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  • What ever happened to Kenyanthropus platyops?

    Human evolution research is not for the faint-hearted. Hominin fossils are rare and hard to find. And more often than not, no sooner do anthropologists announce a big discovery than other researchers argue that they have it wrong. The next chapter in such a scenario unfolded last week, when scientists attending a meeting*at the Royal… Read More
  • Primatologists go ape over Ardi

    LONDON—When Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley, agreed to speak at a human origins meeting* at the Royal Society here, he sent no abstract and provided only a one-word title: “Ardipithecus.” But that one word was enough to earn him a spot on the podium and a prominent role at the meeting. After 15… Read More
  • Tackling brain evolution with all eight arms

    Cephalopods—octopuses, squid, and their relatives—ruled the seas in the Cambrian era, some 500 million years ago. But their world changed in a big way with the Cambrian Explosion, a rapid diversification of life on Earth that included the origin of fish. Suddenly, cephalopods had new opportunities—delicious fish!—and their first serious co… Read More
  • B cells with a taste for microbes

    Reptiles look old school, and they have old school B cells that retain an ancient ability our B cells have lost, says a new study published today. Our B cells cannot engulf invading bacteria, but a turtle’s can. The results help narrow down when the immune system’s antibody factories stopped dining out. The mammalian immune system div… Read More
  • Prize-winning researcher ventures into unknown: the origin of eukaryotes

    As I was working on my essay on the evolution of eukaryotes, I spoke a lot to Nick Lane. Lane is trained as a biochemist, but he’s also a prolific author (most recently of the book Life Ascending). As a result, Lane is that particularly rare breed: a scientist who can not only offer a bird’s-eye view of… Read More
  • Yes, Ardi evolved from apes

    “Ardi,” the oldest known skeleton of a hominin, or member of the human family, has grabbed headlines around the world since her unveiling in Science Thursday. Not surprisingly, the press coverage of the 4.4-million-year-old Ardipithecus ramidus has sometimes been sensational—and, in some cases, completely wrong.  Some newspapers and broa… Read More
  • On the Origin of Ecological Communities

    Why in tropical forests do tall broad-leaf trees tower over a layer of understory species? What dictates that shrubs and herbaceous plants pepper the ground below, creating an environment recognizable the world over as tropical forest. Biologists have long wanted to know why forests and other ecological communities look the way they do. In the… Read More