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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How many times did life emerge from the ocean?

Evolution is often mistakenly depicted as linear in popular culture. One main feature of this depiction in popular culture, but even in science popularisation, is that some ocean-dwelling animal sheds ...
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3answers
2k views

Why did the process of sleep evolve in many animals? What is its evolutionary advantage?

The process of sleep seems to be very disadvantageous to an organism as it is extremely vulnerable to predation for several hours at a time. Why is sleep necessary in so many animals? What advantage ...
44
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4answers
5k views

Why 22 amino acids instead of 64?

This question got me thinking about amino acids and the ambiguity in the genetic code. With 4 nucleotides in RNA and 3 per codon, there are 64 codons. However, these 64 codons only code for 22 ...
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4answers
3k views

Why do plants have green leaves and not red?

I know plants are green due to chlorophyll. Surely it would be more beneficial for plants to be red than green as by being green they reflect green light and do not absorb it even though green light ...
40
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2answers
1k views

Is there any evidence that sexual selection may lead to extinction of species?

Darwin suggested that sexual selection, especially by female choice, may counter natural selection. Theoretical models, such as a Fisherian runaway process, suggest that evolution of preference and ...
32
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3answers
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Why are there no wheeled animals?

In physics, "almost everything is already discovered, and all that remains is to fill a few unimportant holes." (See Jolly.) Therefore, on Physics SE, people are veering off into different directions: ...
29
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3answers
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Why is polyploidy lethal for some organisms while for others is not?

Polyploidy is the multiplication of number of chromosomal sets from 2n to 3n (triploidy), 4n (tetraploidy) and so on. It is quite common in plants, for example many crops like wheat or Brassica forms. ...
26
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2answers
465 views

Is there evidence that some non-human species perform sexual selection based primarily on intelligence? How do they do this?

I'm a biology amateur, but it seems like sexual selection is almost always performed based on physical characteristics, the outcome of physical contests, or some sort elaborate courtship. But do any ...
25
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7answers
411 views

Has there been any observation of species adapting the evolution process?

I am very interested in the evolution of the evolution process itself. There are of course a lot of things that influence how evolution will work, but for this question, I am interested in things that ...
25
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3answers
8k views

Why do eukaryotic organisms have introns in their DNA?

We touched on introns and exons in my bio class, but unfortunately we didn't really talk about why Eukaryotes have introns. It would seem they would have to have some purpose since prokaryotes do not ...
24
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4answers
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Why do men have nipples?

I'd be tempted to call nipples in men vestigial, but that suggests they have no modern function. They do have a function, of course, but only in women. So why do men (and all male mammals) have them? ...
21
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581 views

How many times did endosymbiosis occur?

According to the endosymbiont theory, mitochondria and chloroplasts originated as bacteria which were engulfed by larger cells. How many times is it estimated that this occurred in the past? Are there ...
20
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5answers
897 views

Why did life not evolve to use radio?

We use electromagnetic communication everywhere these days. Cell phones, wifi, old-school radio transmissions, television, deep space communication, etc. I'm curious about some of the possible ...
19
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2answers
937 views

Why Is Most Life Symmetrical Externally But Not Internally?

Mammals, reptiles, arachnids, insects, etc are all as far as I am aware symmetrical in appearance. Take a human for instance, make a line from the top of our head right down the middle. However, ...
19
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1answer
254 views

Evolutionary origin and exogenous cues of ~28 day infradian rhythm?

The most obvious example of an approximately monthly biological cycle is the human menstrual cycle. My questions are the following: Is it known when and where this cycle or one like it arose? What ...
18
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7answers
4k views

Why does evolution not make our life longer?

Why does evolution not make life longer for humans or any other species?
18
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4answers
2k views

Why are there species instead of a continuum of various animals?

As I understand it, various animal traits have to evolve gradually, but what happens to the species that are "neither here nor there"? To put it differently, if a species evolved from another, it did ...
18
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3answers
383 views

Good source that explains the evolution of single-celled organisms “from scratch”

Are there any books or sites that detail, step-by-step, the evolution of the first single-celled organisms (bacteria, archaea) from a Miller-Urey-like beginning? That is, assumes only amino acids, ...
17
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3answers
820 views

Why are there no organisms with metal body parts, like weapons, bones, and armour? (Or are there?)

Reading this question, Why are there no wheeled animals?, I wondered why no organisms seem to make use of the tensile and other strengths of metal, as we do in metal tools and constructions. I am ...
17
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2answers
300 views

What are the major evolutionary pressures for Bioluminescence?

What are the major evolutionary pressures for Bioluminescence?
17
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4answers
2k views

Why are there exactly four nucleobases in DNA?

Does someone know why DNA is composed of four nucleobases? In particular, is there an explanation for the number? Why four and not two, or eight?
16
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3answers
1k views

Do animals exist with an uneven total number of digits?

I recently finished reading Contact by Carl Sagan. In the book they talk about a pattern in the transcendental number like pi or e, and comment that it is found in base 10 or however many fingers the ...
16
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2answers
873 views

Why is 'Grudger' an evolutionary stable strategy?

I am currently reading 'The Selfish Gene' by Richard Dawkins, which I am sure many here have read. The topic are evolutionary stable strategies (ESS) regarding cooperation. I apologise for the long ...
16
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1answer
476 views

How did viruses come to be?

