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  • News

    Flight demands may have steered the evolution of bird egg shape

    The mystery of why birds’ eggs come in so many shapes has long been up in the air. Now new research suggests adaptations for flight may have helped shape the orbs.  

    Stronger fliers tend to lay more elongated eggs, researchers report in the June 23 Science. The finding comes from the first large analysis of the way egg shape varies across bird species, from the almost perfectly spherical...

    06/22/2017 - 14:00 Evolution, Animals
  • Science Ticker

    New fossils shake up history of amphibians with no legs

    Newly named fossils suggest that a weird and varied chapter in amphibian deep history isn’t totally over.

    Small fossils about 220 million years old found along steep red slopes in Colorado represent a near-relative of modern animals called caecilians, says vertebrate paleontologist Adam Huttenlocker of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

    Caecilians today have long...

    06/19/2017 - 15:30 Paleontology, Animals, Evolution
  • News

    Ancient attack marks show ocean predators got scarier

    In pumped-up sequels for scary beach movies, each predator is bigger than the last. Turns out that predators in real-world oceans may have upsized over time, too.

    Attack holes in nearly 7,000 fossil shells suggest that drilling predators have outpaced their prey in evolving ever larger bodies and weapons, says paleontologist Adiël Klompmaker of the University of California, Berkeley. The...

    06/15/2017 - 16:12 Paleontology, Evolution
  • News

    Ancient DNA shakes up the elephant family tree

    Fossil DNA may be rewriting the history of elephant evolution.

    The first genetic analysis of DNA from fossils of straight-tusked elephants reveals that the extinct animals most closely resembled modern African forest elephants. This suggests that straight-tusked elephants were part of the African, not Asian, elephant lineage, scientists report online June 6 in eLife.

    Straight-...

    06/13/2017 - 15:08 Evolution, Genetics, Animals
  • News

    Primitive whales had mediocre hearing

    Early on, whale hearing may have been ho-hum.

    Unlike today’s whales that specialize in making  — and hearing — very high- or low-pitched sounds, early whales’ ears probably picked up noises somewhere in the middle, paleontologists Mickaël Mourlam and Maeva Orliac report June 8 in Current Biology.

    Looking at CT scans of ancient whale ear bones allowed the researchers, from the...

    06/09/2017 - 03:00 Paleontology, Animals, Evolution
  • News

    Climate change might help pests resist corn’s genetic weapon

    Climate change might be great news for pests looking to munch on genetically modified crops, researchers propose.

    In particular, researchers analyzed 21 years of data from Maryland cornfields and suggest that rising temperatures might help corn earworms (Helicoverpa zea) develop resistance faster to a widespread genetically built-in crop protection.

    Some commercial varieties of...

    06/08/2017 - 14:23 Climate, Agriculture, Evolution
  • Science Ticker

    Petite parrots provide insight into early flight

    View the video

    When it comes to hopping between branches, tiny parrots try only as hard as they need to. The finding comes from high-speed video taken to measure how Pacific parrotlets (Forpus coelestis) shift momentum from takeoff to landing.

    Bird flight is though to have started with jumping and gliding. When traveling short distances, parrotlets get most of their oomph from...

    05/24/2017 - 09:00 Animals, Biophysics, Evolution
  • News

    Hybrid protein offers malaria protection

    Dogged genetic detective work has led scientists to a hybrid red blood cell protein that offers some protection against malaria.

    Reporting online May 18 in Science, researchers describe a genetic variant that apparently is responsible for the fusion of two proteins that protrude from the membranes of red blood cells. In its hybrid form, the protein somehow makes it more difficult for the...

    05/18/2017 - 14:19 Genetics, Evolution, Immune Science, Biomedicine
  • It's Alive

    Blennies have a lot of fang for such little fishes

    After a recent flurry of news that fang blennies mix an opioid in their venom, a question lingers: What do they need with fangs anyway? Most eat wimpy stuff that hardly justifies whopper canines.

    Not that fang blennies are meek fishes.

    “When they bite, they bite savagely,” says Bryan Fry of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. “If these little jobbies were 3 meters...

    05/16/2017 - 10:00 Animals, Evolution
  • News

    Selfish genes hide for decades in plain sight of worm geneticists

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    A strain of wild Hawaiian worms has helped unmask long-studied genes as just plain selfish. The scammers beat the usual odds of inheritance and spread extra fast by making mother worms poison some of their offspring.

    Biologists have for decades discussed how two genes in the familiar lab nematode Caenorhabditis elegans might help embryos build their organs. Working...

    05/11/2017 - 15:13 Genetics, Evolution, Animals