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News articles on Evolution
Mongabay.com news articles on Evolution in blog format. Updated regularly.
(09/24/2009) One of the most pressing issues in the conservation today is how climate change will affect tropical ecosystems. The short answer is: we don't know. Because of this, more and more scientists are looking at the probable impacts of a warmer world on the Earth's most vibrant and biodiverse ecosystems. Kenneth J. Feeley, tropical ecologist and new professor at Florida International University and the Center for Tropical Plant Conservation at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, is conducting groundbreaking research in the tropical forests of Peru on the migration of tree species due to climate change.
New species of ghostshark discovered off California's coast
(09/22/2009) The discovery of Eastern Pacific black ghostshark Hydrolagus melanophasma is notable for a number of reasons. It is the first new species of cartilaginous fish—i.e fish whose skeletons are made entirely of cartilage, such as sharks, rays, and skate—to be described in California water since 1947. It is also a representative of an ancient and little-known group of fish.
Three new species discovered in mile-long underwater cave
(09/01/2009) There are few places in the world more remote, more dangerous, and more unexplored than underwater caves. Cave diving—exploring these unknown abysses—has yielded many strange species unknown to science. A recent expedition to an underwater cave on Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, was no exception. Researchers discovered two species of worm smaller than a grain of rice and a primitive poisonous crustacean.
The mysterious, fascinating, and lightning-quick mantis shrimp: An Interview with Maya deVries
(08/26/2009) If you have never heard of the mantis shrimp, don’t feel bad. Berkeley graduate student Maya deVries, who is becoming an expert on these small crustaceans (related neither to shrimp or preying mantis) admits that until she began her graduate studies mantis shrimp were also unknown to her: "I did not even learn what a mantis shrimp was until I applied to work with my current Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Sheila Patek, at UC Berkeley". But Maya's first look at the mantis shrimp on her advisor's website left an impression: "I was struck by the amazing capacity of mantis shrimp to capture fish and smash shells with only a few powerful blows, something a fish could only dream of doing."
Tropical plant expert Stephen P. Hubbell wins this year's Eminent Ecologist Award
(08/13/2009) Stephen P. Hubbell has won the 2009 Eminent Ecologist Award. Hubbell is a staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA.
Fish take less than a decade to evolve
(06/22/2009) Evolution is often thought of being a slow-process, taking thousands, if not millions, of years. However a new study in The American Naturalist found that Trinidadian guppies underwent evolution in just eight years, or thirty generations. Less than a decade ago Swanne Gordon, a graduate student at UC Riverside, and her team introduced Trinidadian guppies into the Damier River in the Caribbean island of Trinidad. They placed the guppies above a waterfall to allow them to flourish in a largely predator-free environment.
The unknown role of coextinctions in the current extinction crisis
(05/28/2009) Scientists have long recognized ‘coextinctions’ as a major concern when it comes to the current mass extinction crisis. Despite such recognition, however, the role of coextinctions remains largely mysterious and little-studied. A new paper attempts to address this by settling what is known (and unknown) about the phenomenon of coextinctions and where research needs to go next.
Permian mass extinction caused by giant volcanic eruption
(05/28/2009) Two hundred and sixty million years ago the Earth experienced its worst mass extinction: 95 percent of marine life and 70 percent of terrestrial life vanished. Long a subject of dispute, researchers from the University of Leeds believe they have confirmed the reason behind the so-called Permian extinction.
Rooks use tools in captivity rivaling ‘habitual tools users such as chimpanzees’
(05/26/2009) The rook, a member of the crow family, is the most recent bird to prove the ability to use tools, a capacity once thought to belong only to humans. Although rooks have never been observed using tools in the wild, researchers were astounded at how quickly—sometimes during the first try—rooks were able to employ tools to attain food.
African pygmies diverged from other humans 60,000 years ago
(04/10/2009) Around 60,000 years ago the ancestors of modern African Pygmies, known worldwide for their small-stature, separated from local farmer populations, according to new genetic research published in PLoS Genetics.
Fastest evolving bird family produces new species
(03/16/2009) Discovered in the Solomon Island of Vanikoro, a new species of bird from the white-eye family leads credence to the belief that white-eyes are the world's fastest evolving family of birds.
Poison frog diversity linked to the Andes
(03/10/2009) Electric colors, wild markings, and toxic skin have made poison frogs well-known inhabitants of the Amazon rainforest. With 353 recognized species, and probably more awaiting discovery, poison frogs are an incredibly diverse group of amphibians. While it has long been believed that the Amazon basin, itself, was the source of their diversity, a new study published in PLoS Biology has uncovered that the Andes mountain chain has served as an oven of evolutionary biodiversity for poison frogs over several million years.
Frogs can be used to predict biodiversity hotspots
(02/05/2009) Tree frogs may help scientists inexpensively predict biodiversity hotspots for conservation, report researchers writing in the journal Science.
