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  • Illuminating photosynthesis on the Web

    As described in this month’s Origins essay, power-hungry bacteria devised a way to capture solar energy more than 3 billion years ago, and the world hasn’t been the same since. To find out more about the nitty-gritty of how photosynthesis works, you might scour the Internet—and be disappointed to learn that the major texts on the… Read More
  • Darwin’s college bills

    We know Charles Darwin revolutionized biology with the theory of evolution by natural selection. We know that he was fond of beetles, pigeons, barnacles, and carnivorous plants; that he enjoyed a relatively happy family life at Down House in Kent. But how much did young Charles spend in student accommodation during his 3 years as a university… Read More
  • Tuning up photosynthesis

    Organisms started capturing the sun’s energy through photosynthesis more than 3 billion years ago, as described in this month’s Origins essay (Science, 6 March 2009, p. 1286). So natural selection has had plenty of opportunities to tinker with the photosynthetic machinery. Is it time we took over, overhauling the process to boost plant grow… Read More
  • How did insects get their wings?

    Archaeognatha meinertellidae
    Steve Yanoviak
    Exactly how insects evolved flight is a heated issue, in part because the fossil evidence for winged insects remains full of gaps. But living insects that are similar to ancestral species could also shed light on the origins of insect flight. In a study reported online this week in Biology Letters, researchers report that bristletails, primitive… Read More
  • Evolutionary researchers group together

    It can be pretty lonely being an evolutionary researcher if you’re not part of a group of evolutionary thinkers, or at least so says evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson of Binghamton University in New York state. He should know: He’s famous for the controversial theory of group selection, which describes how natural selection may act on… Read More
  • Lucy’s American tour fizzles

    The 3.2-million-year-old partial skeleton of Lucy
    Houston Museum of Natural Science
    The famous fossil Lucy has finished her engagement at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington, and has nowhere to go—yet. After a disappointing run in Seattle, the 3.2-million-year-old partial skeleton is being packed up this week, along with the rest of her traveling show, “Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia.” The fo… Read More
  • Minding the oxygen gap

    The origin of oxygen-producing photosynthesis was a major event in Earth’s history, not least because it paved the way for air-breathing animals like us. Nailing down the timing of this innovation would help researchers clarify the evolution of bacterial metabolism and better understand how oxygen released by the early bugs transformed almost… Read More
  • Calling all first editions of “On the Origin …”

    Cambridge University, Darwin Online, and the Huntington Library are trying to track down as many first editions of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species as possible before the anniversary of its publication in November. They are looking for books in private collections as well as in institutions. Already, they have come across Francis Darwin… Read More
  • Fast-mutating viroids hold clues to early life

    If your chrysanthemums look stunted and ugly, take comfort. They’re infected with a parasite that may tell us a lot about how life began. Chrysanthemums and some other plants are victims of invisible enemies with the wonderfully sci-fi name of viroids. Scientists discovered viroids in the 1960s while they were trying to figure out why pot… Read More
  • On the Origin of Photosynthesis

    Try to picture the world without photosynthesis. Obviously, you’d have to strip away the greenery. Not just the redwoods and sunflowers, but the humble algae and the light-capturing bacteria that nourish many of the world’s ecosystems. Gone, too, would be everything that depends on photosynthetic organisms, directly or indirectly, for sustenanc… Read More