Rhythms of Change: The Victorian Science Poems of May Kendall

Ammonite fossil / Photo by Becks, Wikimedia Commons Nineteenth-century England saw a major revolution in the scientific understanding of the natural world. By Olivia Rosane / 05.17.2018 Nineteenth-century England saw a major revolution in the scientific understanding of the natural world. Charles Lyell’s 1830s Principles of Geology explained how landscapes were shaped and reshaped by daily processes like[…]

Bringing the Ocean Home

“The Ancient Wrasse”, a detail from the frontispiece to The Aquarium (1856, 2nd edition) — Biodiversity Library Bernd Brunner on the English naturalist Philip Henry Gosse and how his 1854 book The Aquarium, complete with spectacular illustrations and a dizzy dose of religious zeal, sparked a craze for the “ocean garden” that gripped Victorian Britain. By Bernd Brunner /[…]

Mother’s Milk Holds the Key to Unlocking an Evolutionary Mystery from the Last Ice Age

Sunrise at noon in the Arctic. Little exposure to sun was a piece of the genetic puzzle. Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, CC BY Why was one gene mutation that affects hair, teeth, sweat glands and breasts ubiquitous among ice age Arctic people? New research points to the advantage it provided for ancestors of Native Americans. By Dr. Leslea Hlusko / 04.26.2018 Associate Professor of Integrative[…]

Disease Evolution: Our Long History of Fighting Viruses

A virus is essentially an information system (encoded in DNA or RNA) surrounded by a protective coat. Tom Thai/Flickr, Creative Commons Humans have a deep history of viral infections, the evidence for which dates back to ancient DNA from Egyptian mummies. By Dr. Peter C. Doherty / 04.26.2016 Laureate Professor The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity A virus[…]

First Peoples: Two Ancient Ancestries ‘Reconverged’ with Settling of South America

New research using ancient DNA finds that a population split after people first arrived in North America was maintained for millennia before mixing again before or during the expansion of humans into the southern continent. Recent research has suggested that the first people to enter the Americas split into two ancestral branches, the northern and[…]

Testing Ancient Human Hearing via Fossilized Ear Bones

3D virtual reconstruction of two-million-year-old ear. Rolf Quam, CC BY-ND Beyond the cool factor of figuring out hominin hearing capacities two million years ago, these findings could help answer the tantalizing question of when did human vocalized language first emerge. By Dr. Rolf Quam / 09.25.2015 Associate Professor of Anthropology Binghamton University (SUNY) How did the world sound to our ancient human relatives[…]

Silk Road Trading Helped Produce the Modern Horse

Yeah, they messed with my genes. attawayjl Research shows that the genes of the modern horse were forged along the way. By Dr. William Feeney / 09.12.2013 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Biological Sciences The University of Queensland The Silk Road snaked across continents for more than a thousand years, shaping civilisations in East and West.[…]

Ancient Human Bone Reveals When We Bred with Neanderthals

Behold the femur. Bence Viola, MPI EVA Radiocarbon-dated to around 45,000 years old. By Dr. Daniel Zadik / 10.24.2014 Postdoctoral Researcher in Genetics University of Leicester When a human bone was found on a gravelly riverbank by a bone-carver who was searching for mammoth ivory, little did he know it would provide the oldest modern-human genome yet sequenced. The[…]

How Tiny Black Spots Shed Light on the Homo Naledi Mystery

A replica of a Homo naledi skull. GCIS/Flickr, CC BY-ND New evidence suggests that Homo naledi didn’t deliberately deposit their dead in a hidden chamber. By Dr. Francis Thackeray / 07.27.2016 Phillip Tobias Chair in Paleoanthropology Evolutionary Studies Institute University of the Witwatersrand Many questions have been thrown up by the discovery in South Africa of a previously unidentified human relative,[…]

How Yersinia Pestis Evolved Its Ability to Kill Millions via Pneumonic Plague

How did Yersinia pestis bacteria start to target the lungs and become so deadly? National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, CC BY It’s a deadly bacterium that can spread like wildfire. New research suggests Yersinia pestisfirst developed its ability to cause lung infection and then evolved to be highly infectious.    By Dr. Daniel Zimbler (left) and Dr. Wyndham Lathem (right) / 06.30.2015 Zimbler: Senior Scientist, Microbiology[…]

African Tools Push Back the Origin of Human Technological Innovation

By about 320,000 years ago, humans in Kenya began using color pigments and manufacturing more sophisticated tools. Human Origins Program, Smithsonian Scientists have discovered sophisticated tools in Kenya that are much older than expected.    By Dr. Patrick Randolph-Quinney (left) and Dr. Anthony Sinclair (right) / 03.15.2018 Randolph-Quinney: Reader/Associate Professor in Biological and Forensic Anthropology, University of Central Lancashire Sinclair: Professor of Archaeological[…]

Combining Linguistics, Archaeology, and Ancient DNA Genetics to Understand Deep Human History

TonelloPhotography/Shutterstock.com Each discipline tells us only part of the story. And so the truest picture of prehistory comes from triangulating these independent lines of evidence.    By Dr. Michael Dunn (left) and Dr. Annemarie Verkerk (right) / 03.29.2018 Dunn: Professor in Linguistics and Philology, Uppsala University Verkerk: Postdoctoral Research Associate in Linguistics, Max Planck Institute for the[…]

Studying Chimpanzee Calls for Clues about the Origins of Human Language

Nisarg Desai observes wild chimps known as Sandi, Ferdinand and Siri in Tanzania. Michael Wilson, CC BY-ND Do chimpanzee talk to each other? Scientists follow and record chimpanzees in the wild to find out – and to fill in details about how human language might have evolved. By Dr. Michael Wilson / 05.08.2018 Associate Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior University of Minnesota Freud, Wilkie and the[…]

Our Ancient Obsession with Food: Human as Evolutionary Master Chefs

A reconstruction of Homo erectus making fire, Zhoukoudian Museum, China. Darren Curnoe, Author provided Few of us pause to reflect on the hugely important role diet plays in the ecology and evolutionary history of all species. By Dr. Darren Curnoe / 06.05.2015 Associate Professor Biological Anthropology and Archaeological Science UNSW Australia Amateur cook-offs like the hugely popular MasterChef series now in its[…]

Imprinting and Attachment in Biology

A Mallard Duck hen calls vigorously as she leads her ducklings who have already formed an attachment to her. / Photo by Crystal Marie Lopez (2010), Flickr, Creative Commons By Dr. Patrick Bateson Former Professor of Ethology, University of Cambridge Former President of the Zoological Society of London Introduction[1] Imprinting provides a striking example of[…]

The Reason We Like the Tidy Feelings of Home is Evolutionary

James Vaughan/Flickr By Dr. John S. Allen / 04.25.2016 Neuroanthropologist and Research Scientist University of Southern California Is your house tidier than it used to be? If it is, then you have probably read Marie Kondo’s international bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (2011). Kondo’s book is ostensibly a manual for home improvement. She suggests[…]

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[…]