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Articles related to evolution

Cover Story: Survival of the Sexiest
“Survival of the fittest” never applied to beards, so why did they evolve and what role do they play in mate selection in modern society?
Cover Story: Gene Drives: A Way to Genetically Engineer Populations
Gene drives occur when a bias in the mechanism of inheritance spreads particular genetic variants through a population. Developments in gene-editing technology now make it possible to construct gene drives that address problems in health, agriculture and conservation.
Browse: Fish out of water are more common than thought
Feature: Driving Mosquitoes out of Town
Existing techniques to control mosquito-borne diseases are coming up short. Can gene drives offer hope to the millions affected?
Browse: Tassie Devils Are Evolving Resistance to Facial Tumours
Cover Story: Species Are Shrinking
An ingenious experiment has revealed the physiological reasons why many species are becoming smaller in response to global warming, overhunting and overfishing.
Feature: Jumping Genes and the Spectacular Evolution of Flowering Plants
The emergence and rapid rise of flowering plants is one of the most extraordinary and yet still not fully explained phenomena in evolutionary history. Could what Darwin himself called an “abominable mystery” be caused by jumping genes?
Feature: The First Breath
The African reedfish Polypterus has revealed how breathing first evolved in terrestrial animals, and perhaps how the structures of the ear first formed.
Feature: Gene Drives for Conservation
Gene drives may provide a novel tool to counteract seemingly unstoppable threats to global biodiversity.
Feature: The Evolving Story of Heredity
Biologists are discovering that there is a lot more to heredity than genes. In the latest twist, it turns out that offspring size in an Australian fly species can be determined by the diet of its mother’s previous mating partner.
Feature: The Future of Pest Control Lies Within (the Pest)
Gene drives could improve global food security by turning pest biology against itself.
Browse: Corals Have the Genes to Adapt to Warmer Oceans
Browse: Genes Could Get the Jump on Cane Toads
Feature: The Boring Billion
Trace element levels in the ocean over the past 3.5 billion years explain important evolutionary events such as the Cambrian explosion of life and a “boring” billion years when evolution stood still.
© Peter Schouten from Feathered Dinosaurs: The Origin of Birds
Feature: Survival of the Littlest
Birds co-existed with their dinosaur ancestors for nearly 100 million years, but eventually outlived them. Two new studies have revealed why.
Feature: Gene Drives: A Fork in the Road for the GMO Debate
What are the moral and ethical concerns about gene drives, and how should the technology be regulated?
Browse: Fish Fossil May Reveal Origin of Human Teeth
An adult female green turtle returning to the sea after nesting. T. Franc
Feature: Mother Knows Best
Why do turtles lay eggs when their close relatives evolved live birth? A study of their reproductive physiology reveals how egg-laying improves the survival prospects of hatchlings.
Browse: Gender Behaviours Inherited from Social Environment
The skull of Homo floresiensis (right) is much smaller than ours (left).
Feature: Big Questions about Little Hominins
The discovery of diminutive human fossils in Indonesia has challenged paradigms in human evolution – and has therefore been highly controversial. How strong is the evidence that Homo floresiensis is a separate species and not a stunted modern human?
Feature: Survival of the Different
If evolution is about survival of the fittest, why does diversity emerge instead of perfectly evolved organisms that are fit in all environments? Now the complex trade-offs that shape the evolution of diversity have been measured.
Browse: Shark Declines Can Lead to Fish with Smaller Eyes and Tails
Photo: Guy Nolch
Feature: Why the Long Face?
The jaw strength of crocodiles can be predicted by simple linear measurements that could provide new insights into the diets of extinct marine reptiles.
Credit: Johan Larson/Adobe
Feature: Genetic “Backburning” Can Stop Cane Toads
Could the cane toad’s march through the Kimberley be stopped in its tracks by introducing less-dispersive toads ahead of the invasion front?
Browse: Males Make Fast Sperm for Sisters
Tiger snakes on Chappell Island
Feature: Shape-Shifters
Genetic analyses reveal that Australia’s land and sea snakes have rapidly evolved different body shapes and sizes to suit the local prey available, from fat muttonbird chicks to eels hiding in narrow crevices.
Browse: Groundwater Access Ensured Hominin Survival Browse: Ancient Pilbara Microbes Push Back Date for First Life
Microbial ecosystems have been found in the oldest suitable rocks on the planet, 3.5 billion-year-old sedimentary sequences in the Pilbara.