Rediscovery of the solenodon, a rare venomous mammal, in Haiti
(01/09/2009) In the journal Oryx researchers from EDGE, a program of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), have announced the rediscovery of a small population of Hispaniolan solenodons in Haiti. At the same time scientists in the Dominican Republic have taken the first ever footage of this endangered mammal.
Newly discovered pink iguana sheds light on Galapagos evolution
(01/06/2009) A newly identified, but already endangered species of pink land iguana may provide evidence of the lizard's evolution on the Galápagos Islands, report researchers writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Did cheetah come from China?
(12/30/2008) The discovery of a fossilized big cat skull in northwestern China provides new evidence that cheetah originated in the Old World, rather than the Americas, report scientists writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
New species of flying lemurs discovered
(11/10/2008) A new study has found that colugos or flying lemurs are twice as diverse as previously believed.
Missing link between fish and land animals discovered
(11/07/2008) A study published in the October 16 issue of Nature details research into and implications of a fossil fish, Tiktaalik roseae, discovered last year at Ellesmere Island in Canada. The Devonian fossil shows an array of features found in both terrestrial and aquatic animals, providing the best glimpse so far into the transitory period during which vertebrates were able to adapt to life out of water. The find provides some of the first osteological evidence of neck development, a crucial adaptation to terrestrial life because it allows an animal's body to remain stationary while it surveys its environment.
Scientists discover 120 million year-old ant in the Amazon rainforest
(09/17/2008) Scientists have discovered a previously unknown species of ant in the Amazon that may shed light on the evolution of ants. The species is believed to be the oldest-known ant at around 120 million years old. The discovery is presented this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
For Australian beetles bigger is better; while American beetles don't care about size
(09/03/2008) Researchers have discovered a dung beetle that may be evolving into separate species in a few decades rather than thousands or millions of years. Separated geographically, sub-populations of the species show large differences in the size of their genitalia and horns. Such distinctions could create new species in a short time, because beetles with largely different genitalia cannot successfully mate.
Aye-aye diverged from other lemurs 66M years ago
(02/25/2008) The aye-aye -- a bizarre, nocturnal lemur that taps on trees with its fingers to find its insect prey -- was the first of its family to branch off from the rest of the lemur line some 66 million years ago, report Duke researchers writing in the March 1 issue of Genome Research.
Evolution of whales challenged
(12/19/2007) Modern whales appear to have evolved from a raccoon-sized creature with the body of a small deer, according to scientists writing in the journal Nature. The results challenge the theory that cetaceans are descended from even-toed ungulates (artiodactyls) like hippos, as previous molecular analysis has suggested.
New theory on the evolution of pygmies
(12/10/2007) The small body size of forest-dwelling "pygmies" evolved as a life history consequence of early death, not as an adaptation to their environment or endurance against starvation, argues a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Global warming may provoke evolution
(11/26/2007) Some 80 million years ago, during a period of global warming, a group of relatively immobile salamanders trekked from western North America to the continent that became Asia, report researchers writing in this week's issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Missing link between humans and apes possibly discovered
(11/12/2007) A 10 million-year-old jawbone discovered in Kenya may represent a new species very close to the last common ancestor of gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans, report researchers writing in the current issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Flying lemurs are primates' closest cousins
(11/01/2007) New molecular and genomic analysis shows that flying lemurs are the closest relatives of primates, according to research published in the journal Science.
New software tracks individual global warming emissions
(11/01/2007) A new Windows software program called TerraCuro enables users to track their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. TerraCuro's developers believe that "what gets measured gets results" and that the software will help users achieve "verifiably cleaner, lower cost, carbon-neutral living."
Climate change did not cause extinction of Neanderthals
(09/12/2007) Researchers in Europe have found evidence that rules out a "single climatic event" as factor in the extinction of Neanderthals.
Toddlers have higher social cognition skills than apes
(09/06/2007) Toddlers have more sophisticated social learning skills than their closest primate relatives, researchers report in the 7 September issue of the journal Science.
Squid chasing drove evolution of whale sonar
(09/06/2007) A University of California at Berkeley study argues that dolphins and other toothed whales developed sonar to chase schools of squid swimming near the ocean surface at night.
Climate change drove human evolution
(09/03/2007) Climate change appears to have been a significant driver of human evolution, report researchers writing in this week's issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).
Asians played larger role in colonization of Europe than Africans
(08/06/2007) Humans with Asian origins played a larger role than those from Africa in colonizing Europe millions of years ago, reports a paper published in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Sea anemone genome provides insight on evolution
(07/05/2007) The sea anemone genome is far more complex and vertebrate-like than the fruit fly or nematode genomes, reports a study published in the July 6th issue of the journal Science. The analysis provides insights into the common ancestor of nearly all multi-celled animals, including humans.
