Evolution

Horses have shaped human history over millennia, just as humans have influenced their evolution

When Did Humans Domesticate the Horse?

Only recently have scientists discovered exactly when and where the animal went from wild to tame

A new book, coedited by Smithsonian entomologist Ted Schultz, explores and the fascinating ways in which human and nonhuman farmers compare, and asks what we might learn from other agricultural species.

Could Ants, Termites and Fishes Make Humans Better Farmers?

Scientists are now revealing the agricultural expertise that other species have cultivated for tens of millions of years

Homo heidelbergensis, a species whose skull is pictured here, likely lived in regions that overlapped with Neanderthals in Europe and Homo sapiens in Africa—according to climate modeling results released this week.

How Did Climate Change Affect Ancient Humans?

Sophisticated climate models were paired with evidence from the archaeological record to reveal where ancient humans may have lived and evolved

The muscles that allow for the "puppy-dog eyes" in domestic dogs is undeveloped in wolves, suggesting that the adorable look evolved to captivate humans. (Pictured: The author's dog, Smoky.)

The Science Behind Those Big Ol' Puppy-Dog Eyes

Our canine friends evolved extra muscle fibers around their eyes and mouths that allow them to make facial expressions humans find adorable

A page from Darwin's 1837 notebook showing the Tree of Life sketch.

Good News

Stolen Charles Darwin Notebooks Returned After 22 Years

One of the items contains the renowned naturalist's first sketch of the Tree of Life

Fossil skeleton of the owl Miosurnia diurna, which was active during the day.

This Ancient Owl Hunted in the Daytime

The fossil evidence fills a gap in these birds' evolutionary history

A female Bornean orangutan carrying her son in Central Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia.

Orangutan's Vocabularies Are Shaped by Socializing With Others, Just Like Humans

A new study reveals apes have distinct and flexible 'vocal personalities,' opposed to a fixed repertoire of calls

The lady-bug-sized spiders live in colonies of thousands are rarely leave the safety of their web.

These Spiders Hunt in Packs to Catch Prey Hundreds of Times Their Size

New research reveals how some arachnids use a coordinated stop-and-start approach to find a meal

Draughtsboard sharks apparently snooze with their eyes open or closed depending on the amount of surrounding light.

Sharks Apparently Do Sleep, Even With Their Eyes Wide Open

Scientists observed sleep in draughtsboard sharks by analyzing the animals' metabolism and posture

An illustration of S. bideni, which is the oldest known cephalopod to have suckers along all of its arms.

Ancient Ten-Armed Octopus Relative Named for Joe Biden

The discovery of 'Syllipsimopodi bideni' pushes back the fossil record of the vampyropods by over 82 million years

The Venus flytrap Dionaea muscipula is the most sophisticated of the carnivorous plants. Its traps snap shut in a fraction of a second, imprisoning prey in a cage of teeth that line the edges of the trap.

How Carnivorous Plants Evolved

Botanists are beginning to trace the origins of their gruesome appetites

One reader wonders if European modernists thought of the American painter Georgia O’Keeffe as a remarkable artist.
 

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Was Georgia O'Keeffe's Genius Appreciated Outside of America? And More Questions From Our Readers

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Lichens produce oxygen, trap moisture, and serve as food and shelter to other organisms.

Lichens Are in an Evolutionary Race Against Climate Change

The symbiotic organisms could need more than a million years to adapt to just 1 degree Celsius of warming, a new study suggests

Scientists identified an odor receptor that detects a synthetic musk used in fragrances, and another that detects underarm odor.

Humans' Sense of Smell May Be Worse Than Our Primate Ancestors'

The recent study also identified two new scent receptors for musk and body odor

Big brown bats Eptesicus fuscus (pictured) are a Yangochiroptera species that uses complex sounds to echolocate. 

A Tiny, Partially Missing Bone Structure in Bat Ears May Have Cleared the Way for Echolocation to Evolve

Nearly 90 percent of the nighttime hunters use sound to find prey

Researchers have located a genetic mutation associated with smaller dogs.

Mutation That Gave Us Tiny Dogs Found in Ancient Wolves

The genetic factor that plays a large role in determining canine body size was around thousands of years prior to domestication

Richard Leakey's most notable find came in 1984 when he uncovered a near-complete Homo erectus skeleton dated about 1.5 million years ago. The skeleton dubbed Turkana Boy is 40 percent complete and is the most near-complete fossil skeleton of a human ancestor ever found.

Famed Paleoanthropologist and Wildlife Conservationist Richard Leakey Dies at 77

His team's discovery of early human skulls and skeletons cemented Africa as the cradle of humanity

Though ichthyosaurs and whales never existed at the same time, they both evolved from species that walked on Earth and transitioned to the sea. 

Earth's Oldest Ocean Giant Was a Reptile With an Eight-Foot Skull

The newly discovered specimen sheds light on how the sea creatures, known as ichthyosaurs, evolved their gargantuan size so quickly

A restoration of the extinct whale Phiomicetus, named by paleontologists earlier this year, preying upon a sawfish.

Whales Once Walked Along the Coasts of North America

Increasing fossil finds are helping researchers understand how such early whales made their way to the continent

Harvard University professor E.O. Wilson in his office in Cambridge, MA. He is considered to be the world's leading authority on the study of ants.

Remembering E.O. Wilson's Wish for a More Sustainable Existence

From a lifelong passion for ants, E.O. Wilson guided humanity to think of conservation

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