Browse: Europeans Came from Three Ancient Populations
A large female golden orb-web spider
Feature: Along Came a Spider
The comparative size and weight of two animals determines the outcome of 80% of fights. Now a small spider has revealed the physiological factors that help explain the other 20% of contests.
Credit: travenian /iStockphoto
Feature: Did Standing Up Drive Human Evolution?
Watching a toddler learn to walk has led to a new hypothesis that bipedalism drove the evolution of the human brain.
The first act of copulation in vertebrates
Feature: A Kink in the History of Sex
The discovery of the first vertebrate to have copulated reveals not only the genesis of different male and female forms but also some surprising kinks in how sex has evolved.
Browse: How Urban Sea Snakes Lost Their Stripes Browse: Researchers Uncover New Zealand’s First Fossils Preserved in Amber
Cover Story: New Ideas about the Neanderthal Extinction
Were modern humans so superior that they drove Neanderthals to extinction, or did their lonely existence leave them genetically vulnerable?
Browse: Pokies Machine Tests Wallaby Vision
Wallabies with an interest in computer games have revealed intriguing questions about the evolution of marsupial eyesight.
Browse: Pit of Bones Reveals Neandertal Evolution Browse: Humans Survived in the Indonesian Rainforest 70,000 Years Ago
Browse: Penguins Evolved After Islands Formed
 Credit: BirdImages/iStockphoto
Feature: Flower Evolution from the Birds to the Bees
Walking around in the Australian bush we can see a dazzling array of different flower colours, but have you ever wondered how and why these evolved?
Browse: Primitive Microbes Stole Genes on a Surprising Scale
Credit: kapley/iStockphoto
Feature: Our Evolutionary Origins Expose Cancer’s Weakness
The evolution of cellular regulation has inspired a new model of cancer that predicts ways to attack its weaknesses instead of its strengths.
Credit: TKphotography64
Feature: The Ancestor of All Flowers
An international collaborative project has reconstructed the ancestor of all modern flowering plants. What can it tell us about the evolution of this important group?
Browse: Weeds Still Evolving Invasive Potential
Browse: Microbes Drove the Evolution of Sex Browse: The Role of Promiscuous Females in Evolution
Browse: Fossils Crash Bandicoot and Bilby Ages
An ancient bilby fossil discovered at the Riversleigh World Heritage site in north-west Queensland has pushed back the date when these endangered marsupials first evolved.
Browse: Mirror-Eyes Reflect Evolution of Vision
A small tropical fish uses mirror-eyes on the side of its head to help see its prey in the darkness of the deep sea habitat, according to research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Browse: Theory of the Evolution of Sexes Tested with Algae Browse: Insects Evolved Flight When Plants First Grew Tall
Browse: Theory of the Evolution of Sexes Tested with Algae Browse: Atmospheric Gases Enough to Support Life
Credit: k_e_n/Adobe
Feature: What’s Jumped Into Your DNA?
DNA elements that can transfer between species make up an astonishing 17% of the human genome, and have been associated with schizophrenia and cancer.
Feature: Cultural Evolution in Darwin’s Finches
A new study is analysing the songs of Darwin’s finches to determine the role of cultural evolution in speciation.
Browse: Legless on Land
In another blow to proponents of Intelligent Design, clues have been found to the evolution of one of the world’s oddest fish, the Pacific leaping blenny (Alticus arnoldorum).
Feature: Surviving Extinction in the Abyss
A new study finds evidence that deep-sea creatures survived periods when the oceans contained little or no oxygen.
Different phytoplankton species, including diatoms and algae. Image courtesy of
Feature: The Ghosts of Climate Past – and of Climate Future
Ancient plankton DNA is revealing how marine ecosystems have responded to long-lasting changes in past climate – and enabling us to predict the future.
Cover Story: Is It a Bird or a Dinosaur?
As a new specimen of Archaeopteryx is unveiled, scientists argue whether this famous creature is a true bird or just another bird-like dinosaur.
Propithecus diadema, the diademed sifaka.  Credit: Mitchell Irwin
Cover Story: Escape to Madagascar
Madagascar’s bizarre assemblage of fauna didn’t evolve from the fossils found on the island, so how did they get there?
