Articles on Evolutionary biology

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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…
The hominid skull that gave rise to Homo floresiensis - but is it really a new species? Flickr/NCSSM

‘Hobbit’ more likely had Down Syndrome than a new species

Many people believe that what was found in Liang Bua Cave on the island of Flores in Indonesia in 2003-2004 was some variety of hobbit-like human or prehuman. Our research published today argues that it…

Butterfly family tree mapped

The “Tree of Lepidoptera” - comprising butterflies, moths and related species - has been mapped back to their earliest common…
Gaudy appearance, cocky sashay, singing voice … peacock or Jagger? EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Strut your stuff: how rockstars and peacocks attract the ladies

What is it that makes rockstars so attractive to the opposite sex? Turns out Charles Darwin had it pegged hundreds of years ago – and it has a lot to do with peacocks. In The Descent of Man, and Selection…
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…
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…

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