Evolution

Like with many things, a lot of variables go into evolution. Some is luck, some is necessity, some is circumstance. Over time, for example, a region of blacksmiths will grow bigger arms. It isn't an epigenetic or Lamarckian evolution event but it will happen over generations because holding a hammer becomes important in that circumstance.

Almost anything can claim an evolutionary basis, if you try hard enough. In the run up to the last American presidential election, there were even claims that people were born liberal or conservative. Yes, social psychologists and the political pundits who take them seriously believed the American left and right were evolving differently than the rest of the world.


The mitochondrial DNA of the first Near Eastern farmers has been sequenced for the first time. In the research, experts analysed samples from three sites located in the birthplace of Neolithic agricultural practices: the Middle Euphrates basin and the oasis of Damascus, located in today's Syria and date at about 8,000 BC.

The study is focused on the analysis of mitochondrial DNA --a type of non-Mendelian maternally inherited DNA-- from the first Neolithic farmers, by means of samples obtained by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) research group which were first processed by the University of Barcelona (UB) research group.


If you are an organic farmer, you may be worried your crops can be "contaminated" by a field genetically modified with a gene to express a natural toxin against pests. Nasty weeds sometimes evolve directly from natural crosses between domesticated species and wild relatives. A rare plant is threatened due to its small population size and restricted range.

What do all these situations have in common? They illustrate the important role of gene flow among populations and its potential consequences. Gene flow has been recognized as a significant evolutionary force since the 1940s but its relative role in maintaining a species' genetic integrity and/or its diversity has been debated.


Though we share superficial physical similarities, the cognitive differences between humans and our closest living cousins, the chimpanzees, are obvious - we metaphorically throw feces at each other while they do it literally. We have been able to use our superior mental abilities to construct civilizations and manipulate our environment to our will, allowing us to take over our planet and walk on the moon while the chimps grub around in a few remaining African forests.


Sorry Australia, you can no longer lay claim to the origins of the iconic New Zealand kiwi - the kiwi's closest relative is not the emu. 

Instead, the diminutive kiwi is most closely related to the extinct Madagascan elephant bird – a 2-3 meter tall, 275 kg giant. And surprisingly, a new study in Science concluded, both of these flightless birds once flew.

A new study by the University of Adelaide's Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD), has solved a 150-year-old evolutionary mystery about the origins of the giant flightless "ratite" birds, such as the emu and ostrich, which are found across the southern continents. This group contains some of the world's largest birds – such as the extinct giant moa of New Zealand and elephant birds of Madagascar.


Whether an insect will have a male or female offspring depends on the weather and temperature, according to a study led by Joffrey Moiroux and Jacques Brodeur of the University of Montreal's Department of Biological Sciences.

As part of this study, which was funded by the Ouranos Consortium, Moiroux tried to understand the possible role of global warming on the relationship between crop pests and their natural enemies – parasitoids and predators. Among the issues addressed, he sought to determine whether there is an effect of "phenological asynchrony" between parasitoids and their hosts, and therefore an impact on the availability of host eggs and on pest control by their natural enemies. 


In Lewis Carroll's 1871 classic novel Through the Looking Glass, the Red Queen tells Alice: "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place."

Over the years, evolutionary biologists have used the Red Queen's statement to refer to the "Red Queen" hypothesis, which describes how living organisms, including humans, manage to survive in a changing environment by adapting through sexual reproduction. According to a University of Iowa researcher, the hypothesis is supported.

In a new paper, lead author Deanna Soper, assistant professor at Beloit College and colleagues write about testing a version of the Red Queen hypothesis.


An international team has discovered what happens on a molecular basis to insects that evolved resistance to genetically modified cotton plants. 

Their findings shed light on how the global caterpillar pest called pink bollworm overcomes biotech cotton, which was designed to make the organic insect-killing bacterial protein called Bt toxin. The results could have major impacts for managing pest resistance to Bt crops. 


Most dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago but one dinosaur lineage survived and lives on today – we call these the birds and they rule the skies the way they once ruled land. 

An international team, led by scientists from Oxford University and the Royal Ontario Museum, estimated the body mass of 426 dinosaur species based on the thickness of their leg bones. The team found that dinosaurs showed rapid changes in body size shortly after their origins, around 220 million years ago. 

However, these soon slowed: only the evolutionary line leading to birds continued to change size at this rate, and did so for a further 170 million years, producing new ecological diversity not seen in other dinosaur lineages.


Take a muscle cell, modify it over millions of years, and you can end up with a shocking evolutionary result: the electric fish.

Electric fish have evolved several times in varying levels of complexity. Two groups of electric fish, one in Africa (Mormyroids) and one in South America (Gymnotiforms), have independently evolved sophisticated communication systems using these cells. By emitting and sensing weak electrical signals, the fish have bypassed the usual means of communication, such as with sounds and visual signals, and go directly to electrical signals.