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Evolution

Risk it, even if you’re a shy great tit!

Risk it, even if you’re a shy great tit!

Personality in great tits stretches as far as deciding whether to risk your life for your eggs. Would you go back home if somebody seems to threaten your cosy little nest in some unknown way? Insights into survival, evolution of boldness, domesticity and even our own reactions to stress can be found here!

Fantastic ancient fauna precedes mammal evolution

Fantastic ancient fauna precedes mammal evolution



Animals of unfamiliar as well as familiar types took up niches in the ancient ecosystems, as birds and mammals developed and, of course, feathered dinosaurs ruled the roost!

How fish evolved their migratory habits

How fish evolved their migratory habits



You would expect an evolutionary shift to be a trend, but in one great family of fish, there is little evidence that lightning strikes twice, especially in the same freshwater ecosystem!

Murder by the cannibal neighbours

Murder by the cannibal neighbours

When humans meet, the interbreeding and cross-cultural exchanges show up in history as major advances. When Neanderthals met, it was often only as small family groups, as large tribes are not recorded. If they met for dinner though, the outcome may not have been as you would have thought.

'Tiddlers' become evolutionary models

'Tiddlers' become evolutionary models

Do sticklebacks become larger when they invade the low salinity of freshwater, or do limited resources cause them to become smaller? Both answers are correct, apparently!

Bats and dolphins have a similar genetic heritage

Bats and dolphins have a similar genetic heritage

The thought of bat and whale being related because they have similar hearing is incorrect. If we study a range of species, though, the evolutionary convergences of many kinds of sensory structures is very involving. What's next? Our chimpanzee friends will be developing their typing skills before we know it!

International Day for Biodiversity - 22nd May 2013

International Day for Biodiversity - 22nd May 2013

Biodiversity is the term given to the variety of life on Earth and the natural pattern it forms. The biodiversity we see today is the result of millions of years of evolution, initially shaped by natural processes, but in modern times increasingly as a result of human intervention. We are an integral part of the web of biodiversity and we depend on this web, as does every other life form on the planet.

Bills and Island Songsters

Bills and Island Songsters



Bill size has been investigated in these tunesmiths, with findings proving fruitful for evolutionary theorists. The birds themselves have bigger beak differences on more southerly islands!

Evolving Doors

Evolving Doors

A new study has been published on how environmental change effects the evolutionary process. The question of whether speciation is a quick process or a cold unending and slow bore is nearing an answer.

The Neander Valley has a lot to answer for!

The Neander Valley has a lot to answer for!



A new study on Neanderthals and the evolution of human ancestors' brains has been published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Human brain and body mass

Human brain and body mass

Researchers in Brazil have discovered that fire and/or cooking had to be developed for our diet long before palaeontologists believed possible, around 1.7 million years ago.

Humans certainly know how to wander - but where and when?

Humans certainly know how to wander - but where and when?

63,000 year old skull fragments of modern humans discovered in Laos. Homo sapiens fossils in Asia confirm that 'out of Africa,' humans colonised far and wide, but perhaps earlier than previously thought.

Monitoring lizard dispersal and evolution

Monitoring lizard dispersal and evolution



A new study looks at the origin and evolution of varanid lizards. Many lizards originated in Laurasia but the varanids or monitor lizards have a disputed origins.

Asian primate evolution livened up by an odd-nosed monkey

Asian primate evolution livened up by an odd-nosed monkey

Recently, in Myanmar, an odd-nosed monkey was discovered. Always an exciting event, the primate discovery has livened up the whole of primate evolution.

How Climate Change can affect Human Evolution

How Climate Change can affect Human Evolution



The way that human evolution has historically adapted to climate change and the prevailing environment and the way that modern humans persistently modify their environment and ignore the consequences of changes to the global climate, thus risking the future existance of the human race.

Unique fish are dealt a dodgy deal

Unique fish are dealt a dodgy deal



For three species in the family Notthenioidae, a bleak outlook once again threatens. Climate change is about to deal a double evolutionary deal on a group of Antarctic animals that have adapted well to the icy environment only to lose out to global warming.

Neander Meanderings

Neander Meanderings

In the late Middle Pleistocene, haematite (iron oxide) was carried at least twenty km by Neanderthals. Whether used as red ochre for cave painting and burials as their descendants did 40 thousand years ago, or for other ceremonial or even everyday use, Wil Roebroeks of Leiden University et al have tried to discover.

Living fossil eel takes us back 200 million years

Living fossil eel takes us back 200 million years



Eels are among the most successful of all fish groups, and that extends back through time to the evolution of the bony teleosts themselves. The new species was named Protanguilla palau, complete with a unique family and genus.

Mammal Evolution: Mouse to elephant-size in 24 million generations

Mammal Evolution: Mouse to elephant-size in 24 million generations

It takes 24 million generations for a mammal the size of a mouse to become as large as an elephant, but just 100,000 generations to reverse the process and reach extreme dwarfism, say scientists studying mammal evolution.

Study suggests human behaviour impacts upon seed evolution

Study suggests human behaviour impacts upon seed evolution

Recent study suggests that human behaviour is having previously unsuspected impacts upon seed dispersal and natural selection within seed-dispersing species.

Two new species of frog discovered, one the smallest vertebrate yet

Two new species of frog discovered, one the smallest vertebrate yet

Two new species of frog discovered in New Guinea, one the smallest vertebrate yet. One small step for Paedophryne amauensis is a giant step for the evolution of the tiniest vertebrate footprints anywhere.

Plain faces of primate evolution aid communication

Plain faces of primate evolution aid communication

Primate faces evolve to be simpler and plainer in larger groups, which help them communicate through facial expression, a new study suggests. Their facial evolution also alter according to their environment.