T. rex
Cover Story: Were dinosaurs warm-blooded?
An analysis of muscular power reveals that cold-blooded crocodiles are poor models for our beliefs about dinosaur physiology.
Credit: enterlinedesign/adobe
Cover Story: Creationism Evolves
It’s 10 years since US legislation drafted to stop the teaching of “intelligent design” was ruled unconstitutional, yet anti-evolution legislation continues to replicate and “evolve” across the USA.
Credit: Camilo Maranchón García /123RF
Cover Story: Neandertal Life Reconstructed One Bacterium at a Time
Fossilised dental calculus is revealing that Neandertals weren’t the oafish brutes we’ve long considered them to be.
A fossil compound eye, around 515 million years old, from the Emu Bay Shale.
Feature: Rapid Evolution? The Eyes Have It
The discovery of exquisite fossils on Kangaroo Island reveal that complex eyes evolved very rapidly during evolution’s Big Bang, the Cambrian explosion, half a billion years ago.
Feature: How Jumping Genes Drove Primate Evolution
Jumping genes have been important in the evolution of higher primates, leading to faster brain function, improved foetal nourishment, useful red-green colour discrimination and greater resistance to disease-causing microbes – and even the loss of fat storage genes in gibbons.
Photo: Ruth Arcus
Feature: Enzyme Evolution Reveals Earth’s Inhospitable Past
The reconstruction of a one-billion-year-old enzyme paints a picture of a hot and hostile past.
Artist’s reconstruction of Metaspriggina walcotti. Credit: Maryanne Collins
Feature: The World’s Oldest Fishes
Just 6 cm long and lacking fins and bone, the world’s oldest fish looked more like a worm yet it was the most advanced creature on Earth about 518 million years ago.
Cover of the March 2014 edition of Plant Cell. Artwork by Scot Nicholls, Domokun
Feature: A Protein Is Born
It used to be thought that new proteins only evolved as a result of gradual changes to existing genes, but recent studies are showing that completely new genes and proteins often evolve suddenly. Now Australian researchers have predicted the biochemical events that allowed an enzyme-blocking protein to evolve “from scratch” in sunflowers.
What came first: the kiwi or its enormous egg? Credit: Rod Morris Photography
Feature: Flight of the Kiwi
How did large flightless birds such as emus, ostriches and kiwis disperse around the globe? Surprisingly, it seems they flew everywhere.
A pig painting and hand stencil from Leang Timpuseng.
Feature: Pigs, Popcorn and the Origins of Prehistoric Art
The discovery of 40,000-year-old cave paintings in Indonesia has changed our understanding of the origins of art and modern culture worldwide.
Stephen Munro examines casts of Homo erectus.
Feature: Shellfish Engravings Mark the Rise of Man
Digital images of ancient shellfish have revealed markings that, according to conventional wisdom, simply shouldn’t have been there.
The evolutionary tree of modern birds estimated from genomic data.
Feature: The Big Bang of Bird Evolution
Genome studies have revealed whether the extinction of dinosaurs coincided with the rapid diversification of birds.
Credit: Henry Cook
Feature: Wallabies Rock the Basis of Speciation
Six rock-wallaby species in Queensland have different numbers of chromosomes, yet gene flow somehow occurs between them. What does this tell us about how new species form?
Feature: The Giant Rats of Timor
Giant rats coexisted with humans for 40,000 years on the island of Timor. Their extinction is a cautionary tale about the ecological consequences of deforestation in South-East Asia today.
Credit: Peter Trusler
Feature: An Ancient Case of Mistaken Identity?
The megafaunal bird Genyornis was six times larger than an emu. Why, then, was its egg the same size? Or was it?
The skull of a woma python
Feature: Out of the Mouths of Snakes
DNA analysis and 3D imaging have revealed how snakes evolved their huge gape independently across different lineages.
Feature: Fool’s Gold & the Ascent of Man
Ancient samples of pyrite, or fool’s gold, have revealed the role of plate tectonics in bursts of evolution and mass extinction events. Did man ultimately originate from mega-mountains?
Feature: Were Termites the World’s First Farmers?
New trace fossils from the African Rift Valley reveal evidence for the origins of agriculture, not by humans but by insects.
Credit: Peter McDonald
Feature: Something New, but Old, from Australia’s Dead Heart
The identification of an ancient gecko species discovered hiding in Central Australia has provided new insights into how and when Australia’s deserts began to form 10 million years ago.
Feature: The World’s Most Interesting Genome
Sequencing of the genome of a pure-bred dingo pup rescued from the side of a remote desert track will enable scientists to examine one of Charles Darwin’s few remaining untested theories.
Feature: Are We Still Domesticating the Wolf?
Modern wolves are being drawn to human sources of food, with serious implications for their evolution and conservation, as well as for ecosystems and humans communities in general.
Feature: Along Came a Spider
Genetic studies reveal that trapdoor spiders colonised Kangaroo Island after surviving a remarkable rafting journey from South Africa.
Feature: A Plasmid Goes Viral
No one really knows how viruses evolved, but scientists looking for Antarctic viruses from extremely cold and salty lakes have discovered new clues.
Feature: Mountains Drove Bursts of Evolution and Extinction
Bursts of evolution and mass extinction events coincide with mountain-building events that have influenced nutrient levels in the oceans.
Feature: The Evolution of Sexes
Sex does not depend on the existence of different sexes. Instead, males and females may be the result of genetic conflict arising from the evolution of large and complex individuals.
Credit: Bernard Dupont
Feature: Know Your Enemy
An ingenious experiment has tested whether shared evolutionary history enables bilbies to detect threats from dingoes but not feral cats.
Credit: Phil Spark
Feature: What Do Genomes Have To Say About Marsupial History?
Marsupials have walked on Australia for tens of millions of years, and include iconic species like the kangaroo, wombat and bilby. New methods for studying the genomes of marsupials have revealed some surprising aspects of their evolution.
Feature: The Tree That Waters Itself
Island gigantism might have driven the evolution of one of the most bizarre adaptations in the plant kingdom.
Feature: Evolution on an Ecological Scale
Darwin’s theory of natural selection may be simple and intuitive, but some of its key assumptions are now being called into question.
The beach daisy growing on the east coast of Australia.
Feature: Daisy Chains Unshackle Evolution’s Speed Limit
The rapid evolution of an introduced beach daisy reveals how much we underestimate the ability of plants to adapt to climate change.
Browse: Little Gap in Tooth Evolution
Teeth may have evolved earlier than previously recognised following the latest discovery from the rich Devonian fossil site at Gogo in the Kimberleys.
Browse: Moa Affected Plant Evolution Browse: Dingo Skull Resists Cross-Breeding
Browse: Evolution Goes Back to the Drawing Board Browse: Sea Snakes Have Extra Sense
Browse: Plants Respond to Touch Browse: Evolution Has Spared Some Organs from Cancer
Browse: Devil’s Bigger Extinct Cousin Discovered Browse: Wren DNA Reshapes NZ Geological Theory
Browse: Prehistoric Whale Fossil Reveals How Whales Evolved Baleen Browse: New Zealand fish and chips hold human DNA clues
Browse: Australia’s Giant Flightless Fowl’s Far-Flung Family Browse: UV in Lizard’s Blue Tongue Evolved to Scare Predators
Browse: A 150-million-year old piranha-like fish is first to eat flesh Browse: Showy Males Have Smaller Testicles
Browse: New Wallaby-Sized Dinosaur Emerges from Gippsland Cool Careers: Darwinian Relic Survives
DNA analysis reveals that a species with a significant place in scientific history may not be extinct after all.
Cool Careers: Learning about Life from Waves
Nail Akhmediev believes that the creation of rogue waves at sea could be a useful template for the conditions that gave rise to life on Earth.
Fossil File: Scans Reveal Our Fishy Ancestry
A synchrotron scan of a 400 million-year-old fish has revealed how far back our own facial structures evolved, and a 28 million-year-old toothed whale fossil has revealed the origins of echolocation in modern whales.
Fossil File: The Rise of Arthropods
Spectacular arthropod fossils have shed light on their early anatomy, and might one day help resolve the mystery of their distant origins.
Fossil File: The Placoderm Renaissance
Placoderm fish were once thought to be an evolutionary dead end, but new evidence is rewriting their importance to the ancestry of all jawed animals – including humans.
Fossil File: The Cutting Edge of Palaeontology
New techniques are enabling palaeontologists to test hypotheses about major evolutionary transitions.
Fossil File: A Gold Medal for the World’s Oldest Life
To enable science to match media coverage of sport, maybe we need to award some gold medals.
