Evolution

In a region where modern humans are believed to have originated roughly 200,000 years ago,    DNA from the skeleton of a man who lived 2,330 years ago has a DNA profile that places it among the 'earliest diverged' – oldest in genetic terms – found to-date. 

Somehow the group broke off early in human evolution and became geographically isolated so the skeleton is modern, but its DNA is old.

Astronomers have discovered an unusual carbon-based molecule – one with a branched structure – contained within a giant gas cloud in interstellar space -  27,000 light years away. Like finding a molecular needle in a cosmic haystack, astronomers have detected radio waves emitted by isopropyl cyanide. The discovery suggests that the complex molecules needed for life may have their origins in interstellar space.

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), researchers studied the gaseous star-forming region Sagittarius B2.


A key indicator of how successfully one species of monkey will breed can be determined by skin color, a new study has shown. Skin coloration in male and female rhesus macaques is an inherited quality – the first example of heritability for a sexually-selected trait to be described in any mammal.

The team collected more than 250 facial images of free-ranging rhesus macaques, which are native to South, Central and Southeast Asia and which display red skin coloring around the face, as well as the genital and hind-quarter areas.


So much for patriarchy. When it comes to evolution, female populations have always been larger than male populations throughout human history, according to a new study in Investigative Genetics which used paternal genetic information to analyse the demographic history of males and females in worldwide populations.


A new study uses tree rings to document arroyo evolution along the lower Rio Puerco and Chaco Wash in northern New Mexico.


Parasitic lamprey are a challenge to study but an important one - they are an invasive pest in the Great Lakes but difficult to study under controlled conditions because they live up to 10 years and only spawn for a few short weeks in the summer before they die. 

Lamprey are slimy, eel-like parasitic fish with tooth-riddled, jawless, sucking mouths, and rather disgusting to look at, but thanks to their important position on the vertebrate family tree, they can offer important insights about the evolutionary history of brain development, according to a new paper in Nature.



Can the brown anole lizard outrun climate change? Credit: Ianaré Sévi, CC BY

By Amanda Bates, University of Southampton

"Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" biologists once said - meaning that an animal's "ontogeny", its embryonic development, replays its entire evolutionary history.

Today our understanding a more nuanced and a better way to figure out how animals evolved is to compare regulatory networks that control gene expression patterns, particularly embryonic ones, across species.  But that task can be humbling, according to Stowers Institute for Medical Research Scientific Director Robb Krumlauf, Ph.D. and colleagues, who show that the sea lamprey Petromyzon marinus, a survivor of ancient jawless vertebrates, exhibits a pattern of gene expression that is reminiscent of its jawed cousins, who evolved much, much later.


Gibbons are small, tree-living apes from Southeast Asia, many species of which are endangered. They are part of the same superfamily as humans and great apes, but sit on the divide between Old-World monkeys and the great apes.

These creatures have several distinctive traits, such as an unusually large number of chromosomal rearrangements, and different numbers of chromosomes are seen in individual species.

Researchers recently completed analysis of the mobile elements in the gibbon genome. This included the characterization of the mobile genetic element called LAVA. LAVA is made up of pieces of known jumping genes and named after its main components: L1, Alu, and the VA section of SVA mobile elements.


New whale research has turned a long-accepted evolutionary assumption on its...hips. Instead of  being just vestigial, whale pelvic bones play a key role in reproduction, according to a new study.

Both whales and dolphins have pelvic (hip) bones, evolutionary remnants from when their ancestors walked on land more than 40 million years ago. Common wisdom has long held that those bones are simply vestigial, slowly withering away like tailbones have in humans. But a new paper by USC and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County finds that not only do those pelvic bones serve a purpose – but their size and possibly shape are influenced by the forces of sexual selection.