In a study published today in the Royal Society’s journal Biology Letters, my colleagues and I ask if there is any validity in judgements of sexual faithfulness made from the faces of unfamiliar men and…
Taxonomists are in the business of classifying the life we see around us – plant, animal and otherwise. Gnilenkov Aleksey

Explainer: what is biological classification?

For taxonomists, days often start – and sometimes end – with the question: what’s that? Whether you’re an entomologist, staring at a new species of riffle bug from a rainforest stream, or a paleontologist…

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