Changes in the heritable attributes of populations of organisms over time. Major mechanisms include drift, natural selection, mutation, and gene flow (migration).

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Why would a single celled organism evolve to be multi-celled?

I read a story this week on Richard Lenski who has been 'evolving' E. coli for more than 50,000 generations now. One comment I read was from someone who doesn't accept Evolution who pointed out that ...
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231 views

How do we know that dinosaurs were related to lizards and/or birds?

Do we clearly know what the living closest relative of the dinosaurs are? And connected to the first question, in scientific manner how do we know these relationship between extinct species and living ...
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497 views

When did vision evolve for the first time?

Today I wondered what the first organism to evolve vision would have been. I assume that it would have been kind of primitive and basic, but of course extremely innovative and eventually useful to a ...
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Abiogenesis: Beyond the research journals as a lead in to discussions on evolution

I just came across this abstract: Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) are responsible for creating the pool of correctly charged aminoacyl-tRNAs that are necessary for the translation of genetic ...
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254 views

Evolution of long necks in giraffes

In this question, the OP uses giraffe necks as a supportive example of evolution. Is the mechanism described in this post accurate? At some point, I thought I remember hearing that giraffes did not ...
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523 views

Did researchers evolve multicellular yeast or did they just turn on multicellularity?

In this new paper "Experimental evolution of multicellularity" found via Ars Technica the researchers describe having developed multicellularity and apoptosis within 60 days from a unicellular yeast ...
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349 views

Is there any reason for the variation in mitochondrial DNA size?

As my textbook An Introduction to Genetic Analysis points out, yeast mitochondrial DNA has approximately 78 kb of genetic data, while the human mitochondrial DNA contains 17 kb. Is there any evolution ...
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301 views

How do members of cryptic species know who to mate with?

According to Wikipedia: In biology, a cryptic species complex is a group of species which satisfy the biological definition of species—that is, they are reproductively isolated from each ...
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Is Behe's experiment (evolving the bacterial flagellum) plausible in the lab?

[Warning: this question is motivated by a prominent proponent of "intelligent design": Prof. Michael Behe. I'm not interested in debating creationism.] According to Wikipedia[1]: In Darwin’s ...
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What was the reason for some plant and animals to become giant in course of evolution?

The dinosaurs, mammoths, giant plants etc are known to be bigger than modern animals. I wonder why they had been lived and why they are not living now? I really don't know much but is it something ...
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Are there any pre-Holocene venomous animals?

The novel (and subsequently movie) Jurassic Park featured a dinosaur called Dilophosaurus, that was purported to be venomous and had an ability similar to that of the extant spitting cobra. ...
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How did the human brain evolve?

A common question posed is, "how did the eye evolve?", because the eye is so complex. However, this has been answered rather clearly and there are several examples around the world of animals in ...
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330 views

What are the evolutionary niches differentiating an apple from a pear?

So, as far as I understand (basic) evolutionary theories, diversity is generated by "niching." That is, if there is an environmental factor that hasn't been fully used by any species to "profit" off, ...
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343 views

Why do pandas have a high probability of giving birth to twins?

According to the BBC documentary "Wild About Pandas", about half of panda birth result in twins. Why do they have such a high probability compared to other mammals? What factor(s) control that ...
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224 views

In which order did the cells of the immune system evolve?

Thinking about how complex the interactions between different types of immune system cells (T-helpers, T-Killers, Phagocytes, B-Cells etc.) are, it's fascinating how they all combine to get the ...
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773 views

Is there an evolutionary advantage to crying when sad?

It seems as though the act of crying when sad does nothing to relieve that sadness. Is there an advantage to crying from an evolutionary perspective, or is it the end result of a different process? ...
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Beginning of the urogenital system

Are any invertebrate nephridia (proto/meta) homologous with vertebrate kidneys in the sense that embryologically they also begin together with the genital system? When did the embryologic association ...
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How did the huge dinosaurs cope with gravity and loads on bones, etc.?

It's very costly to be a huge animal. Your mass grows in cube when you scale up, but you still only have two/four legs to support the same weight. This increases the pressure that your body needs to ...
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Human evolution: Where *exactly* did the first human come from, whose parents were not?

Layman here. So I have never really quite understood this facet of human evolution, (or any other for that matter), in that, I understand the evolutionary process, but I get lost on the 'border' ...
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What is meant in biology by the term “evolved”?

A student asked me this the other day and I thought that I would ask it again here. If one organism is said to be "more evolved" than another, what exactly does this mean?
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How did the first self replicating organism come into existence?

When people try to explain evolution, they tell me that evolution is a cumulative result of mutations & natural section of the more superior individuals of a particular species. I think I'm fairly ...
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656 views

Mathematical Modelling of Natural Selection

I'm a math undergrad looking for some papers on modelling the process of natural selection. The only paper I've been able to find is by the pre-eminent mathematician Herbert Wilf from 2010, There's ...
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954 views

Do men have more extreme variations than women?

This question was considered unsuitable for Skeptics and I think it is more suited to BIology than Cognitive Sciences I was reading this article which I found interesting. It is not supported with ...
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Why do parasites sometimes kill their hosts?

It's bothered me for a while now. I understand why a parasitoid would do this, as it only temporarily requires the host, and that not all parasites kill their hosts. There seems to be no evolutionary ...
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Is there an “evolutionary species similarity calculator”?