My question is out of curiosity and got me thinking. How did viruses with the head, tail and tail fibres actually evolve? These viruses look more like machines than biological entities. Are there any ...
15
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3answers
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Were there any flying dinosaurs?

I've seen some articles which came in contradiction with each other. The first article was talking about flying dinosaurs, dinosaurs with feathers and so on. A couple of other articles are talking ...
15
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5answers
665 views

How is evolution possible in contemporary humans?

I would like to know if evolution is continuing to happen in modern humans, assuming things like existence of the nuclear family structure, fidelity to one partner, etc. It seems to me the answer ...
15
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3answers
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What is the difference between orthologs, paralogs and homologs?

These three terms are often misused in the literature. Many researchers seem to treat them as synonyms. So, what is the definition of each of these terms and how do they differ from one another?
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Why are not all species hermaphrodites?

If a hermaphrodite animal (like slug, snail, etc) finds a partner they can mate immediately. If another animal with "normal" reproduction (lets say a mouse) finds a partner they can only mate if they ...
15
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2answers
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Why is glucose our primary source of energy?

Is there any evolutionary reason for glucose being the "main" molecule used as a source of energy, beginning with glycolysis and subsequently cellular respiration (after being converted to two ...
15
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1answer
143 views

Haidinger's brush: Is this a by-product of the eye's physics, or are there any evolutionary grounds for it?

The human eye is, very subtly, sensitive to the polarization of light. This is an effect known as Haidinger's brush (see Wikipedia article of this name). What, if anything, is known or at least ...
14
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8answers
7k views

Why have humans evolved much more quickly than other animals?

Humans have, in a relatively short amount of time, evolved from apes on the African plains to upright brainiacs with nukes, computers, and space travel. Meanwhile, a lion is still a lion and a ...
14
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4answers
2k views

Height and natural selection in humans?

I watched the documentary "Evolve" recently and in the segment on "size" Scott V. Edwards, Harvard evolutionary biologist mentioned the idea that humans might evolve to be 7' tall in 'hundreds of ...
14
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3answers
513 views

What is the most difficult feature to explain evolutionarily? [closed]

I wonder what are examples of organs/structures/behaviours/cooperation that evolutionary biologists themselves find most difficult to explain -- to explain how they could appear evolutionarily -- ...
14
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4answers
1k views

Can two humans with 44 chromosomes produce viable offspring?

It is known that there are very few individuals having 44 chromosomes, not the usual 46 chromosomes. One example is a male in China: the first article, the second article. The other is a female in ...
14
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1answer
550 views

Do large animals often evolve into smaller animals?

There are several examples where the largest animals were killed off preferentially due to a major ecological shift: The KT extinction event The Holocene extinction, as well as the major megafauna ...
14
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2answers
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Is there an advantage to linear chromosomes?

The DNA copying enzymes have a hard time working to the end of a chromosome. For circular chromosomes this is not a problem, since there is not a sharp 'end'. However, for a linear chromosome, without ...
14
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1answer
174 views

Has the human 7-day week had any impact on the evolution of species?

Most (if not all) industrialized countries follow a 7-day work week now, such that we are bound to follow a certain weekly trend in matters such as pollution generation, where to go (e.g. stay in town ...
13
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5answers
338 views

Can species back-evolve?

One of the tenets of Darwin's theory is the survival of the fittest, ie adaptation of features that allow a species to adapt better to its surrounding environment. I am wondering that given the right ...
13
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4answers
984 views

Are there any examples of sudden leaps in evolution?

As far as I understand, various abilities like flying, sight, hearing etc. were caused by slow evolution, where those with a greater ability to to these things had better chance of survival. (If this ...
13
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3answers
2k views

When has an organism evolved enough to be called a new species?

Imagine that we take a population of horses, split them in half and place them in completely different environments. The two species will evolve separate from each other and because the environment is ...
13
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2answers
365 views

Evolution in 37 years, is it possible?

I am confused, can evolution ( speciation ) really occur in such a short time ? In 1971, biologists moved five adult pairs of Italian wall lizards from their home island of Pod Kopiste, in the ...
13
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1answer
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Why do we grow so much hair on our heads compared to our bodies?

I've been wondering about head hair, facial hair in particular. Human males can grow very extensive beards should they choose to not shave - however you do not really see this in our chimpanzee ...
12
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5answers
319 views

Is it the case that all changes in phenotype during life are not inheritable?

This came up in a talk with a friend. I wanted to clear this doubt. I've read about it before and did again after her remark (my thoughts didn't change: her concept is Lamarck's, not Darwin's), but ...
12
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3answers
740 views

What evolutionary explanations are there for death?

I know death and cancer doesn't hurt humans' reproductive success. It's not helping either. Why do we die? Why dying humans (all of us) are common? What's the point of dying?
12
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1answer
206 views

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 ...
12
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1answer
241 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 ...
12
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2answers
346 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 ...
12
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1answer
834 views

How does evolution produce complex organs

I've been wondering lately how evolution manages to produce complex organs. It is pretty obvious to me how evolution would select some minor traits like size, resistnce to illness or climate. There is ...
11
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6answers
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Is there a biological mechanism for evolution encoded into our DNA?

Throughout high school, I remember learning about Darwin's theory of evolution as if it were near-fact. But something always seemed wrong about the ideas presented. Survival of the fittest Random ...
11
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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 ...