Evolutionary Biology

Study of Worms Reveals ‘Selfish Genes’ That Encode A Toxin – and Its Antidote

A UCLA study has found that a common strain of Caenorhabditis elegans — a type of roundworm frequently used in laboratory research on neural development — has a pair of genes that encode both a poison and its antidote. The new research also revealed that if worms with the two genes mate with wild strains of C. elegans that don’t have both genes,…

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In Brain Evolution, Size Matters – Most of the Time

Which came first, overall bigger brains or larger brain regions that control specialized behaviors? Neuroscientists have debated this question for decades, but a new Cornell study settles the score. The study reports that though vertebrate brains differ in size, composition and abilities, evolution of overall brain size accounts for most of these differences, with larger brains leading to greater capabilities.…

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Scythian Horse Breeding Unveiled: Lessons for Animal Domestication

Nomad Scythian herders roamed vast areas spanning the Central Asian steppes during the Iron Age, approximately from the 9th to the 1st century BCE (Before Common Era). These livestock pastoralists, who lived on wagons covered by tents, left their mark in the history of warfare for their exceptional equestrian skills. They were among the first to master mounted riding and…

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“Smart” Cephalopods Trade Off Genome Evolution for Prolific RNA Editing

Octopus, squid, and cuttlefish are famous for engaging in complex behavior, from unlocking an aquarium tank and escaping to instantaneous skin camouflage to hide from predators. A new study suggests their evolutionary path to neural sophistication includes a novel mechanism: Prolific RNA editing at the expense of evolution in their genomic DNA. The study, led by Joshua J.C. Rosenthal of…

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Why Are Primates Big-Brained? Researchers’ Answer Is Food for Thought

Brain size in primates is predicted by diet, an analysis by a team of New York University anthropologists indicates. These results call into question “the social brain hypothesis,” which has posited that humans and other primates are big-brained due to factors pertaining to sociality. The findings, which appear in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, reinforce the notion that both human…

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