We typically think of evolution as a progression from simplicity to complexity. But one organism seems to have thrown the rulebook out the window: a microbial animal that offers a striking example of evolution run “backwards.” »
A new dinosaur species sheds some light on how duck-billed dinosaurs got their crests. Paleontologists say Probrachylophosaurus bergei is a missing link between two other species, and it fills in vital pieces of the story of how crests evolved. »
It’s easy to get excited about new fossil discoveries, but sometimes a second look at an old find can reveal something just as surprising. »
An undergraduate student from the University of Alberta has uncovered the fossilized remains of an Ornithomimus dinosaur with preserved tail feathers and soft tissue. The remarkable specimen is offering important insights into the plumage patterns of these ancient creatures, while tightening the linkages between… »
Vampire bats are the only vertebrates that feed on the blood of other mammals. But the ability to do so may be buried across the tree of life, according to a new study which pinpoints the underlying genetic origins of traits that make a good vampire. »
Meet Pliobates catalonia, an extinct species of ape that roamed the jungles of Catalonia some 11.5 million years ago. Because of this ancient creature’s many surprising physical characteristics, researchers are having to revise their conceptions of what the last common ancestor of all living apes—humans included—might… »
The tuatara isn’t actually a lizard. It’s the last survivor of a 250 million year old group of reptiles that mostly went extinct with the dinosaurs. It doesn’t have a penis, and ironically, that’s made it a linchpin for understanding how penises evolved in vertebrates. »
Homo naledi, the newly discovered species of early hominin announced last month, is drawing a lot of fire from paleoanthropologists. »
Sleeping with only half your brain sounds like a great way to become a zombie in no time, but for certain marine mammals and birds, it’s a way of life. A new study suggests that crocodiles, too, may be “unihemispheric” sleepers, a finding which makes humans and other full-brain snoozers look more and more like… »
The human hand is a marvelous evolutionary invention: it can tie knots, tap out blog posts, wield tools and wire circuit boards. But how did we get these hands, with their long, dextrous fingers and conveniently opposable thumbs? It’s likely that tool-grasping played a role, but according to one evolutionary… »
Most people learn that a species is a group of living things that can interbreed. If two organisms don’t normally mate, or have sterile offspring if they do, they’re from different species. Except that like so many other things you learned in school, the reality is somewhat more... complicated. »
Last month in South Africa, scientists announced the discovery of a new group of early humans called Homo naledi. Now an analysis shows that this hominin had hands capable of both tree climbing and tool use, plus feet that were adapted for walking upright.
Most people think of masturbation as a poor substitute for sex. The question is, why is it a substitute for sex? For most species, it doesn’t seem to achieve any kind of evolutionary purpose. Or does it?
As you sit at your desk and chew your morning muffin, consider the complicated interlocking structure of your jaw. How did you manage to evolve such a thing? What you’re eating through is essentially a badly deformed but useful gill, and we’ll tell you how it got to be that way.
Behold Bunostegos akokanensis, an ancient “pre-reptile” that lived during the Permian era some 260 million years ago. Researchers studying its fossilized remains have concluded that it stood upright on all fours, making it the earliest known creature to do so. »
Humans, bacteria, daffodils: We’re a diverse bunch on the surface, but trace each and every Earthling back far enough, and you’ll arrive at a common ancestor. For the first time, scientists have built a comprehensive tree of life that binds us all together. »