Evolution

Researchers have identified a common ancestral gene that enabled the evolution of advanced life over a billion years ago. The gene, found in all complex organisms, including plants and animals, encodes for a large group of enzymes known as protein kinases that enabled cells to be larger and to rapidly transfer information from one part to another. 

Plants, animals, mushrooms and more all exist because they are made up of eukaryotic cells that are larger and far more complex than bacteria. Inside of these eukaryotic cells are hundreds of organelles that perform diverse functions to keep them living, just as different organs do for the human body.


Chimpanzees have an ancient common ancestor - or genetic 'Adam' - that lived over one million years ago, according to a new paper paper in the journal Genome Research.  

The research team led by Professor Mark Jobling from the University of Leicester's Department of Genetics determined the DNA sequences of a large part of the Y chromosome, passed exclusively from fathers to sons, in a set of chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans. The study also looked at mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), passed from mothers to offspring, in the same set of animals, which allowed the construction of genealogical trees that could be compared between species and subspecies - and helped the researchers to discover that the genetic 'Adam' for chimpanzees lived so far back.


Given its huge success in describing the natural world for the past 150 years, the theory of evolution is remarkably misunderstood. In a recent episode of the Australian series of “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here”, former cricket star Shane Warne questioned the theory – asking “if humans evolved from monkeys, why haven’t today’s monkeys evolved”?

Sometimes synonymous mutations, which do not lead to a change in the protein sequence but which may still have major negative effects on the ability of bacteria to survive, occur in DNA.

New research in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution shows that an organism can efficiently compensate for the negative effects.  

For a long time it has been believed that synonymous mutations are 'silent', i.e. that they have no effect - positive or negative - on the gene product (protein) or on the growth and survival of the organism. However, in recent years several studies have shown that these mutations still often cause problems for the organism even though they do not change the protein sequence.


How much alcohol you drink and how hard it affects you are rooted in your DNA, specifically, a “lazy” variant of the Alcohol Dehydrogenase 1B (ADH1B) gene, known to regulate the activity of a key group of enzymes.

When we drink, the alcohol rushes into our bloodstream, where the alcohol dehydrogenase enzymes metabolize, or break down, the ethanol into acetaldehyde. If this happens quickly, lots of acetaldehyde accumulates in a short amount of time, which can lead to adverse effects such as flushing, nausea, and headaches. Conversely, if the ethanol is metabolized slowly, the alcohol remains intact in the blood for longer periods, prolonging its more pleasant, euphoric effects.

If you are allergic, you might need to thank a Neanderthal. 

When modern humans began interbreeding with Neanderthals tens of thousands of years ago, the exchange left humans with gene variations that increased our ability to ward off infection and left some people more prone to allergies.

So if you like your immune system, you might need to thank a Neanderthal for that also.


The newly sequenced genomes of two marine worms shed light on the 570 million-year evolution of gills into the human ability to bite, chew, swallow and speak.

The draft genome sequences (doi:10.1038/nature16150) of two species of acorn worm, which live in U-shaped burrows in shallow, brackish water, are the first genomes of hemichordates, which retain similarities to the first animals to evolve pharyngeal or "gill" slits. Those ancestors eventually gave rise to chordates: animals with backbones and hollow nerve cords, like humans and other vertebrates.


Evolution had a few more drinks once again, according to a new paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which wants to prompts a rethink of what it means to be an animal.

Jellyfish, those commonplace sea pests with stinging tentacles, have actually evolved over time into "really weird" microscopic organisms, made of only a few cells, that live inside other animals.

Genome sequencing confirms that myxozoans, a diverse group of microscopic parasites that infect invertebrate and vertebrate hosts, are actually are "highly reduced" cnidarians -- the phylum that includes jellyfish, corals and sea anemones.


Human brains exhibit more plasticity, the tendency to be modeled by the environment, than chimpanzee brains, which may account for part of human evolution, according to a study which may provide insight into why humans are capable of adapting to various environments and cultures. The stud examined the inherited genetic factors of brain organization in humans compared to their closest living relatives.

The research team studied 218 human brains and 206 chimpanzee brains to compare two things: brain size and organization as related to genetic similarity. The study found that human and chimpanzee brain size were both greatly influenced by genetics.


Living hominoids are a group of primates that includes the small-bodied apes (the lesser apes, or gibbons and siamangs, which constitute the family Hylobatidae) and the larger-bodied great apes (orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees), which, along with humans, belong to the family Hominidae.

All extant hominoids share several features, such as the lack of external tail, an orthograde body plan that enables an upright trunk position, and several cranial characteristics. All these features might have been present in the common ancestor of hominids and hylobatids that, according to molecular data, would have lived about 15-20 million years ago.