Mapping evolution

Mapping evolution

Research in salty ponds shows how one species of pupfish becomes three — in a few cases. More important, it shows why this did not happen in thousands of other locations. Does an impenetrable “death valley” isolate viable species? More »

Odder than odd!

Odder than odd!

Dig the dung beetle. Sample the belly button. Tilt your brain — and see what happens. Watch bees cook their enemies. Drive through the cabbie’s brain. Check out pretty pix of pretty chicks. All weird. All here! More »

First forest: New details emerge

First forest: New details emerge

Returning to the site of a classic “first forest” site, New York scientists have found extra complexity: three fossilized trees-like species aged almost 400 million years. One find, a vine-like monster, may be a direct descendant of all seed-bearing trees! More »

Dr. Darwin teaches robot!

Dr. Darwin teaches robot!

A crash course in “sink or swim” teaches computerized robots to adapt to changing circumstances. When taught by “directed evolution,” robots that started without legs learned to walk sooner than robots that started with legs! Can you explain? More »

Enter the realm of the ants

close up of ant faces with revolutionary-themed background

In many environments, ants know the tricks of survival, even domination. Skeptical? Ask the fire ant. Ask the army ant. A series of studies is revealing the genetic basis for survival and domination. What genes are active, and which have disappeared after prolonged unemployment? More »

Snot Otter

Snot Otter

The snot otter, more officially known as the hellbender salamander or Cryptobranchus alleganiensis, is North America’s most super-sized salamander, growing up to 30 inches long. It inhabits streams and rivers from Arkansas to New York, and has evolved very little… More »

Maggots, leeches, parasitic worms

Maggots, leeches, parasitic worms

Meet three gross “biotherapies”: Leeches suck blood after surgery. Maggots clear dead tissue from wounds. Parasitic worms fight ulcerative colitis. Back to the future, here we go! More »

Holy horseradish! Ancient roots of pain

Holy horseradish! Ancient roots of pain
Horseradish, onions and caffeine all activate a group of chemical receptors that can trigger a pain signal. Turns out the same receptors exist in fruitflies, mussels, corals and mule deer. Why has this receptor survived a half-billion years? Because it protects against toxic chemicals – even if they taste good in small doses! More »

Tracking traveling toads

Tracking traveling toads
Do new species arise because so many niches are available in a new habitat? Or do they arise because newcomers have multiple talents for survival? A new study points to traits that enable success in the new location. More »

Fish phishing attack explained!

Fish phishing attack explained!
Cleaner fish remove parasites from other fish. Why do males punish females who eat the wrong food from their host? A clue to the evolution of cooperation? More »

Luminescent fungus

Luminescent fungus
A research trip to South America by a biology professor and colleagues from San Francisco State University has led to the discovery of seven new varieties of luminescent fungi. Four of the species are new to science, while the three… More »

Animal arms race

Animal arms race

The struggle between predator and prey never ends. Bats invented sonar, and now some moths are fighting back. Check out the Why Files acoustic-organic warfare, airborne edition. More »

How a fly detects a poison

How a fly detects a poison

Animals spend a lot of energy avoiding toxic chemicals in their food. A new type of gene that does this in fruit flies reinforces the importance of reproduction in shaping evolution. More »

Celebrating Darwin and evolution

Celebrating Darwin and evolution

The theory of evolution is 150 years old, but forever young. We examine proofs for evolution, and four cool studies showing just how correct Charles Darwin was. Want to talk about silent crickets? More »

Polyandry: Bees do it. What’s the big advantage?

A honeybee queen mates with 15 guys. This weakens family ties in the hive, possibly hampering the selfless behavior these bees need for survival. Does polyandry have hidden benefits for bees? More »