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Archive for the ‘evolution’ category

Nov 10, 2020

Half-billion-year-old microfossils may yield new knowledge of animal origins

Posted by in categories: biological, evolution

When and how did the first animals appear? Science has long sought an answer to this question. Uppsala University researchers and colleagues in Denmark have now jointly found, in Greenland, embryo-like microfossils up to 570 million years old, revealing that organisms of this type were dispersed throughout the world. The study is published in Communications Biology.

“We believe this discovery of ours improves our scope for understanding the period in Earth’s history when first appeared—and is likely to prompt many interesting discussions,” says Sebastian Willman, the study’s first author and a palaeontologist at Uppsala University.

The existence of animals on Earth around 540 million years ago (mya) is well substantiated. This was when the event in evolution known as the “Cambrian Explosion” took place. Fossils from a huge number of creatures from the Cambrian period, many of them shelled, exist. The first animals must have evolved earlier still; but there are divergent views in the on whether the extant fossils dating back to the Precambrian Era are genuinely classifiable as animals.

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Nov 7, 2020

Our memory comes from an ancient virus, neuroscientists say

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, evolution

Some scientists believe that the ability of animals to store memory came from a virus that infected a common ancestor hundreds of millions of years ago. 😃


This study is radically changing how we view the process of evolution.

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Nov 6, 2020

Hurricanes: Evolution, Risk Reduction, Tracking and Simulation

Posted by in categories: climatology, evolution

Dr. Frank Marks, Director of the Hurricane Research Division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), discussing improved forecasting technologies.


Ira Pastor, ideaXme life sciences ambassador and founder of Bioquark interviews Dr. Frank D. Marks, MS, ScD, Director of Hurricane Research Division, at NOAA.

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Oct 30, 2020

Guppy Evolution Fast Forwards

Posted by in categories: biological, evolution, genetics, singularity

The great powerful guppy can essentially evolve 10 million times faster than usual. Which could lead to humans evolving faster too leading to a biological singularity.


Although natural selection is often viewed as a slow pruning process, a dramatic new field study suggests it can sometimes shape a population as fast as a chain saw can rip through a sapling. Scientists have found that guppies moved to a predator-free environment adapted to it in a mere 4 years—a rate of change some 10,000 to 10 million times faster than the average rates gleaned from the fossil record. Some experts argue that the 11-year study, described in today’s issue of Science,* may even shed light on evolutionary patterns that occur over eons.

A team led by evolutionary biologist David Reznick of the University of California, Riverside, scooped guppies from a waterfall pool brimming with predators in Trinidad’s Aripo River, then released them in a tributary where only one enemy species lurked. In as little as 4 years, male guppies in the predator-free tributary were already detectably larger and older at maturity when compared with the control population; 7 years later females were too. Guppies in the safer waters also lived longer and had fewer and bigger offspring.

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Oct 28, 2020

Scientists discover new organic compounds that could have helped form the first cells

Posted by in categories: biological, chemistry, evolution

Chemists studying how life started often focus on how modern biopolymers like peptides and nucleic acids contributed, but modern biopolymers don’t form easily without help from living organisms. A possible solution to this paradox is that life started using different components, and many non-biological chemicals were likely abundant in the environment. A new survey conducted by an international team of chemists from the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) at Tokyo Institute of Technology and other institutes from Malaysia, the Czech Republic, the U.S. and India, has found that a diverse set of such compounds easily form polymers under primitive environmental conditions, and some even spontaneously form cell-like structures.

Understanding how life started on Earth is one of the most challenging questions seeks to explain. Scientists presently study modern and try to see what aspects of their biochemistry are universal, and thus were probably present in the organisms from which they descended. The best guess is that life has thrived on Earth for at least 3.5 billion of Earth’s 4.5-billion-year history since the planet formed, and most scientists would say life likely began before there is good evidence for its existence. Problematically, since Earth’s surface is dynamic, the earliest traces of life on Earth have not been preserved in the geological record. However, the earliest evidence for life on Earth tells us little about what the earliest organisms were made of, or what was going on inside their cells. “There is clearly a lot left to learn from prebiotic chemistry about how life may have arisen,” says the study’s co-author Jim Cleaves.

A hallmark of life is evolution, and the mechanisms of evolution suggest that common traits can suddenly be displaced by rare and novel mutations which allow mutant organisms to survive better and proliferate, often replacing previously common organisms very rapidly. Paleontological, ecological and laboratory evidence suggests this occurs commonly and quickly. One example is an invasive organism like the dandelion, which was introduced to the Americas from Europe and is now a commo weed causing lawn-concerned homeowners to spend countless hours of effort and dollars to eradicate.

