Evolution

Science-fiction is filled with technologically advanced species that could easily overwhelm us - but it may be that we are going to be that first interstellar traveler, and we may discover other life before it even knows it is being discovered.

The universe is 13.8 billion years old, while our planet formed just 4.5 billion years ago. That large time gap may mean that life on other planets, should it already exist, could be billions of years older than ours. Or it could be that present-day life is actually premature from a cosmic perspective and we have the huge head start by even being able to ask those questions.


Life isn’t always easy, but some beetles simply behave reckless.Trying to get your eggs inside a colony of murderous all-consuming red woodants (Formica rufa, see the picturebelow) is simply asking for trouble, or is it?

The four spotted leaf beetle larvae build a house of excrement (poo) and earth to survive this hostile environment.

Meet the four spotted leaf beetle (Clytra quadripunctata, see the pictures.) These beetles look like ladybugs that have been stretched on the rack (a torture device from the middle ages). 

The (Pre-)Neanderthals were the first, you see:


We know water is essential to life as we know it, but why? 

A paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides strongest evidence that proteins--the large and complex molecules that fold into particular shapes to enable biological reactions--can't fold themselves. Rather, the work of folding is done by much smaller water molecules, which surround proteins and push and pull at them to make them fold a certain way in fractions of a second, like scores of tiny origami artists folding a giant sheet of paper at blazingly fast speeds.


A study of the ancient and modern DNA of the single humped camel or dromedary has shed new light on how its use by human societies has shaped its genetic diversity.

Long-distance and back-and-forth movements in ancient camel caravan routes were important in shaping the species' genetic diversity, finds the paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This makes sense. Over time the animals would have been engineered by merchants using artificial selection to make sure the best for making the trek were breeding.


Pregnancy sounds like the ultimate form of animal cooperation – mothers share their own bodies to grow and support their children’s prenatal development. But in reality, embryos use every trick in the book to take more than their fair share. Mothers, in turn, marshal their best defensive tactics.

Ultimately, it’s an evolutionary arms race. Offspring continually evolve strategies to steal resources, while mothers evolve strategies to defend their resources. Natural selection will favor embryos that are able to steal resources, but this will impose costs on the mother.

Some new speculation on animal (metazoan) evolution, suggesting that it was partly mediated through a biochemical oscillator (cycler), named Life's Timekeeper, present in all animal cells. The cycler controls cell maintenance and repair, thereby determining how long cells survive (longevity) and it originated in the single-celled ancestor of all animals, which had very short cell longevity.


Inside Science -- How can you tell how a creature walked when all that you have is the head?

For many years, scientists looked to the foramen magnum – the large hole at the base of the skull where the brain connects to the spine – to find out. They believed it showed if an early human was a biped that walked on two legs, or a quadruped that walked on four. But a recent study published in the Journal of Human Evolution calls this into question.

1) Motivation (insufficient justification): Throughout the world, there is a ‘new enlightenment.’ Maintaining certain illusions has become so demanding and frustrating that increasingly people simply go for the plain truth because whatever else they say would make little difference in the reception. People witness such and thus find new courage to “call a spade a spade” without apologizing, since an apology in today's mainstream irrational discourse is a mere revealing of weakness that invites further attacks.

The fungal pathogen Batrachochrytrium dendrobatridis (Bd), which has been known to cause the disease chytridiomycosis and decimate frog populations for close to half a century, is causing frogs to evolve around it, according to a new study which took a step toward identifying the genetic mechanisms that makes some frogs resistant to Bd infections in their study of lowland leopard frogs in Arizona.