Ancestry & Evolution

The desire to understand our origins is primal. By examining our DNA over successive generations through the evolutionary process of inherited characteristics of human and animal populations–as well as from those species from which humans share a common ancestry–we can decipher our individual and collective past and develop medical innovations for the future.

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Has the mystery of who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls been solved?

Has the mystery of who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls been solved?

Dozens of skeletons discovered in the Judean Desert may finally reveal who wrote the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, a mystery that ...
'Fault-free obesity': How much are fat-storing genes causing expanding waistlines?

‘Fault-free obesity’: How much are fat-storing genes causing expanding waistlines?

Obesity is often attributed to a simple equation: People are eating too much and exercising too little. But evidence is ...
Searching for extraterrestrial life: Finding the right communication technology

Searching for extraterrestrial life: Finding the right communication technology

Scientists are looking for evidence of extraterrestrial communication across interstellar space. But what if other intelligent life forms are using ...
How tracing the evolutionary family tree of all female lab mice will help improve medical research

How tracing the evolutionary family tree of all female lab mice will help improve medical research

Adam and Eve, a pair of black mice, lived for less than two years and never left their home at ...
Our brains grow and shrink when we learn—which is how we continue to absorb knowledge

Our brains grow and shrink when we learn—which is how we continue to absorb knowledge

Our past understanding of the brain would suggest that new knowledge requires new brain cells, and as a result our ...
Viewpoint: We need a conversation about gene editing and eugenics

Viewpoint: We need a conversation about gene editing and eugenics

[Editor's note: Karin Christiansen is head of research at the Centre for Health Technology at the Faculty of Health, VIA ...
Biopesticides: Creating a mosquito-fighting bacteria wasn't easy—or fast

Biopesticides: Creating a mosquito-fighting bacteria wasn’t easy—or fast

[A]fter decades of international scientific effort, a new mosquito biopesticide (a pesticide that uses natural bacteria) has been approved. And it only took a year and ...
Saving the Galapagos: Gene drives could help rid invasive pests

Saving the Galapagos: Gene drives could help rid invasive pests

Eradicating invasive species can be a brutal job. On the island of Floreana, a plan to eliminate the rodents that ...
Dog genome project: How your breed originated

Dog genome project: How your breed originated

From the 80-kilogram Great Dane to the 1-kilogram tiny teacup poodle, there seems to be a dog for everyone. Now, ...
Asteroid that killed dinosaurs had only 1-in-10 chance of causing extinction

Asteroid that killed dinosaurs had only 1-in-10 chance of causing extinction

The smack of the asteroid against Earth released energy on the order of billions of atomic bombs. Dinosaurs were the cataclysm's most famous ...
Rodent-like creature may be our earliest ancestor

Rodent-like creature may be our earliest ancestor

The earliest known ancestors of the mammal lineage that includes everything from humans, to blue whales, to pygmy shrews may ...
Challenging the RNA origin of life theory

Challenging the RNA origin of life theory

The current consensus holds that life emerged from an ‘RNA-world’, first named by Nobel Laureate Walter Gilbert in 1986. This ...
Oldest known human fossils rewrite Homo sapiens history

Oldest known human fossils rewrite Homo sapiens history

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, around 62 miles west of what would eventually become Marrakesh, a group of people ...
Can't get motivated? You may be able to blame your genes

Can’t get motivated? You may be able to blame your genes

Being apathetic may feel like following the path of least resistance. But studies of apathy in the brain show otherwise ...
Gut microbiome could influence response to cancer treatment

Gut microbiome could influence response to cancer treatment

When [cancer] drugs work, the immune system tramples tumors into oblivion. But they don’t always work—in fact, cancer drugs can ...
Deep freeze: Will climate change awaken long-frozen diseases?

Deep freeze: Will climate change awaken long-frozen diseases?

I visited Greenland because, lately, the land here has gone soft, and disquieting things threaten to wake in it. … ...
Getting behind the genetics of high-altitude adjustments

Getting behind the genetics of high-altitude adjustments

People who both travel to and live at high altitudes typically cope with lower oxygen levels by increasing red blood ...
Alcohol addiction: Can we blame our ancient ancestors?

Alcohol addiction: Can we blame our ancient ancestors?

[M]illions of years ago, being able to consume alcohol was likely vital to survival: our ancestors evolved to metabolize booze right around ...
'Kelp highway'--not a land bridge--likely brought first humans to the Americas

‘Kelp highway’–not a land bridge–likely brought first humans to the Americas

For decades, students were taught that the first people in the Americas were a group called the Clovis who walked ...
Epigenetics and addiction: Enzyme could help treat cocaine, alcohol and opioid dependence

Epigenetics and addiction: Enzyme could help treat cocaine, alcohol and opioid dependence

Previously, it had been studied that an epigenetic drug could alter DNA methylation in the brain during drug withdrawal with hopes in ...
Immortal dictators: Is there a downside to life-extending technologies?

Immortal dictators: Is there a downside to life-extending technologies?

Suppose there was a country ruled by an evil dictator. Further, suppose the entire world was plagued by a terrible ...
Neurologic disorders may be linked to brain's immune system

Neurologic disorders may be linked to brain’s immune system

New research suggests there could be a link between certain disorders, including Alzheimer's disease, and the brain's inability to clear ...
Fate of Neanderthals may have been sealed when early humans started migrating

Fate of Neanderthals may have been sealed when early humans started migrating

What killed off the Neanderthals? It’s a big debate, and now a study says that no matter what the answer, ...
How do you define 'species’? Turns out, it's not so easy

How do you define ‘species’? Turns out, it’s not so easy

At first glance, “species” is a basic vocabulary word school children can ace on a test by reciting something close ...
Two of a kind? Twins offer unique glimpse into human development

Two of a kind? Twins offer unique glimpse into human development

In the world of genetics, identical twins offer a valuable source for study. And they've shown that our genetic makeup ...
IQ debate: How much of intelligence is determined by genetics?

IQ debate: How much of intelligence is determined by genetics?

[Editor's note: Robert Plomin is deputy director of the MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Center at King’s College London.] ...
Viewpoint: Gender equity debate demands understanding of biological differences

Viewpoint: Gender equity debate demands understanding of biological differences

[Editor's notes: Marta Iglesias is a predoctoral researcher in the Champalimaud Neuroscience Programme, Lisbon. Her research is focused on how ...
There's a reason you have trouble thinking and remembering when hunger sets in

There’s a reason you have trouble thinking and remembering when hunger sets in

Why is it so hard to think while you're hungry? Researchers now believe it may come down to one protein ...