Taxonomy term

evolution

Evolution of eyes, not limbs, led fish onto land

In the Middle Devonian, roughly 385 million years ago, the first vertebrates began making their way out of water. For these pioneering fish, the adaptation of fins into limbs facilitated the transition. But in a new study, researchers have found that millions of years before fully functional terrestrial limbs evolved, some fish were developing better eyesight — an evolutionary adaptation they suggest gave an advantage to fish hunting insects near the shore.

28 Jun 2017

The only Earth: Exploring the link between plate tectonics and life on the blue planet

Earth is the only planet known to have plate tectonics and life. Could that be a coincidence? Most geoscientists don't think so. In fact, it seems that plate tectonics is fundamental to life itself.

18 Jun 2017

Horses evolved to get along: Competition between species not main evolutionary driver

Horses have changed size and shape dramatically over the last 20 million years, evolving from small dog-sized creatures with multiple toes into the large, hoofed grazing animals we see today. But the factors that drove these changes have been unclear. In a new study in Science, scientists tested the long-held theory that horses evolved rapidly to compete with one another during the worldwide expansion of grasslands starting 18 million years ago.

07 Jun 2017

Meteorites did not spark Ordovician biodiversification

During the Ordovician Period, roughly 470 million years ago, an asteroid the size of a small moon collided with another rocky object in the belt between Mars and Jupiter, shattering the asteroid into billions of pieces. Fragments from the epic collision still occasionally fall to Earth today, making up a large share of the meteorites recovered. But in the immediate wake of the Ordovician event, many pieces rained down on the planet, settling on the surface and in layers of rock forming at the time. In a new study, researchers studying some of these meteorite-rich layers have refined the timescale for the collision. The results bring into question a proposed link between the meteorite bombardment and an evolutionary uptick known as the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event (GOBE).

23 May 2017

Improved genetic simulations identify human genes passed down from Neanderthals, Denisovans

You could have your mother to blame for a predisposition to baldness, but you might need to thank a Neanderthal for your ability to fight off disease. In the past decade, researchers have identified a number of genes in the human genome that they believe originated in Homo sapiens’ close evolutionary kin, Neanderthals and Denisovans. Now, a study published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution has identified additional traces of such archaic genes in modern human DNA. 

07 Dec 2016

Comment: Did life start on a snowball?

Somewhere toward the end of the Hadean, life emerged on Earth. Conventional wisdom suggests the Hadean was a hothouse, but what if instead it were a global icehouse? Could life still have emerged?

06 Oct 2016

Seeds may have saved bird-like dinosaurs from extinction

About 66 million years ago, nearly three-quarters of life on Earth, including all species of nonavian dinosaurs, were wiped out. However, a few species survived the mass extinction event, including the Neornithes, the ancestors of modern birds. A new study suggests they may have done so by relying on seeds when other food sources were scarce.

04 Aug 2016

Jawless fish more like jawed fish than thought

Vertebrates come in all shapes and sizes, but the one thing almost all have in common are jaws, which developed early in vertebrate evolution. Jawless fish, which evolved about 530 million years ago and are thought to be more primitive than their jawed relatives, are an exception. According to a new study, however, the brains of jawless fish have more in common with the brains of jawed vertebrates than previously thought.

24 Jul 2016

Giant armadillo look-alikes really were giant armadillos

Due to coincidences of evolution, extinct creatures sometimes resemble living animals, even if they’re not actually related. But in a new study looking at the family tree of glyptodonts, armored beasts resembling giant armadillos that once roamed South America, researchers have found that the animals actually were early relatives of modern armadillos.

24 Jun 2016

Bat signals

Bats, the only true-flight mammals, first appeared during the Early Eocene after a period of acute global warming known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Despite decades of study, however, much remains unknown about bats. Recent discoveries are shedding new light on the natural history of these creatures, which today comprise one of the most diverse mammalian groups.

07 Apr 2016

Pages