Questions tagged [evolution]

Changes in the heritable attributes of populations of organisms over time. The mechanisms of evolution are mutation, migration, drift, and selection.

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Why don't rats have a gallbladder, unlike other rodents?

It has long been known that rats do not have a gallbladder, though other species including humans, monkeys, cows, reptiles, dogs and mice, all have a gallbladder. In this paper from almost 100 years ...
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Why do living fossils like crocodiles remain so constant and not evolve? [duplicate]

Crocodiles have supposedly remained unchanged for millions of years, and several other species are considered as "living fossils". How do such species remain so constant over time given that they will ...
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How did the felines get to America?

I don't know if the felines got originated on America or on Africa, but I do know there are species of cat in America and Africa that belong to the same family and genus (Felidae & Panthera). How ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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, ...
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Is it known how the first viruses formed?

The oldest known virus is known to have infected prehistoric insects 300 million years ago. A virus is basically a parasitic strand if DNA or RNA encapsulated in a protein coat. It enters cells by "...
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How many humans have been in my lineage? Is it almost the same for every human currently living?

If I were to count my father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather, and so on up till, say chimps, or the most common ancestor, or whatever that suits the more accurate answer, how many humans would ...
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Why can't humans drink sea water?

Why can't humans drink sea water? It would seem to be a huge evolutionary advantage for an animal to be able to drink sea water rather than have to rely on fresh water, and it's provably not ...
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Why do we have five fingers?

Humans (and other humanoid mammals) have five fingers in each hand. Curious to know, why five? Wouldn't more fingers be more useful? Is there any evidence that it used to be different and natural ...
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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 ...
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Why didn't the polar bear change its color from white to black during evolution to absorb heat?

Polar bears are white in color and white color is not a good absorbant of heat. Why then didn't they evolve a black color to absorb more heat?
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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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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 ...
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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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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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How and why did mammals go back to the oceans?

If I understand evolutionary biology correctly, mammals first evolved on land as small, rodent-like creatures, in a time when reptiles were dominant on land. Eventually, they diversified into the ...
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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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Why do plants fruit?

This is a two-part question: What is the point of fruit if not to be eaten? It’s my understanding that organisms will adapt to survive and thrive. I understand that being eaten can spread seeds, but ...
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How did the cardiovascular system evolve?

How has evolution created our blood, lungs and the heart? We can't exist without blood, which transports the oxygen to all areas of our body. However, the blood needs a lung, which gives it the ...
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Are mutations a source of genetic variation?

Here is a question from the book SAT II Success Biology E/M (where the SAT is the exam taken by the American high school students): Which of the following statements is true about mutations? (A) ...
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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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What is the evolutionary reason behind the fragility of teeth?

Almost all organs in the human body have a rather large threshold within which the organ or tissue is capable of repairing itself using materials supplied by the body, whether it's made from organic ...
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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 ...
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Evolutionarily, why do male rats and horses lack nipples?

Developmentally male rats don't have nipples because (reddit) Testosterone release in the fetal male rat happens before the stage of mammogenesis where the teat is formed whereas other species halt ...
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Did the Great Oxygenation Event also cause a mass extinction?

It's usually assumed that the Great Oxidation Event around 2.3 billion years ago caused a great extinction of anaerobic life on earth. However, I was reading Nick Lane's book, The Vital Question, and ...
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What are the major evolutionary pressures for Bioluminescence?

What are the major evolutionary pressures for Bioluminescence?
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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 ...
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Why are turtles classified as reptiles and not amphibians?

I understand that turtles are reptiles because like all reptiles, they have scales on their body. But turtles (specifically sea turtles) live on both land and water, very much like amphibians. Also, ...
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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 -- ...
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How can birds disperse seeds when they are able to digest them?

I've just read in a book that birds' guts can digest almost all the consumed seeds with the exception of mistletoe and loranthus (which stays stuck on the branches). On the other hand, I know that the ...
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Why did humans lose their fur?

The little amount of body hair humans have don't seem to be of much use for keeping warm. Our Simian cousins on the other hand sport thick furs. At which point during the species evolution and why ...
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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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Are there single-celled organisms that have evolved from multi-cellular ones?

I'm reading this paper about transmissible cancer cells in clams (Metzger et al. 2015) and I was wondering if there are any single-cellular organisms that are around today that are suspected as having ...
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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 ...
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Why do we assume that the first humans were dark-skinned?

According to the article Dark skin and blue eyes: How Europeans once looked: It is widely accepted that Man's oldest common forefather was dark skinned, and that people became more pale as they ...
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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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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 ...
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Why do humans find baby animals cute?

Why do humans find baby animals like cats, dogs, ... so cute? As these are potential competitors (when grown up!) or even natural enemies (like e.g. tigers, leopards, ..), the protection instinct (...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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Why have parasites not evolved to be harmless?

I have yet to understand why so many viruses or bacteria haven't evolved to be harmless (specifically, I don't know of any harmless virus). I think it would be greatly beneficial for a virus to ...
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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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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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Why does sex last so long?

I wonder why (especially human) sex lasts longer than just a few seconds? My thought is that the shorter it takes a man to ejaculate, the lesser is the risk that he gets interrupted by a rival or a ...
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What is the difference between a circular and a cat's-eye (slit) pupil?

I've been to local zoo the other day and one lizard caught my attention: its pupils are circular, which, I thought, is not usual for reptiles. Turns out it is, but now I can't find any explanation on ...
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Why does human facial and head hair continue to grow?

Many people can grow extremely long head hair and facial hair. Are there evolutionary theories as to why this is the case? It seems like having long hair could be a disadvantage, and extremely long ...
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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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