Evolution

Genome of ancient-looking fish gives clues to first limbed landlubbers

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 17, 2013   View Article

The genome of the coelacanth, an ancient-looking lobed-finned fish, has been sequenced and is already providing insight to the evolutionary changes that allowed the first four-limbed animals, called tetrapods, to crawl out of the water and on to land.

The sequence and preliminary analysis, reported Thursday in the journal Nature by a team spanning 40 research institutions and 12 countries, is a “massive piece of work,” Xiaobo Xu, a paleontologist at Kean University who was not involved in the effort, told NBC News in an email.

Critters evolve rapidly to cope with environmental change

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 8, 2013   View Article

Critters can evolve over just a handful of generations to survive whatever environmental maladies humans toss their way, from climate change to over fishing, suggests a new study.

“That is the first take-home message, and it is a positive message,” Thomas Cameron, a biologist at Umea University in Sweden, told NBC News as he explained his new findings reported Tuesday in the journal Ecology Letters.

Swallows evolve shorter wings to avoid cars, study suggests

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 18, 2013   View Article

Cars and trucks thundering down the road in southwestern Nebraska stand a much lower chance today of smacking a cliff swallow than they did in the 1980s, according to a new study that suggests the birds have evolved shorter wings to pivot away from oncoming traffic.

The adaptation is important for the birds’ survival given that they nest by the thousands under bridges and overpasses there, noted Charles Brown, a biologist at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma who regularly drives those same roads to and from a nearby research station.

Artificial jellyfish engineered out of rat heart muscles

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 22, 2012   View Article

Scientists have made an artificial jellyfish out of rat heart muscles and rubbery silicon. When given an electric shock, it swims just like the real thing.

Future versions should be able to swim and feed by themselves.

“That then allows us to extend their lifetime,” John Dabiri, a professor of aeronautics and bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology, told me.

Evolution defenders to fight climate skeptics

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: January 17, 2012   View Article

A national organization best known for its defense of teaching evolution has added climate change to its agenda in a move that highlights a brewing controversy inside the classroom.

Across the country, teachers and schools boards are being pressured to teach that the science of climate change is controversial when, in fact, it is not, according to the National Center for Science Education.

Robots show randomness in evolution of language

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: January 4, 2012   View Article

Even if everything about different groups of animals is identical down to the level of their genes and physical surroundings, they can develop unique ways to communicate, according to an experiment done with robots that use flashing lights to “talk.”

The Swiss researchers used the robots to get handle on why there is such diversity in communication systems within and between species, something that is difficult to do in living animals.

Australia’s hybrid shark reveals evolution in action

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: January 3, 2012   View Article

Hybrid sharks have been discovered swimming in the waters off Australia’s east coast. The finding may be driven by climate change, a research team says, suggesting such discoveries could be more common in the future.

The hybridization is between the Australian black tip shark which favors tropical waters and the larger, common black tip shark, which favors sub-tropical and temperate waters.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach