Darwin’s Polar Bear

“Polar Bear”, artist unknown, ca. 1870s — Library of Congress Musings upon the whys and wherefores of polar bears, particularly in relation to their forest-dwelling cousins, played an important but often overlooked role in the development of evolutionary theory. By Michael Engelhard / 02.21.2018 Anthropologist As any good high school student should know, the beaks of[…]

New Type of Virus Found in the Ocean

Electron microscope images of marine bacteria infected with the non-tailed viruses studied in this research. The bacterial cell walls are seen as long double lines, and the viruses are the small round objects with dark centers. / Courtesy of researchers The unusual characteristics of these abundant, bacteria-killing viruses could lead to evolutionary insights. By David L.[…]

Plague Bacteria Hiding in Soil and Water Microbes, Waiting to Emerge

Children at a school in Antananarivo, Madagascar, during a plague outbreak, Oct. 3, 2017. AP Photo/Alexander Joe By David Markman / 02.26.2018 PhD Candidate in Biology (Biosecurity and Infectious Disease) Colorado State University Plague is a highly contagious disease that has killed millions of people over the past 1,400 years. Outbreaks still sporadically occur in as[…]

How We Discovered that Neanderthals Could Make Art

Neanderthal art. P. Saura    By Dr. Chris Standish (left) and Dr. Alistair Pike (right) / 02.22.2018 Standish: Postdoctoral Fellow of Archaeology Pike: Professor of Archaeological Sciences University of Southampton What makes us human? A lot of people would argue it is the ability of our species to engage in complex behaviour such as using language,[…]

Fossil Jaw Bone from Israel is Oldest Modern Human Found Outside Africa

Fossilized teeth from a modern human who lived in Israel close to 200,000 years ago. Israel Hershkovitz, Tel Aviv University, Creative Commons By Dr. Rolf Quam / 01.25.2018 Associate Professor of Anthropology Binghamton University (SUNY) New fossil finds over the past few years have been forcing anthropologists to reexamine our evolutionary path to becoming human. Now[…]

The Naturalist and the Neurologist: On Charles Darwin and James Crichton-Browne

James Crichton-Browne, A woman with pursed lips, West Riding Lunatic Asylum, c. 1869 – Wellcome Library Stassa Edwards explores Charles Darwin’s photography collection, which includes almost forty portraits of mental patients given to him by the neurologist James Crichton-Browne. The study of these photographs, and the related correspondence between the two men, would prove instrumental in the[…]

Virtual Fossils Revolution the Study of Evolution

Courtesy Doug Boyer/Morphosource By Dr. Douglas Martin Boyer / 02.25.2016 Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology Duke University ‘Seeing is believing’, as the saying goes, and so empirical data are the lifeblood of science and the scientific method. Science progresses by winnowing out those hypotheses or theories that fail under increasingly large amounts of data; favoured hypotheses[…]

Neanderthals in 3D: L’Homme de La Chapelle

A neanderthal skull, left hand side of one of Boule’s stereographs included in his L’Homme de La Chapelle (1911) – Source: author’s scan. More than just a favourite of Victorian home entertainment, the stereoscope and the 3D images it created were also used in the field of science. Lydia Pyne explores how the French palaeontologist Marcellin Boule[…]

In Conversation with Jane Goodall

Henry Nicholls talks to Jane Goodall about her remarkable career studying chimpanzee behaviour, her animal welfare activism, and accusations of plagiarism in her latest book. By Henry Nicholls / 03.31.2014 In February 1935, the year of King George V’s silver jubilee, a chimpanzee at London Zoo called Boo-Boo gave birth to a baby daughter. A couple of months later, a little[…]

‘A Natural History of Human Thinking’: Time and Other Primates

Dr. Michael Tomasello    By Dr. Nicolas Langlitz (left), Stephanie Schiavenato (right), and Esther Rottenburg (no photo) / 12.20.2016 Langlitz: Associate Professor of Anthropology, The New School for Social Research Schiavenato: Doctoral Student in Anthropology, New York University Rottenburg: MA Candidate in Global Health, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands Tomasello, Michael. 2014. A Natural History of Human[…]

The AMNH ‘Man in Africa Hall’ at 50: Exploring African Ethnographic History

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in NY circa 2000. Photo from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository.    By Dr. Enid Schildkrout (left) and Jacklyn Lacey (right) / 10.14.2017 Schildkrout: Curator Emerita of African Ethnology, Division of Anthropology Lacey: Museum Specialist II, African Ethnology, Pacific Ethnology American Museum of Natural History The “Man in Africa Hall”[…]

Biologist Dives Hundreds of Underwater Caves in Search of New Forms of Life

Author Tom Iliffe leads scientists on a cave dive. Jill Heinerth , CC BY-ND By Dr. Thomas M. Iliffe / 01.07.2018 Professor of Marine Biology Texas A&M University at Galveston Maybe when you picture a university professor doing research it involves test tubes and beakers, or perhaps poring over musty manuscripts in a dimly lit library, or maybe[…]

Charles Darwin’s American Adventure: A Melodrama in Three Acts

British scientist Charles Darwin. Darwin’s scientific discoveries concerning evolution had an immediate impact on the scientific community. But, their impact on society, politics, and debates about science and religion have had much longer term implications for American society. / Wikimedia Commons 2009 was celebrated around the world as ‘The Darwin Year.’ It marked the 200th[…]

As Emerging Diseases Spread from Wildlife to Humans, Can We Predict the Next Big Pandemic?

Photo courtesy of PREDICT/Mike Cranfield Two ambitious projects aim to understand when and how the next human disease will emerge from wildlife, and what we can do to minimize harm when it does. By Karl Gruber / 12.07.2017 PhD Candidate in Biological Sciences University of Western Australia Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO)[…]

On Being Human

Analyzing the genetics of ancient humans means changing ideas about our evolution. By Gaia Vince / 03.07.2017 The Rock of Gibraltar appears out of the plane window as an immense limestone monolith sharply rearing up from the base of Spain into the Mediterranean. One of the ancient Pillars of Hercules, it marked the end of[…]

The Biology and Psychology of Good and Bad Behavior

Tipping the balance of behavior: Social neurons and asocial neurons / Image by ZEISS Microscopy (Creative Commons) In Behave, Robert Sapolsky offers an inspired synthesis of how biology shapes human behavior—both the good and the bad. By Dr. C. Brandon Ogbunu / 12.01.2017 Assistant Professor of Evolutionary Biology University of Vermont The re-emergence of Neo-Nazi ideology; crowd-funded[…]

Hundreds of Pterosaur Eggs Help Reveal the Early Life of Flying Reptiles

Alexander Kellner (Museu Nacional/UFRJ) By Dr. Elizabeth Martin-Silverstone / 11.30.2017 Postgraduate Research Assistant in Palaeontology University of Bristol A hoard of fossilised pterosaur eggs discovered in China is helping scientists gain a rare insight into the extinct flying reptiles. Newly released research into over 200 eggs and 16 embryos from the pterosaur Hamipterus, including the first computed tomography[…]

Exploring Genetic Causation in Biology

By John McLaughlin / 07.02.2015 PhD Candidate in Developmental Biology Hunter College City University of New York In both popular culture and the technical literature in biology, the word “genetic” is ubiquitous. Despite its common usage and universal recognition, discussions centered around this concept usually leave its meaning taken for granted. We have the vague[…]

Primate Vocalizations are Much More than Gibberish

Chimpanzees use alarm calls to inform each other of danger. / Ronald Woan, Flickr Nonhuman primates clearly do more than just screech meaningless sounds at each other, but what are the limits of their communication? By Jay Schwartz / 08.25.2017 PhD Candidate in Neuroscience and Animal Behavior Emory University A chimpanzee is strolling along a[…]

Prehistoric Humans are Likely to have Formed Mating Networks to Avoid Inbreeding

Early humans seem to have recognised the dangers of inbreeding at least 34,000 years ago, and developed surprisingly sophisticated social and mating networks to avoid it, new research has found. 10.05.2017 The study, reported in the journal Science, examined genetic information from the remains of anatomically modern humans who lived during the Upper Palaeolithic, a period when modern humans[…]

When Evolution is Not a Slow Dance but a Fast Race to Survive

Afghan refugee Maimuna, photographed in Kabul in 2016. Photo by Hedayatullah Amid/Epa/REX By Wendy Orent / 11.08.2017 Anthropologist We all know what Neanderthals looked like: the beetling brow ridges, thick nose, long skull, massive bone structure – and probably red hair and freckled skin. You might do a double-take if you saw one on the subway,[…]