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Evolution

Abracadabra! How magic can help us understand animal minds

By performing tricks for birds, monkeys and other creatures, researchers hope to learn how they perceive and think about their world

Spots, stripes and more: Working out the logic of animal patterns

More than 70 years ago, mathematician Alan Turing proposed a mechanism that explained how patterns could emerge from bland uniformity. Scientists are still using his model — and adding new twists — to gain a deeper understanding of animal markings.

The wasps that tamed viruses

To protect and rear their young, some insects have transformed wild viruses into tiny biological weapons

The tender art of tadpole parenting

From poison frogs to worm-like caecilians, some amphibians are hardworking and surprisingly creative caregivers

They swim and they spin: Meet the aquatic spiders

Some make nests inside seashells, others tote bubbles of air on their backs. The spiders that went back to water evolved lots of slick survival strategies.

Hunting sky islands for genetic clues to climate resilience

OPINION: Isolated mountaintops are hotbeds of evolutionary adaptation and great places to study how climate change affects ecosystems

CRISPR gene editing: Moving closer to home

With the first medical therapy approved and systems like CRISPR-Cas showing up in complex cells, there’s a lot going on in the genome editing field. Here’s our primer.

Neanderthals: More knowable now than ever

They have held our fascination ever since we first identified their remains. Today, thanks to new artifacts and technologies, findings about our closest relatives are coming thick and fast.

Where the heck did all those structures inside complex cells come from?

Scientists agree that eons ago, a bacterium took up residence inside another cell and became its powerhouse, the mitochondrion. But there are competing theories about the birth of other organelles such as the nucleus and endoplasmic reticulum.

Division of labor in ants, wasps, bees — and us

Social insects and humans share the trait of divvying up tasks, as do some fish. Researchers find that it emerges naturally, and it often doesn’t take a boss to keep things in order.

Evolution of the nervous system

COMIC: When, why and how did neurons first evolve? Scientists are piecing together the ancient story.

The fossil that launched a dinosaur revolution

PODCAST: Archaeopteryx forever changed our understanding of dinosaurs and the origin of birds, but it took a century after its discovery and a one-page paper to shift scientific consensus (Season 3, Episode 2)

The ever-tenuous success of plants engineered to kill insect foes

Bt crops keep many agricultural pests at bay and have drastically reduced the use of pesticides. But scientists warn that these valuable tools are in jeopardy due to overuse and abuse.

Mysteries of the poisonous amphibians

Many brightly colored frogs and salamanders have enough toxins in their skin to kill multiple people. How do they survive their own noxious weapons?

The secrets of cooperation

Most people care what others think of them. In many situations, that can be leveraged for the common good.

As glaciers retreat, new streams for salmon

Ecologist Sandy Milner has traveled to Alaska for decades to study the development of streams flowing from melting glaciers. He’s seen insects move in, alders and willows spring up, and spawning fish arrive in thousands.

Could mitochondria be the key to a healthy brain?

Some researchers suspect these bacterial ancestors living within our cells may contribute to a wide range of neurological and psychiatric disorders

The human hand in fish evolution

Fishery practices that go for the big ones may be counterproductive when mostly the small survive

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