evolution

Human evolution is still happening – possibly faster than ever

Human evolution is still happening – possibly faster than ever

Modern medicine’s ability to keep us alive makes it tempting to think human evolution may have stopped. Better healthcare disrupts a key driving force of evolution by keeping some people alive longer, making them more likely to pass on their genes. But if we look at the rate of our DNA’s evolution, we can see that human evolution hasn’t stopped – it may even be happening faster than before.

How animals went from single cells to over 30 different body types

How animals went from single cells to over 30 different body types

Whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved. So wrote Charles Darwin, in his On the Origin of Species. The origin and evolution of animals is one of the most fascinating questions in modern biology.

A weird thing happened to men about 7,000 years ago

A weird thing happened to men about 7,000 years ago

Starting about 7,000 years ago, and extending over the next two millennia, recent studies suggest, the genetic diversity of men—specifically, the diversity of their Y chromosomes—collapsed. The collapse was so extreme it was as if there were only one man left to mate for every 17 women.

Why do humans have such large brains? Our study suggests ecology was the driving force

Why do humans have such large brains? Our study suggests ecology was the driving force

Most animals have brains in proportion to their body size – species with larger bodies often have larger brains. But the human brain is almost six times bigger than expected for our bodies. This is puzzling, as the brain is very costly – burning 20% of the body’s energy while accounting for only 4% of its mass.

This color-changing fish can ‘see’ with its skin

This color-changing fish can ‘see’ with its skin

Genetic analysis reveals new evidence to explain how the hogfish uses its skin to “see.”The hogfish is a pointy-snouted reef fish that can go from pearly white to mottled brown to reddish in a matter of milliseconds as it adjusts to shifting conditions on the ocean floor.

What the evolution of jealousy tells us about online infidelity

What the evolution of jealousy tells us about online infidelity

It is estimated that by 2020, 2.95 billion people will be using social networks. But while sites like Facebook revolve around the wholesome concepts of friends, likes and shares, they have also become a way for people to cheat on their partners.

Human evolution is more a muddy delta than a branching tree

Human evolution is more a muddy delta than a branching tree

Until recently, anthropologists drew the human family tree in the same way that my 10-year-old son solves a maze. He finds it much easier to work from the end to the beginning, because blind alleys lead with depressing sameness away from the start. In just this way, scientists once traced our own lineage from the present into the past, moving backward through a thicket of fossil relatives, each perched upon its own special branch to extinction.

Introducing ‘dark DNA’ – the phenomenon that could change how we think about evolution

Introducing ‘dark DNA’ – the phenomenon that could change how we think about evolution

DNA sequencing technology is helping scientists unravel questions that humans have been asking about animals for centuries. By mapping out animal genomes, we now have a better idea of how the giraffe got its huge neck and why snakes are so long. Genome sequencing allows us to compare and contrast the DNA of different animals and work out how they evolved in their own unique ways

The evidence that shows dinosaurs were in decline for 40 million years before the asteroid hit

The evidence that shows dinosaurs were in decline for 40 million years before the asteroid hit

When the dinosaurs were wiped off the face of the planet, how did they leave? Was it a slow, plodding decline or a short sharp bang? Back in the 1960s and 1970s, debate about this question was mainly taking place on the ground, at fossil sites in places like Montana. Paleontologist Robert Sloan and his colleagues documented evidence for the long-term decline of dinosaurs over a 10m to 20m-year period. Dinosaurs had been losing out, ever so slowly, to the rising mammals, mainly as a result of cooling climates.

A hidden code in our DNA explains how new pieces of genes are made

A hidden code in our DNA explains how new pieces of genes are made

We’re all here because of mutations. Random changes in genes are what creates variety in a species, and this is what allows it to adapt to new environments and eventually evolve into completely new species. But most random mutations actually disrupt the functions of our genes and so are a common source of genetic diseases.

What do aliens look like? The clue is in evolution

What do aliens look like? The clue is in evolution

Speculating about what aliens look like has kept children, film producers and scientists amused for decades. If they exist, will extra terrestrials turn out to look similar to us, or might they take a form beyond our wildest imaginings? The answer to this question really depends on how we think evolution works at the deepest level.

Humans now drive evolution on Earth, both creating and destroying species

Humans now drive evolution on Earth, both creating and destroying species

In scientific research on human impact the focus is usually aimed at the extinction of species. Nowadays however, scientists are becoming more and more aware of the fact that trough, for example animal domestication, we have also become a driving force of evolution. This driving force that has led to new species, traits and ecosystems.

Living with complexity: evolution, ecology, viruses and climate change

Living with complexity: evolution, ecology, viruses and climate change

Biomedical researchers like me probe the mechanistic basis of health and disease. In a long career working at the discovery end of the spectrum, I’ve been privileged to live through, and make some small contribution to, an extraordinary (and continuing) revolution in medical understanding and human well-being.

Study pinpoints timing of oxygen’s first appearance in Earth’s atmosphere

Study pinpoints timing of oxygen’s first appearance in Earth’s atmosphere

Today, 21 percent of the air we breathe is made up of molecular oxygen. But this gas was not always in such ample, life-sustaining supply, and in fact was largely absent from the atmosphere for the first 2 billion years of Earth’s history. When, then, did oxygen first accumulate in the atmosphere?

‘Resistance-proof’ antibiotics may never exist – but there are some promising alternatives

‘Resistance-proof’ antibiotics may never exist – but there are some promising alternatives

Few will have missed the warnings about the increasing threat from antibiotic resistance and the dire predictions of a looming “post-antibiotic apocalypse”. And we’re right to worry: bugs that are resistant to commonly used antibiotics are affecting our ability to treat and manage infectious disease. Intuitively, the most obvious strategy to tackle this crisis, and to stay one step ahead of the bacteria, would be to identify and develop new antibiotics.