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Archive for the ‘evolution’ category

Oct 10, 2019

CERN congratulates 2019 physics Nobel Prize winners

Posted by in categories: cosmology, evolution, physics

CERN congratulates James Peebles, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz on the award of the Nobel Prize in physics “for contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth’s place in the cosmos”. Peebles receives the prize “for theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology” and Mayor and Queloz are recognised “for the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star”.

Cosmology studies the universe’s origin, structure and ultimate fate. Peebles’ theoretical framework of cosmology, developed since the mid-1960s, is the foundation of our knowledge of the cosmos today. Thanks to his seminal theoretical work, physicists now have a model that can describe the universe from its earliest moments to the present day, and into the distant future.

Meanwhile, Mayor and Queloz have explored our cosmic neighbourhood and announced in 1995 the first discovery of an exoplanet – a planet outside our Solar System – orbiting a solar-type star in the Milky Way. The discovery of this exoplanet, dubbed 51 Pegasi b, was a milestone in astronomy and has since led to the discovery of more than 4000 exoplanets in our galaxy.

Oct 2, 2019

Josh Mitteldorf — Cracking the Aging Code

Posted by in categories: evolution, existential risks, genetics, life extension, sustainability

New interview with author and researcher Dr. Josh Mitteldorf who runs the aging research blog Aging Matters.


Interview with author and researcher Dr. Josh Mitteldorf who runs the aging research blog ‘Aging Matters’.

Dr. Josh Mitteldorf is an evolutionary biologist and a long-time contributor to the growing field of aging science. His work in this field has focused on theories of aging. He asks the basic question: why do we age and die?

Continue reading “Josh Mitteldorf — Cracking the Aging Code” »

Oct 2, 2019

The Mathematics of Cooperation

Posted by in categories: evolution, mathematics

Cooperation means that one individual pays a cost for another to receive a benefit. Cooperation can be at variance with natural selection: Why should you help a competitor? Yet cooperation is abundant in nature and is an important component of evolutionary innovation. Cooperation can be seen as the master architect of evolution and as the third fundamental principle of evolution beside mutation and selection. I will present mathematical principles of cooperation.

Sep 19, 2019

A Huge Experiment Has ‘Weighed’ the Tiny Neutrino, a Particle That Passes Right Through Matter

Posted by in categories: cosmology, evolution, particle physics

An experiment nearly two decades in the making has finally unveiled its measurements of the mass of the universe’s most abundant matter particle: the neutrino.

The neutrino could be the weirdest subatomic particle; though abundant, it requires some of the most sensitive detectors to observe. Scientists have been working for decades to figure out whether neutrinos have mass and if so, what that mass is. The Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino (KATRIN) experiment in Germany has now revealed its first result constraining the maximum limit of that mass. The work has implications for our understanding of the entire cosmos, since these particles formed shortly after the Big Bang and helped shape the way structure formed in the early universe.

“You don’t get a lot of chances to measure a cosmological parameter that shaped the evolution of the universe in the laboratory,” Diana Parno, an assistant research professor at Carnegie Mellon University who works on the experiment, told Gizmodo.

Sep 18, 2019

Guppies teach us why evolution happens

Posted by in categories: evolution, genetics

Guppies, a perennial pet store favorite, have helped a UC Riverside scientist unlock a key question about evolution:

Do animals evolve in response to the risk of being eaten, or to the environment that they create in the absence of predators? Turns out, it’s the latter.

David Reznick, a professor of biology at UC Riverside, explained that in the wild, guppies can migrate over waterfalls and rapids to places where most predators can’t follow them. Once they arrive in safer terrain, Reznick’s previous research shows they evolve rapidly, becoming genetically distinct from their ancestors.

Sep 17, 2019

Rare 10 million-year-old fossil unearths new view of human evolution

Posted by in category: evolution

Near an old mining town in Central Europe, known for its picturesque turquoise-blue quarry water, lay Rudapithecus. For 10 million years, the fossilized ape waited in Rudabánya, Hungary, to add its story to the origins of how humans evolved.