Oct 27, 2020

Geochemistry and the Origin of Life: From Extraterrestrial Processes, Chemical Evolution on Earth, Fossilized Life’s Records, to Natures of the Extant Life

Posted by in categories: chemistry, evolution

Scientists today are quick to point out that they are still basing their models on life as we know it: Carbon-based and reliant on organic compounds and water…


In 2001, the first author (S.N.) led the publication of a book entitled “Geochemistry and the origin of life” in collaboration with Dr. Andre Brack aiming to figure out geo- and astro-chemical processes essential for the emergence of life. Since then, a great number of research progress has been achieved in the relevant topics from our group and others, ranging from the extraterrestrial inputs of life’s building blocks, the chemical evolution on Earth with the aid of mineral catalysts, to the fossilized records of ancient microorganisms. Here, in addition to summarizing these findings for the origin and early evolution of life, we propose a new hypothesis for the generation and co-evolution of photosynthesis with the redox and photochemical conditions on the Earth’s surface. Besides these bottom-up approaches, we introduce an experimental study on the role of water molecules in the life’s function, focusing on the transition from live, dormant, and dead states through dehydration/hydration. Further spectroscopic studies on the hydrogen bonding behaviors of water molecules in living cells will provide important clues to solve the complex nature of life.

Keywords: building blocks, biopolymers, polymerization, extraterrestrial inputs, mineral surfaces, metabolism, photosynthesis, water, hydrogen bonding (9: 3–10)

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Oct 24, 2020

Happiness and the Evolution of Brain Size

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, evolution, genetics, neuroscience

Summary: Study reveals a new role for serotonin in the development of the human neocortex. Serotonin acts cell-extrinsically as a growth factor for basal progenitors in the developing neocortex. Researchers report placenta-driven serotonin likely contributed to the evolutionary expansion of the neocortex in humans.

Source: Max Planck Society

During human evolution, the size of the brain increased, especially in a particular part called the neocortex. The neocortex enables us to speak, dream and think. In search of the causes underlying neocortex expansion, researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, together with colleagues at the University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus Dresden, previously identified a number of molecular players. These players typically act cell-intrinsically in the so-called basal progenitors, the stem cells in the developing neocortex with a pivotal role in its expansion.

Oct 22, 2020

SpaceX will collaborate with Microsoft to connect Starlink broadband with Azure cloud service

Posted by in categories: evolution, internet, satellites

Microsoft will be using Starlink broad band for their cloud services.


SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell announced today the company will collaborate with Microsoft to connect Starlink broadband internet satellites with Microsoft’s Azure cloud service. “Our new partnership with SpaceX Starlink will provide high-speed, low-latency satellite broadband for the new Azure Modular Datacenter (MDC),” Microsoft detailed in a press release. “SpaceX is of course the name that people immediately think of when they think of innovation and the evolution that’s occurring to bring space technology into the 21st century,” said Tom Keane, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Azure Global.

Starlink is SpaceX’s plan to create an internet-beaming satellite constellation in low Earth orbit to provide service globally. Primarily focused in areas where internet connection is unreliable and nonexistent. To date, SpaceX has deployed a bit over 800 satellites to orbit out of the thousands that will comprise the Starlink network. —“The collaboration that we’re announcing today will allow us to work together to deliver new offerings for both the public and the private sector to deliver connectivity through Starlink for use on Azure,” Shotwell said in a video announcement (shown below). “Where it makes sense, we will work with [Microsoft]: co-selling to our mutual customers, co-selling to new enterprise and future customers.”

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Oct 19, 2020

CRISPR-induced immune diversification in host-virus populations

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, evolution

Just like humans, microbes have equipped themselves with tools to recognize and defend themselves against viral invaders. In a continual evolutionary battle between virus and host, CRISPR-Cas act as a major driving force of strain diversity in host-virus systems.

A new study led by Professor of Life Sciences Shai Pilosof (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel), Professor of Microbiology Rachel Whitaker (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), and Professor of Ecology and Evolution Mercedes Pascual (University of Chicago) highlights the role of diversified immunity in mediating -pathogen interactions and its eco-evolutionary dynamics. The study also included Professor of Bioengineering and Bliss Faculty Scholar Sergei Maslov (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), Sergio A. Alcal´a-Corona (University of Chicago), and Ph.D. graduate students Ted Kim and Tong Wang (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign).

Their findings were reported in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

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Oct 18, 2020

Using math to study paintings to learn more about the evolution of art history

Posted by in categories: evolution, information science, mathematics, media & arts

A team of researchers affiliated with a host of institutions in Korea and one in Estonia has found a way to use math to study paintings to learn more about the evolution of art history in the western world. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes how they scanned thousands of paintings and then used mathematical algorithms to find commonalities between them over time.

Beauty, as the saying goes, is in the eye of the beholder—and so it is also with art. Two people looking at the same can walk away with vastly different impressions. But art also serves, the researchers contend, as a barometer for visualizing the emotional tone of a given society. This suggests that the study of art history can serve as a channel of sorts—illuminating societal trends over time. The researchers further note that to date, most studies of art history have been qualitatively based, which has led to interpretive results. To overcome such bias, the researchers with this new effort looked to mathematics to see if it might be useful in uncovering features of paintings that have been overlooked by human scholars.

The work involved digitally scanning 14,912 paintings—all of which (except for two) were painted by Western artists. The data for each of the paintings was then sent through a mathematical that drew partitions on the based on contrasting colors. The researchers ran the algorithm on each painting multiple times, each time creating more partitions. As an example, the first run of the algorithm might have simply created two partitions on a painting—everything on land, and everything in the sky. The second might have split the land into buildings in one partition and farmland in another.

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