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Evolutionary biology

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The human Y chromosome has retained only 3% of its ancestral genes. So why’s it a shadow of its former self? Rafael Anderson Gonzales Mendoza/Flickr

Sex, genes, the Y chromosome and the future of men

The Y chromosome, that little chain of genes that determines the sex of humans, is not as tough as you might think. In fact, if we look at the Y chromosome over the course of our evolution we’ve seen it…
So … how ‘bout it? Wendi Kelly/Flickr

Copulate to populate: ancient Scottish fish did it sideways

The intimate act of copulation is old – very old. In fact, it first evolved in ancient armoured placoderm fishes called antiarchs 385 million years ago. Fossils of the antiarch Microbrachius dicki show…
‘Smells like life-long partnership … with just a hint of sweat.’ opactiy/Flickr

Does Singld Out, a gene-based dating service, pass the sniff test?

Singld Out, an online dating service based on “cutting-edge” science, has the solution for busy singles to sniff out the perfect companion. Literally. The dating site, in conjunction with a company called…

Butterfly family tree mapped

The “Tree of Lepidoptera” - comprising butterflies, moths and related species - has been mapped back to their earliest common…
That’s one hell of a thatch - up to a tonne of weaver nest. sara_joachim

Biggest bird nests in the world are kept together by family ties

How can animals, from ants to people, form social groups with individuals working successfully together for a common good? So Charles Darwin asked in 1859, perceiving the existence of cooperative behaviour…
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…

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