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  • News

    Key parts of a fruit fly’s genetic makeup have finally been decoded

    Some of the most important chapters in fruit flies’ genetic instruction book have finally been decoded.

    For the first time, researchers have deciphered, or sequenced, the genetic makeup of all of a multicellular organism’s centromeres — and discovered stretches of DNA that may be key in divvying up chromosomes. Errors in doing that job can lead to cancer, birth defects or death. The team...

    05/17/2019 - 12:05 Genetics, Cells, Molecular Evolution
  • News

    Bloodthirsty bedbugs have feasted on prey for 100 million years

    The first bedbug infestations may have occurred in the beds of Cretaceous critters.

    Scientists previously assumed the bloodsuckers’ first hosts were bats. But a new genetic analysis of 34 bedbug species reveals that bedbugs appeared 30 million to 50 million years before the nocturnal mammals, says Michael Siva-Jothy, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sheffield in England,...

    05/16/2019 - 13:47 Molecular Evolution, Animals
  • News

    How emus and ostriches lost the ability to fly

    Evolutionary tweaks to DNA that bosses genes around may have grounded some birds. 

    New genetic analyses show that mutations in regulatory DNA caused ratite birds to lose the ability to fly up to five separate times over their evolution, researchers report in the April 5 Science. Ratites include emus, ostriches, kiwis, rheas, cassowaries, tinamous and extinct moa and elephant birds. Only...

    04/04/2019 - 14:05 Evolution, Genetics, Molecular Evolution
  • News

    Plants engineered to always be on alert don’t grow well

    A tiny weed that slithers up through sidewalk cracks is helping scientists understand the sacrifices that plants make to protect themselves from pests.

    Most plants combat insects and other herbivores by sending out bitter chemicals through their leaves. Now by studying thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), a commonly found member of the mustard family, researchers found that energy spent...

    10/22/2018 - 16:09 Agriculture, Plants, Molecular Evolution
  • News

    Gene editing can speed up plant domestication

    Gene editing can speed up plant domestication, taming wild vines, bushes and grasses and turning them into new crops.

    Editing just two genes in ground cherries (Physalis pruinosa) produced plants that yielded more and bigger fruit, researchers report October 1 in Nature Plants. Those edits mimic changes that occurred in tomato plants during domestication, bringing the sweet tomato...

    10/01/2018 - 11:00 Plants, Genetics, Molecular Evolution
  • News

    A ghost gene leaves ocean mammals vulnerable to some pesticides

    A gene that helps mammals break down certain toxic chemicals appears to be faulty in marine mammals — potentially leaving manatees, dolphins and other warm-blooded water dwellers more sensitive to dangerous pesticides.

    The gene, PON1, carries instructions for making a protein that interacts with fatty acids ingested with food. But that protein has taken on another role in recent decades...

    08/09/2018 - 14:00 Animals, Molecular Evolution, Toxicology
  • News

    The ‘language gene’ didn’t give humans a big leg up in evolution

    Humans’ gift of gab probably wasn’t the evolutionary boon that scientists once thought.   

    There’s no evidence that FOXP2, sometimes called “the language gene,” gave humans such a big evolutionary advantage that it was quickly adopted across the species, what scientists call a selective sweep. That finding, reported online August 2 in Cell, follows years of debate about the role of FOXP2...

    08/03/2018 - 07:00 Genetics, Molecular Evolution, Ancestry