Evolutionary biology

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A great white shark captured off the coast of Mexico. Flickr/Brook Ward

No bones about it: sharks evolved cartilage for a reason

We used to think of sharks as primitive fish because the had cartilage instead of bones. Turns out there was a good reason why and it makes them anything but primitive.
Sex is not without its costs. Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just create a clone of yourself? Tamara Álvarez/Flickr

If you could clone yourself, would you still have sex?

Imagine how easy life would be if you could produce offspring without a mate. Sexual reproduction is the most common mating system in the animal kingdom. But in many species, females do not require males…
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…
Tired? I know how you feel, my friend. Fran Tapia/Flickr

Contagious yawns show social ties in humans and bonobos

Most of us have experienced the overwhelming urge to yawn in response to another person yawning – but we’re not the only…

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…
Why the differences between humans and other animals? Flickr/simon thomas

Brain versus brawn: the evolution of humans and other animals

One of the most important questions we can ask – and one that continues to take up much of the time of scientists, philosophers and the religious minded alike – is why are humans so different to the rest…
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…

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