Rainforest trees colonized Africa from the Amazon
(06/24/2007) A giant rainforest tree is helping scientists understand similarities between African and South American rainforests, reports research published in the journal Molecular Ecology.
Mother lizards select color patterns of offspring
(06/13/2007) Mother lizards can induce different color patterns in their offspring in response to social cues, reports research published June 10 in the online early edition of the journal Ecology Letters. Female side-blotched lizards determine the patterns "most likely to ensure success under the conditions they will encounter as adults," according to scientists from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Frogs rafted from South America to the Caribbean 29M years ago
(06/04/2007) Large populations of frogs in Central America and the Caribbean rafted, over the ocean from South America more than 29 million years ago, reports a new study published in the June 4 early online edition of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Human ancestors first walked in trees
(05/31/2007) Walking on two legs is likely to have first arisen among apes living in trees, rather than ground-dwelling prehistoric ancestors of humans, reports research published in the June 1st issue of the journal Science.
Sex differences fuel evolution
(05/10/2007) Some Caribbean lizards' strong sexual dimorphism allows them to colonize much larger niches and habitats than they might otherwise occupy, allowing males and females to avoid competing with each other for resources and setting the stage for the population as a whole to thrive. The finding, reported this week in the journal Nature, suggests sex differences may have fueled the evolutionary flourishing of the Earth's wildly diverse fauna in a way not previously appreciated by scientists.
Climate change leaving amphibians behind in extinction race
(04/30/2007) Despite surviving the age of dinosaurs and numerous bouts of severe climate change, amphibians are not keeping pace with the current rate of global change, reports a new study published in the journal Bioscience.
Global warming killed Neanderthals in Spain
(04/30/2007) New research fingers climate change, not humans, as the culprit for the extinction of Neanderthals on the Iberian Peninsula. The research condradicts prevailing theory which holds modern humans responsible for their demise.
Animals on islands more abundant than mainland
(04/30/2007) A comprehensive survey of lizards on islands around the world has confirmed what island biologists and seafaring explorers have long observed: Animals on islands are much more abundant than their counterparts on the mainland.
First amphibians were biters not suckers
(04/16/2007) Prehistoric aquatic amphibians developed the ability to feed on land well before they became terrestrial reports a new study in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Dinosaur extinction didn't produce current mammal evolution
(03/28/2007) A new Nature study argues that the demise of dinosaurs did not fuel the rise of mammals. Devising a new tree of life for 4,500 species of mammals using molecular evolutionary trees, an international team of researchers challenges the prevailing hypothesis that a mass extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago played a major role in the diversification of mammals.
Monkeys have culture too
(03/24/2007) A study carried out in the Caatinga forest of Serra da Capivara National Park in the Piaui state of northeast Brazil provides new evidence for the existence of culture in monkeys. The research, published by Dr Antonio Moura, a Brazilian researcher from the Department of Biological Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, suggests that monkeys can learn skills from each other, in the same manner as humans. Moura found signs that Capuchin monkeys in Brazil teach each other to bang stones as a signaling device to scare off potential predators.
Evolutionary precursor to snake discovered
(03/23/2007) A University of Alberta paleontologist has helped discover the existence of a 95 million-year-old snakelike marine animal, a finding that provides not only the earliest example of limbloss in lizards but the first example of limbloss in an aquatic lizard.
Prehistoric lizard glided through air using ribs
(03/19/2007) An extinct species of lizard used a wing-like membrane supported by the animal's elongated ribs for gliding through the air according to Chinese researchers. The 6-inch (15.5 cm) lizard, found in the Liaoning Province of northeastern China, lived during the Early Cretaceous period. The specimen is described in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Evolution is faster in temperate zones
(03/15/2007) A new study argues that temperate zones are hotbeds of evolution, not tropical areas as conventionally held.
Ancient humanoids were short and nasty for kung fu fighting, not climbing
(03/12/2007) Ancient ape-like human ancestors called as australopiths were short-legged to help them fight, not to climb trees, argues a new study from a researcher at the University of Utah.
Caribbean coral reefs result of mass extinction, rise of isthmus
(03/12/2007) Extinctions that resulted from the formation of the Panamanian isthmus were delayed two million years according to a new study by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and London's Natural History Museum. The findings may have implications for global species extinction and evolution.
Two new species of eyeless albino millipede found in Arizona
(03/05/2007) A newly discovered genus of millipede may shed light on the poorly understood cave ecosystems of the desert southwest. J. Judson Wynne, with the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University (NAU) and cave research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey's Southwest Biological Center, and Kyle Voyles, Arizona State Cave Coordinator for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), collected the two previously unknown millipede species in caves on opposite sides of the Grand Canyon.
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