It is important to get a head

It is important to get a head



Lauren Sallan, post-doctoral student at the University of Chicago has equalled her prestigious colleagues with recent achievements in evolutionary understanding. The idea that the development of features in the head precedes that in other areas such as body shape is a hard one to prove.

Hominids, orangutans, and really hard seeds

Hominids, orangutans, and really hard seeds

New research on orangutans can shed light on the evolution of the human species. Sometime in the deep past, one or more hominid species started down an evolutionary path that would eventually lead to us: how exactly did that happen? Now, a recent piece of research on hungry orangutans has contributed something to the discussion.

A genetic tool in the fight against extinctions

A genetic tool in the fight against extinctions



The Brown Argus occurs in southern Britain. It's a butterfly from the family of 'Blues' (It resembles the female Common Blue very closely), widespread in particular habitats. Researchers recently published a paper in Molecular Ecology entitled, ''Evidence for evolutionary change associated with the recent range expansion of the British butterfly in response to climate change.''

Examining Ice Age Hominins' adaptability to Climate Change

Examining Ice Age Hominins' adaptability to Climate Change

Thanks to increases in computer power it is now possible to produce computer models that were previously impossible. Recent computer modelling that has looked at evidence of Hominin groups has given new insights how these groups evolved and coped with climate change during the last Ice Age.

Mammals' heart disease risk may be a quirk of evolution

Mammals' heart disease risk may be a quirk of evolution

Mammals have developed a uniquely efficient blood clotting mechanism, which probably offered a survival advantage. But that same advantage comes at a price: a higher risk of heart disease. The culprits are important components of mammalian blood known as platelets, which helped protect early mammals from injury.

Jumping like a fish out of water

Jumping like a fish out of water



Prof. Alice Gibb watched the catch jump from the net back into the water. It had jumping skills and knew what it wanted to do. Her study of feeding behaviour was abandoned and 'studies of stranding' became the new research aim. By now, she has achieved unbelievable results relevant to the (possibly frequent) evolution of land vertebrates from the fish, more than 300 million years ago.

Tarantula in the scanner unveils its double-beating heart

Tarantula in the scanner unveils its double-beating heart

An innovative use of MRI scanners and tarantulas has revealed intriguing new information about a spider's heart - it may show a double-beat, similar to that felt by humans. The research, being presented at this week's annual conference of the Society for Experimental Biology, in Glasgow, also holds out the possibility of investigating useful properties in spider venom, and the evolution of the brain.

Bird's eye view has four dimensions of color

Bird's eye view has four dimensions of color



The hidden world of the feathered color-spectrum has been mapped out in detail, in a new study of color - as seen from the bird's point of view - just published in Behavioral Ecology, out today. It seems for all their dazzle to our eyes, there is even more possibility for bird's evolutionary display to explore – as two-thirds of possible colors have yet to be painted on their plumage.

Oxygen-poor 'dead zones' ebb and flow across the oceans

Oxygen-poor 'dead zones' ebb and flow across the oceans

Worries about the growth of oxygen-depleted dead zones may be eased by a new study, which models the 50-year evolution of low oxygen tongues and plumes across the oceans. The paper in Science shows that bacteria have a big influence on the ebb and flow of oxygen through the seas – but that a long term decline in oxygen, due to global warming, is still likely.

Massive public evolutionary study sights ¾ million brightly colored snails

Massive public evolutionary study sights ¾ million brightly colored snails



In one of the biggest mass-participation studies of its kind, 6,000 members of the public across Europe have helped document the evolutionary track of banded snails over the last fifty years. The Evolution Megalab project, published today in PloS One, shows that warmer temperatures are influencing snails in some areas – and threw up some interesting surprises.

'Remixes' top humpback whale song charts

'Remixes' top humpback whale song charts

Humpback whale song - Whales singing in the vast expanses of the oceans introduce new song elements into their repertoire each year, creating new 'remixes'. And the most popular tunes quickly ripple across the oceans in a massive cultural interchange that has no known parallels outside of homo sapiens. So say scientists studying Pacific humpback whales.

Evolution stumbling block to strong scientific education in US

Evolution stumbling block to strong scientific education in US



The reluctance of US high school science teachers to teach evolutionary biology is causing a major stumbling block in the provision of a sound scientific education. Evolution is one of those things that you either believe in or you don't and recent research indicates that more than half of US public school science teachers are not strong advocates of evolutionary biology.

The impact of oxygen-poor oceans on the early evolution of animals

The impact of oxygen-poor oceans on the early evolution of animals

How fluctuations in levels of oceanic oxygen affected the early evolution of animal life. The accepted view of the Earth's history is that for its first four billion years it was in an anoxic state and that about 600 million years ago the oceans became oxygen-rich to approximately the degree that they are today.

No nearer to reasons for Neanderthals' extinction

No nearer to reasons for Neanderthals' extinction

US study indicates that Neanderthal extinction was not due to dietry deficiency. Archaeologists cannot agree whether Neanderthals are a separate human species or a subspecies of modern humans.

Did modern man originate in Israel?

Did modern man originate in Israel?

Israeli archaeologists believe that remains found in a cave indicate that Homo sapiens roamed Israel 400,000 years ago.

Neanderthal man: Victim of cannibalism?

Neanderthal man: Victim of cannibalism?

El Sidron in Spain was always a site of mystery thanks to pair of human jawbones discovered there in 1994. They were thought to date back to the Spanish Civil War. In paper released on this week scientists have said that those bones belonged to Neanderthals who died 50,000 years ago.