Fossil File: The Birth of Filter-Feeding Giants Fossil File: The Rise of Spiders and Roaches
Tiny fossils preserved in amber reveal when spiders evolved their ability to spin webs and cockroaches first spread across the globe.
Fossil File: The Oldest Lizards, Salty Amphibians and Dandruffy Dinosaurs
While dinosaur dandruff and salt-tolerance in tetrapods have palaeontologists excited, the recent auction of fossil bones is a sore point.
Fossil File: Kangaroo Teeth Tell Their Story of Evolution
An analysis of kangaroo teeth reveals a rapid burst of evolution in response to the expansion of grassland rather than drier climate conditions.
Naked Skeptic: Darwin’s Aussie Epiphany
Long before he struck upon his theory of natural selection, Charles Darwin experienced a revelation while exploring the Blue Mountains.
Out of this World: Bringing Building Blocks of Life to Earth from Space
New research supports the view that meteorites kickstarted life on Earth, and Australian astronomers have measured how a galaxy’s spin affects its shape.
Out of this World: Bringing the Building Blocks of Life Down to Earth
Astronomers find more evidence for how life began in Earth, and send a greeting to a red dwarf with two habitable planets.
Quandary: How IVF Is Changing Human History
Since IVF bypasses infertility it must also be having an effect on human evolution.
Simon Says: Deselecting “Evolition”
A report that whooping cough had evaded the current vaccine by mutating epitomises misconceptions about evolution.
Up Close: The cost of cognition: The blessing and curse of human brain complexity
Neuroscientist Prof Seth Grant explains how genetics gave rise to the modern human brain, and how the very complexity that characterises our brains makes them vulnerable to neurological diseases that reveal themselves in mental illness.
Up Close: The necessity of kindness: Altruism in animals and beyond
Evolutionary biologist and historian of science Prof Lee Dugatkin joins Dr Andi Horvath to discuss displays of altruism in insects, animals and humans, and how the often harsh evolutionary imperatives of survival can actually accommodate, promote or depend on acts of kindness and justice.
Up Close: Slippery descent: Untangling the complexity of our evolutionary history
Renowned paleoanthropologist Bernard Wood explains how continuing research into fossil and other evidence of our evolutionary history produces insights but also reveals how much we have yet to learn. How good, for example, are we at telling our recent ancestors and close relatives from those of the apes? How can we know how many species preceded our own? And can we tell which of those species are our ancestors, and which are non-ancestral close relatives?
Up Front: A New Twist in the DNA Revolution
Gene drives take genetic modification to the population level, with applications in health, conservation and agriculture, but there are also practical and ethical concerns.
Online Feature: Defining ‘human’ – new fossils provide more questions than answers
Study finds evidence for new evolutionary line of prehistoric humans in East Asia.
Online Feature: Cave of the Monkeys find complicates our Asia story
Did our Asian story just get more complicated?
Online Feature: Fishing in the Desert
Scientists have gone fishing in desert boreholes and found some unique ecosystems and evolutionary adaptations.
Online Feature: Extraordinary 'missing link' fossil fish found in China
Discovery gives us powerful new insights about the building of the human body plan, which began seriously with these ancient fossil fishes.
Online Feature: Of heads and headlines: can a skull doom 14 human species?
A newly discovered 1.8 million-year-old skull from Eastern Europe has been pitched as disproving a decades-old paradigm in human evolution.
Online Feature: Getting to the Root of Enamel Evolution
Scientists have identified how natural selection may have acted to give modern human teeth their thick enamel, one gene at a time.
Online Feature: Temper trap: the genetics of aggression and self-control
A new study concludes that people who are genetically predisposed toward aggression have inefficient functioning in brain regions that control emotions.
Online Feature: Born this way? An evolutionary view of 'gay genes'
New research supports this claim that particular genes influence sexuality.
Online Feature: Why so many domesticated mammals have floppy ears
Take a look at several domesticated mammal species and you might spot a number of similarities between them, including those cute floppy ears.
Browse: Koala Virus Gives Researchers a Live Look at the Evolution of Junk DNA in Humans Browse: Climate Biases Fossil Record of Early Humans
Browse: Shell-Crushers Perfected Feeding During the Cambrian Browse: Dingoes Reached Australia More Recently Than Previously Thought