Is there a website where I can input pairs of species and get an "evolutionary similarity score"? E.g. (numbers are completely made up) Input: Chimp and Human, Output: 97% Input: Cat and Human, ...
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198 views

Did we first have swimming birds or flying birds?

Looking at the swimming birds building nests just across my garden, I suddenly wondered how evolution came to swimming birds and whether flying birds started swimming or whether swimming bird like ...
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Have we ever observed two drosophila lineages that evolved reproductive isolation in labs?

Background The standard definition of species refers to the concept of reproductive isolation. If two lineages are found to be reproductively isolated, then we consider these two lineages to belong ...
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The Origin of Mitochondria

For a long time I've just accepted, because it is just what everyone told me, that mitochondria became organelles in the cell when they were "engulfed" by another cell which acted like it's host. This ...
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Does pheomelanin have a useful biological function?

Melanin is a natural pigment that is categorized into two main forms, eumelanin and pheomelanin. It's well documented in the science literature that increased eumelanin levels reduces the risk of ...
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315 views

Is there any evidence that a virus can modify human evolution

I was just reading Evolution of lactose tolerance, and in it one line says "But there was a time in human history when our diet and environment conspired to create conditions that mimicked those of a ...
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What is the Edward O. Wilson fuss about?

I have just read this article on E. O. Wilson and I don't understand what the difference is between what he is arguing and "standard" natural selection. I read "the extended phenotype" some years ago ...
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What advantage would the initial 'donor' in horizontal gene transfer by conjugation have received?

I am struggling to think why horizontal gene transfer between bacteria would have persisted during the course of evolution as surely it puts the 'donor' at a disadvantage? For example, consider a ...
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Is there are evolutionary explanation for why humans and primates are ticklish? How might it have evolved?

Tickling is a rather interesting phenomenon: When humans or apes are touched in certain areas like the armpits or sides, we respond with laughter AND frantic attempts to stop the assault. Obviously ...
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Why does the butterfly have a cocoon stage in its life cycle?

Why does the butterfly have a cocoon stage in its life cycle? It could have simply grown up within the egg/cocoon, and emerged as a butterfly. Instead it is first an egg, then a worm, then a ...
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What is the closest species to humans in animal kingdom?

I presumed chimpanzees were the closest relatives of us. However, after watching this TED Talk, it seems bonobos are closer to us both in skeleton and behavioral similarity than chimpanzees. I once ...
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652 views

The evolutionary process in bird wings, especially with regard to winglets

In this answer on aviation.SE a comparison is made between the shapes of airplanes wings and the shapes of birds wings. It concludes with the following remark: After all, no bird has winglets. Not ...
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136 views

Why is green fur not a thing?

In most biomes on earth, and certainly in the most densely-populated, the best camouflage color or pattern for an animal would be a variant of green, so as to blend in with the leaves and grasses of ...
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298 views

Book recommendation on population/evolutionary genetics?

I have recently been involved in collaborations that require me to model the population genetics of eukaryotic populations. I fear I may either be "re-inventing the wheel" or making conceptual ...
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528 views

Do plant-animal cross races exist?

Plants and animals have the following distinct properties: Plants live from solar energy by photosynthesis, they use solar energy to make sugar and oxygen out of carbon dioxide, which gives them ...
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What is the evolutionary explanation for bat's echolocation [closed]

The bat's ability for echolocation is amazing (so are other the abilities of other animals). I was wondering how all of it came to be.
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432 views

What is the modern state of the theory of evolution?

When I studied biology at my medical school we used to learn things about a century old: the famous Darwin's voyage on "Beagle" to the Galapagos Islands, the classical triad of his Theory of ...
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Why are some berries poisonous?

In my understanding, the evolutional function of berries is to be eaten and pood out somewhere else, so that the seeds of the plant spread. Is this so? Then why are some berries poisonous?
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Why are there nail growth differences between humans and other mammals?

When a cat is growing, his nails are growing with him to some extent. A grown cat has a fixed nail length that is not extending. By contrast, human finger nails just keep on growing, so we have to ...
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582 views

Which sex has higher variance of reproductive rate in modern societies - male or females?

Who has a more varied reproduction rate in modern western societies - men or women? The average rate is the same of course, but I wonder which sex have higher variance - higher variance means that ...
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275 views

Are there differences in DNA between humans of today and humans from 2000 years ago?

Are there any significant differences in our genome compared to the genes of our ancestors from 1000-2000 years ago? And if there are significant differences, do they result in significant ...
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377 views

How does the genetic code evolve?

After looking at this question, some other questions poped in my mind. The DNA code is redundant, there are 20 amino acids for 64 possible nucleotide combinations. Therefore some amino acid are coded ...
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Why is venom more common in fish and snakes than other vertebrates?

Reading this question, I wondered why is it that we associate vertebrate venoms so often with snakes and fish, and more rarely with lizards, amphibians, mammals, and birds (apparently never, in ...
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146 views

Why is selfishness the 'obvious' strategy?

Thinking of behaviours an organism can adapt, at the very base an action can always be either selfish or altruistic (cooperative). Usually, selfish behaviour is assumed to be the preferred choice and ...
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Why do some plant species have lobed leaves, while similar species in the same habitat don't?

Some plants have lobed leaves, like the English oak (Quercus robur), while other plants growing the same deciduous woodland habitats, and very often growing alongside oaks, such as the European beech ...
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Did Darwin ever reach the conclusion that selection will remove variation?

According to simple models of selection the genetic variance in a population should be reduced by selection. (Fisher's fundamental theorem states that the rate at which a population can evolve is ...