Evolution

Scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara have discovered significant clues to the evolutionary origins of the nervous system by studying the genome of a sea sponge, a member of a group considered to be among the most ancient of all animals.

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that humans’ ability to walk upright developed from ancestors foraging for food in forest tree tops and not from walking on all fours on open land.

It was traditionally thought that humans became upright walkers in a slow process which had its origins in ‘knuckle-walking’ – movement on all fours – just as chimpanzees and gorillas walk today. It was believed that this developed once human ancestors moved out of the forests into the savannahs of East Africa.

Male uakariResearchers at Ohio University have found that after primates evolved the ability to see red, they began to develop red and orange skin and hair.

Humans, apes and Old World monkeys, such as macaques and leaf monkeys, all have trichromatic vision, which allow them to distinguish between blue, green and red colors. Primatologists have disagreed about whether this type of color vision initially evolved to help early primates forage for ripe fruit and young, red leaves among green foliage or evolved to help them select mates. 

Nature, through the trial and error of evolution, has discovered a vast diversity of life from what can only presumed to have been a primordial pool of building blocks.

Inspired by this success, a new Biodesign Institute research team, led by John Chaput, is now trying to mimic the process of Darwinian evolution in the laboratory by evolving new proteins from scratch. Using new tricks of molecular biology, Chaput and co-workers have evolved several new proteins in a fraction of the 3 billion years it took nature.


The three-dimensional structure (ribbon diagram) of protein DX as a crystallogrpahic dimer.

A surprisingly complete fossil skull of an ancient relative of humans, apes and monkeys bears striking evidence that our remote ancestor was less mentally advanced than expected by about 29 million years ago.

The second and most intact cranium found of Aegyptopithecus zeuxis was identified by Duke University primatologist Elwyn Simons, who is announcing the find this week with several colleagues.

A letter, supposedly sent to the Smithsonian Institute. Hilarious!

Paleoanthropology Division
Smithsonian Institute
207 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20078

Dear Sir:

One third of the Republican presidential candidates, when asked in their recent debate whether they believed evolution, admitted that they don't buy it. The blogosphere has already said much about this, and today the NY Times picks up the story.

The NY Times includes this appalling quote by Larry Arnhart, a poli sci professor at Northern Illinois University:

"The intellectual vitality of conservatism in the 21st century will depend on the success of conservatives in appealing to advances in the biology of human nature as confirming conservative thought."

How convenient when science can confirm one's preconceived notions!


A new museum in Petersburg, Kentucky greets visitors with a 20ft tall tumbling waterfall and at its base, mannequins of frolicking children play amongst dinosaurs. The Creation Museum, which cost $25 million to build, is home to many unusual sites: a diorama of ancient people overshadowed by a towering T. rex, Adam and Eve swimming in a river with giant reptiles, and even a scale model of Noah's Ark.

It seems Noah solved the problem of fitting dinosaurs into his vessel by only taking baby dinosaurs. Indeed, the ark has a detailed display of many animals happily boarding the boat: dinosaurs cavort with giraffes, penguins, hippos, and bears.

A team of biologists at Yale University and the University of Sheffield discovered anatomical details about the female reproductive tract in waterfowl that indicate that male and female anatomy have co-evolved in a "sexual arms race."

Researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, have found bonobos and chimpanzees use manual gestures of their hands, feet and limbs more flexibly than they do facial expressions and vocalizations, further supporting the evolution of human language began with gestures as the gestural origin hypothesis of language suggests.


Now we know where we got it from.

Working with two groups of bonobos (13 animals) and two groups of chimpanzees (34 animals), Yerkes researchers Amy Pollick, PhD, and Frans de Waal, PhD, distinguished 31 manual gestures and 18 facial/vocal signals.