What Rudabánya yielded was a pelvis—among the most informative bones of a skeleton, but one that is rarely preserved. An international research team led by Carol Ward at the University of Missouri analyzed this new pelvis and discovered that bipedalism—or the ability for people to move on two legs—might possibly have deeper ancestral origins than previously thought.

The Rudapithecus pelvis was discovered by David Begun, a professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto who invited Ward to collaborate with him to study this fossil. Begun’s work on limb bones, jaws and teeth has shown that Rudapithecus was a relative of modern African apes and humans, a surprise given its location in Europe. But information on its posture and locomotion has been limited, so the discovery of a pelvis is important.

Sep 12, 2019

Dietary supplement may help with schizophrenia

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, evolution, neuroscience

A dietary supplement, sarcosine, may help with schizophrenia as part of a holistic approach complementing antipsychotic medication, according to a UCL researcher.

In an editorial published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, Professor David Curtis (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment and QMUL Centre for Psychiatry) suggests the readily available product could easily be incorporated into treatment plans, while calling for clinical trials to clarify the benefit and inform guidelines.

“Sarcosine represents a very logical treatment and the small number of so far do seem to show that it can be helpful. It certainly seems to be safe and some patients report feeling better on it,” he said.

Sep 10, 2019

Chicken study reveals that environmental factors, not just chance, could drive species evolution

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, evolution, genetics

In the version of evolutionary theory most of us are familiar with, randomly occurring variation in traits, caused by mutations in our DNA, can be fixed in a population through natural selection. However, writing in Epigenetics journal, a team of Swedish researchers from Linköping University suggests that mutations that can be caused by environmental changes, not just random chance, might be responsible for species diversity.

Until quite recently, it was assumed that DNA causing new gene variations occurred more or less randomly. While random mutations do occur, recent research has shown that can be altered by environmental influences too. According to a study published in Epigenetics journal, a particular type of mutation, linked to , has, over time, led to new animal breeds—and could be responsible for whole new species.

Sep 8, 2019

The skull of humanity’s oldest known ancestor is changing our understanding of evolution

Posted by in category: evolution

The recent discovery of a 3.8m-year-old cranium (skull without the lower jaw) is the hottest topic of conversation among palaeoanthropologists right now. But fossils are found all the time, so why is the cranium of this small, old man so important? It turns out the discovery is changing our view of how early hominin species evolved – and how they led to humans. To understand how, let’s start at the beginning.

In 1995, researchers found several partial jaws, isolated teeth and limb bones in Kenya, dated between 4.2m and 3.9m years old, and assigned them to a brand new species: Australopithecus anamensis. All these fossils were found in sediments associated with an ancient lake – “anam”, which means lake in the local language. A number of additional specimens were then found in Ethiopia, thought to belong to the same species.

The primitive features of A. anamensis have led to the widespread view that this species is the ancestor of Australopithecus afarensis, a younger hominin from Tanzania, Ethiopia and perhaps Kenya, dated between 3.8m and 3m years old. The most iconic fossil of A. afarensis is probably the partial skeleton known as Lucy, which was for a long time viewed as the oldest known human ancestor.

Sep 3, 2019

Undercover evolution: Our individuality is encrypted in our DNA, but it is deeper than expected

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, encryption, evolution, genetics

Providing a glimpse the hidden workings of evolution, a group of researchers at UC Santa Barbara have discovered that embryos that appear the same can start out with surprisingly different instructions.

“We found that a lot of undercover evolution occurs in ,” said Joel Rothman, a professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, who led the team.

Indeed, although members of the same species are identical across the vast majority of their genomes, including all the genetic instructions used in development, Rothman and his colleagues found that key parts of the assembly instructions used when embryos first start developing can differ dramatically between individuals of the same species.

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