Articles on Evolutionary biology

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Male orb-web spiders are dwarfed by their female counterparts, but they can maximise success if they don’t mate indiscriminately. Brian Gratwicke/Flickr

Tiny male spiders can get a leg over – as long as they’re picky

Males will mate with anything. Well, that is the general view, one that exists because of a simple biological underpinning: females are reproductively limited by costly gestation, while males are only…
Your inner self. pureblacklove

The science of anatomy is undergoing a revival

Only two decades ago, when I was starting my PhD studies at the University of California in Berkeley, there was talk about the death of anatomy as a research subject. That hasn’t happened. Instead the…
Hydrogen peroxide – widely used in hair bleach – may also hold the key to life on early Earth. Brandon Milner Photography/Flickr

Can bleach help solve the origin of life in the primordial soup?

A chemical found in hair bleach may help answer questions about the origins of life and explain why new life does not emerge on modern Earth. Hydrogen peroxide may have helped transform RNA (ribonucleic…
No beating around the bush from the Genesis Expo in Portsmouth. ian_rickard

Redacting exam questions on evolution is a slippery slope

Writing good science exam questions is hard. Getting the wording right, making sure that what you are asking about is clear, pitching the question at the right level, takes time, lots of experience and…
Natural sunscreen in action. Cargo Cult

Skin cancer is not the main reason for darker pigmentation

Many theories have been proposed for the evolution of dark skin pigmentation – and a new paper revives one of the oldest: that skin cancer was a more potent selective force for the evolution of protective…
We have fish to thank for the makeup of our face. Flickr/Ben Shepherd

Hello fish face – a fossil fish reveals the origins of the face

Lets face it – without a face no-one would recognise us, nor would we be able to guess what others might be thinking or feeling. Faces and their subtle degrees of symmetry and expression have defined human…
Air-breathing fishes such as Polypterus ornatipinnis laid foundations for modern ears. Flickr/lapradei

Now listen: air-breathing fish gave humans the ability to hear

A century-old mystery about how ancient freshwater fishes breathe has finally been put to rest, thanks to a study published today in Nature Communications by me and a team of ichthyologists. The fishes…
Cane Toads have wreaked havoc in Australia. Could we predict the next invasive species? Flickr/Brian Gratwicke

Darwin’s invasive species theory challenged

New research on invasive species has cast doubt on the prevailing theory developed by Charles Darwin, giving us a new way…
I’m more of a cricket man, really. Ben Birchall/PA

By studying animal behaviour we gain an insight into our own

In the field of animal behaviour, there is one topic that is almost guaranteed to get your study in the popular press: showing how an animal behaves just like humans. This can be solving problems, using…
I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Runs with Scissors

Disgust stops us from doing things we shouldn’t

If you read about the record-breaking “fatberg” lurking under Kingston recently and reacted the same way as me - “Oh my God - a gob of fat in the London sewers as big as a bus - that’s disgusting!” - you’ll…
Don’t want to move home? MissTessmacher

Adapt, move, or die: the pressures of global warming

We all know that weather is not the same as climate, but it is surprising how our perceptions of global warming vary according to what we see outside our window. In the UK for example, last year’s washed-out…
We’ve come a long way evolution-wise but vestigial traits from our caveman days are important for the study of human evolution today. Matthew Cieplak

We’re carrying evolution’s excess baggage – so why can’t we let go?

Wisdom teeth, the palmaris longis tendon, ear wiggling: these qualities were desirable millions of years ago, but due to changes in our diet and environment, are slowly disappearing. However, such features…
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…

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