Evolution

These articles explore evolution - the changes seen in the inherited traits of a population from one generation to the next. Evolution is one of the great mysteries of biology, since it is a slow process and difficult to study.

Learn More / Page 3

When peering thousands of years into the future, there are certain things we can count on -- evolution, extinction, plate tectonics, climate change and, quite possibly, the eruption of a supervolcano. What else does the Earth's far future hold?

By William Harris

Once hunted to the brink of extinction, bearded vultures now lack the genetic diversity to evolve effectively through natural selection or genetic drift. Is the bird's small gene pool the death knell for the species?

By Jonathan Atteberry

As the human population soars, our ability to feed all those hungry mouths can't keep pace. How did an English economist by the name of Thomas Malthus wind up thinking about this very issue in the 19th century, and what's his connection to Darwin?

By William Harris

Advertisement

Every species on Earth, from the majestic humpback whale to the bacteria happily living in your gut, has a special role to play within a defined ecosystem. Can organisms ever trade their existing niches for new ones?

By William Harris

Maybe you've noticed that a lot of unrelated marine animals have a torpedo-like body -- a dolphin may not be related to a small fish, but the shape of both species gets each one through the water quickly. On the other hand, two similar species can evolve into entirely different species. So what's going on here: convergent or divergent evolution?

By Marianne Spoon

Extinction can come in the form of an asteroid strike, a volcano eruption or even a nearby supernova. But sometimes devastation follows a chain of tiny, almost imperceptible changes. Who (or what) is behind what some scientists call the sixth mass extinction?

By Jessika Toothman

A society run by women doesn't have to be the mirror opposite of one run by men. What does a matriarchy look like, and is it possible you're already living in one?

By Jessika Toothman

Advertisement

Let's assume that long ago Homo sapiens communicated by grunting at one another. How and when did all those grunting sounds evolve into a verb tenses, clauses and proper nouns?

By Charles W. Bryant

Long before sonnets, sestinas and short stories were historical accounts of kings carved onto clay tablets. Who were the first writers and what did they scribble?

By Charles W. Bryant

Our planet sits in the sun’s Goldilocks zone: the region that’s not too hot and not too cold. But it takes more than temperature to make a planet just right for supporting forms of life as diverse as the Earth’s.

By Robert Lamb

The day our human ancestors figured out fire must have been a pretty exciting one. Through the years, we've changed in so many ways, from growing bigger brains to burying our dead. But how did we get from there to here?

By Elizabeth Sprouse

Advertisement

Since Charles Darwin published the theory of evolution by means of natural selection, myths and misinterpretations have eroded public understanding of his ideas. Ready to take another look at one of the related questions that just won't die?

By William Harris

Thanks to our big brains, we humans have figured out ways to make food easily accessible (all 24 hours of the day). But in this era of obesity, can we pinpoint the very beginnings of when we started packing on the pounds -- and is it further back in time than the rise of fast food?

By Molly Edmonds

Many of us don't have a clue as to what our great-great grandmother's name was. (No offense, great-great grandmas everywhere.) So imagine extending that family tree a few million years beyond that and seeing what our ancestors were up to.

By Jonathan Atteberry

Depending on whom and when you ask, everything from same-sex smooching to punk music portends the end of Western civilization. Do any of these cultural commentators have a case?

By Robert Lamb

Advertisement

Imagine a time in Earth's far-flung past when organisms didn't swim through the oceans or populate the lands. Even the mighty dinosaurs hadn't arisen. Will the planet ever return to that lifeless state?

By Robert Lamb

"It is as hard to see one's self as to look backwards without turning around," wrote Thoreau -- an odd quote from someone who's known for living alone in the woods. "Know thyself"? As it turns out, it's harder than it sounds.

By Molly Edmonds

Variety is the spice of life. Absent the amazing diversity of organisms that calls Earth home, it would be a deadly boring place. How did we get to a point where Komodo dragons, giraffes and butterflies all compete for space on the same planet?

By Robert Lamb

When a basketball superstar makes a 3-pointer, the multimillion-dollar paychecks go into his or her bank account. But why don't his or her parents get the glory? After all, didn't they provide the DNA that allowed for such incredible success?

By Molly Edmonds

Advertisement

You stub your toe, and it begins to throb almost immediately. You wince as the pain takes hold for a moment and you can't concentrate on anything else. But is some pain just in your head?

By Molly Edmonds

We don't admit to breaking up with someone because of his looks, or that we've read our boss's private e-mails. We answer "fine" when someone asks how we are, even if we're not fine at all. Why is polite society all about the big fib?

By Molly Edmonds

Why do we dream? Why do we believe? Why are we curious? During the 60-part documentary series, "The Curiosity Project," Discovery Channel investigates and tries to answer many of life's great questions.

By Josh Clark

Everyone knows that humans require food, water and shelter, but what about knowledge? It turns out that we have an innate, unquenchable need to seek out new things and new stimuli. Aren’t you curious?

By Josh Clark

Advertisement

On May 19, 2009, researchers unveiled a fossil called Ida. Within hours, headlines were abuzz with news of the missing link. But a day later, many scientists weren't so sure.

By Tracy V. Wilson

What do we have in common with these guys? A lot. At some point in our shared past, paleoanthropologists think we both sprang from the same forefather. What was that long-gone relative like?

By Robert Lamb