Evolution

The Gogo fish fossil 

World's Oldest Vertebrate Fossil Heart Found in Australia

The 380-million-year-old heart came from a prehistoric fish that is our earliest jawed ancestor

Sahelanthropus likely walked on the ground and used all its limbs to move around in trees.

Seven Million Years Ago, the Oldest Known Early Human Was Already Walking

Analysis of a femur fossil indicates that a key species could already move somewhat like us

By studying the throats of 43 primate species, researchers found they all had vocal membranes that destabilized their voices. Humans, on the other hand, do not.

The Evolutionary Trait That May Have Led to Human Speech

“Vocal membranes” in primates make their speech grating and unpredictable, study suggests. Humans have no such thing

Spotless starling chicks use a bright yellow oil to enhance the color of their mouth, which scientists verified by rubbing a cotton swab over the area.

The Done-Up Bird Gets the Worm

Starling chicks apply their preening oil as a lipstick to get more food from their parents

A sulphur-crested cockatoo bows down at the Madrid Zoo Aquarium. The birds have been seen dancing to music and opening trash bins to get to food.

What Can Dancing Cockatoos Teach Us About Ourselves?

An evolutionary biologist demystifies bird intelligence in an excerpt from her new book

Based on the remnants left on pottery fragments, researchers can say northern Europeans have been drinking milk for 9,000 years.

Why Did Europeans Evolve Into Becoming Lactose Tolerant?

Famine and disease from millennia ago likely spurred the rapid evolution of the trait on the continent

Qikiqtania wakei (top) was more suited to swimming than its larger cousin Tiktaalik (bottom).

After Fish Developed Limbs, Some Might Have Returned to Swimming

Scientists think a recently discovered fossil is evidence that evolution is more like a branching tree than a ladder

The current rate of climate change does not bode well for penguins.

Penguins Might Not Be Ready to Adapt to Modern Climate Change

A new study looking at genomes and the fossil record shows that penguins evolve slower than other birds

Researchers analyzed flint tools found at the Evron Quarry in Israel.

Cool Finds

When Did Early Humans Start Using Fire? To Find Answers, Scientists Enlist Artificial Intelligence

By analyzing flint tools, researchers find new evidence of an 800,000-year-old fire in northern Israel

A frog-eating bat

Wild Bats Can Recognize a Phone’s Ringtone Four Years Later

The findings could help researchers understand more about the advantages and disadvantages of long-term memory in animals

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

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