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Molecular Evolution

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TINY BUBBLES  Cooking up Earth’s first life probably required many “pots.” Spatial segregation into different pools or separate droplets might have helped the first self-replicating molecules survive. Later, protocells like those shown here provided more stable compartmentalization.

silicon-based life illustration

FREAKY FUTURE Is silicon-based life (illustrated above) out there in the universe? The jury is still out — but with a little help from humans, life on Earth might be able to sprinkle a little silicon in with its carbon.

an african striped mouse

ARTIST IN RODENTS  African striped mice (one shown munching on a thorn tree) evolved a new trick for an old protein. The protein ALX3, which helps direct development of bones and cartilage in the face, also paints light stripes down the rodents’ backs, a new study suggests. Chipmunks independently evolved the same pinstriping method.

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