Rain as acidic as undiluted lemon juice may have played a part in killing off plants and organisms around the world during the most severe mass extinction in Earth’s history. About 252 million years ago, the end of the Permian period brought about a worldwide collapse known as the Great Dying, during which a vast majority of species went extinct. The cause of such a massive extinction is a matter of scientific debate.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers...
Earth’s oldest sedimentary rocks are not only rare...
Scientists have puzzled for centuries over how and why multicellular organisms evolved the...
Digs over the years at the La Brea Tar Pits in the heart of Los Angeles have unearthed bones of mammoths, mastodons, saber-toothed cats and dire wolves that became trapped in ponds of sticky asphalt. But it's the smaller discoveries, like plants, insects and rodents, that in recent years are shaping scientists' views of life in the region 11,000 to 50,000 years ago.
A British scientist says he may have solved the mystery of the Abominable Snowman, the elusive ape-like creature of the Himalayas. DNA analysis conducted by Oxford Univ. genetics professor Bryan Sykes suggests the creature, also known as the Yeti, is the descendant of an ancient polar bear.
The discovery of a 1.8-million-year-old skull of a human ancestor buried under a medieval Georgian village provides a vivid picture of early evolution and indicates our family tree may have fewer branches than some believe, scientists say. The fossil is the most complete pre-human skull uncovered.
Enhanced growth of Earth's leafy greens during the 20th century has significantly slowed the planet's transition to being red-hot, according to the first study to specify the extent to which plants have prevented climate change since pre-industrial times. Researchers based at Princeton Univ. found that land ecosystems have kept the planet cooler by absorbing billions of tons of carbon, especially during the past 60 years.
Darwin referred to the origin of species as "that mystery of mysteries," and even today, more than 150 years later, evolutionary biologists cannot fully explain how new animals and plants arise. For decades, nearly all research in the field has been based on the assumption that the main cause of the emergence of new species, a process called speciation, is the formation of barriers to reproduction between populations. Until now.
Steven Benner of Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology will tell geochemists gathering Thursday at the annual Goldschmidt conference that an oxidized mineral form of the element molybdenum, which may have been crucial to the origin of life, could only have been available on the surface of Mars and not on Earth.
Communities in nature are likely to be a lot more sensitive to change than previously thought, according to a new study at Rice Univ. The study shows that scientists concerned about human influence on the biosphere need to take a deeper look at how altering the dynamics of a population—for example, by removing large members of a species through overfishing—can have measurable consequences.
Out of the estimated 23,000 or more genes in the human genome, about 100 of them will differ, they will be present or not, between any two individuals. Genes lost or gained over time result from evolution and adaptation, as species respond through the years to their environment and other influences.
Sugars are important sources of energy for all organisms. Virginia Tech researchers have discovered that certain types of sugars, known as polysaccharides, may also control the timing and placement of minerals that animals use to produce hard structures such as shells and exoskeletons of mollusks, lobsters, and shrimp.
The chemical components crucial to the start of life on Earth may have primed and protected each other in never-before-realized ways, according to new research led by Univ. of Washington scientists. It could mean a simpler scenario for how that first spark of life came about on the planet.
In a twist on "survival of the fittest," researchers have discovered that evolution is driven not by a single beneficial mutation but rather by a group of mutations, including ones called "genetic hitchhikers" that are simply along for the ride. These hitchhikers are mutations that do not appear to have a role in contributing to an organism's fitness and therefore its evolution, yet may play an important role down the road.
A new mathematical theory from the Univ. of Bath is challenging one of the most basic ideas of biology—that the concept of a ‘species’ applies to all creatures. The new results suggest that classifying very small creatures from extremely large populations into species may actually be impossible. This is because for large populations, the gradual build-up over time of random genetic mutations leads to an overwhelming amount of diversity.
At the end of the last Ice Age, as the world began to warm, a brief pulse of biological productivity in the Pacific Ocean gave rise to large numbers of phytoplankton, foraminifera and other creatures. Researchers have hypothesized that iron sparked this surge of ocean life, but a new study determines instead that “perfect storm” of nutrients and light spurred the bloom.
Archaeologists say they have discovered some of the world's oldest known primitive writing, dating back 5,000 years, in eastern China, and some of the markings etched on broken axes resemble a modern Chinese character. The inscriptions are about 1,400 years older than the oldest written Chinese language, although some scholars are divided over whether the markings are words or something simpler.
Humans are amazing throwers. We are unique among all animals, including our closest living relative, the chimpanzee, in our ability to throw projectiles at high speeds and with incredible accuracy. This trait was critical to the survival and success of our ancestors, aiding their hunting and protective skills, according to National Science Foundation-funded research.
It's a big year for throwing. The greatest closer in baseball history, Mariano Rivera of the Yankees, is retiring. Aroldis Chapman, the overpowering Cincinnati Reds reliever, continues to fire fastballs beyond 100 mph. And now some scientists say they've figured out when our human ancestors first started throwing with accuracy and firepower, as only people can: Nearly 2 million years ago.
Scientists at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California have performed the first complete chemical analysis of feathers from Archaeopteryx, a famous fossil linking dinosaurs and birds. The new study, which revises understanding of the evolution of plumage, reveals that the feathers were patterned—light in color, with a dark edge and tip—rather than all black, as previously thought.
A Cornell Univ. study offers further proof that the divergence of humans from chimpanzees some 4 to 6 million years ago was profoundly influenced by mutations to DNA sequences that play roles in turning genes on and off. The study provides evidence for a 40-year-old hypothesis that regulation of genes must play an important role in evolution since there is little difference between humans and chimps in the proteins produced by genes.
Early Earth was not very hospitable when it came to jump starting life. In fact, new research shows that life on Earth may have come from out of this world. A team of scientists found that icy comets that crashed into Earth millions of years ago could have produced life building organic compounds, including the building blocks of proteins and nucleobases pairs of DNA and RNA.
A six-year collaboration between industry and the University of Wisconsin-Madison RFID Lab has achieved a major milestone with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearing the first RFID-enabled solution to improve the safety and efficiency of the nation's blood supply.
A perfectly preserved woolly mammoth carcass with liquid blood has been found on a remote Arctic island, fueling hopes of cloning the Ice Age animal, Russian scientists said Thursday. The carcass was in such good shape because its lower part was stuck in pure ice, said Semyon Grigoryev, the head of the Mammoth Museum, who led the expedition into the Lyakhovsky Islands off the Siberian coast.
A disease in songbirds has rapidly evolved to become more harmful to its host at least twice in two decades, scientists report. The research offers a model to help understand how diseases that threaten humans may change in virulence as they become more prevalent in a host population.
Stromatolites (“layered rocks”) are structures made of calcium carbonate and shaped by the actions of photosynthetic cyanobacteria and other microbes that trapped and bound grains of coastal sediment into fine layers. According to recent research, the widespread and mysterious disappearance of stromatolites may have been driven by single-celled organisms called foraminifera.
A team of researchers has captured images of green alga consuming bacteria, offering a glimpse at how early organisms dating back more than 1 billion years may have acquired free-living photosynthetic cells. This acquisition is thought to have been a critical first step in the evolution of photosynthetic algae and land plants.
For decades, people have been getting rid of cockroaches by setting out bait mixed with poison. But in the late 1980s, in an apartment test kitchen in Florida, something went very wrong. A killer product stopped working. Cockroach populations there kept rising. Mystified researchers tested and discarded theory after theory until they finally hit on the explanation.
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