The next amazing trick we can learn from geckos

Run across water? Sure. No problem.

(Pauline Jennings, PolyPEDAL Lab, UC Berkeley)
  • Scientists analyze how geckos do something they shouldn't be able to do... walk (well, run like heck) across water.
  • They can race over water nearly as fast as on land.
  • Their method may look crazy... but it works. And humans could potentially do the same.
Keep reading Show less

Orangutans exhibit awareness of the past

Orangutans join humans and bees in a very exclusive club

(Eugene Sim/Shutterstock)
  • Orangutan mothers wait to sound a danger alarm to avoid tipping off predators to their location
  • It took a couple of researchers crawling around the Sumatran jungle to discover the phenomenon
  • This ability may come from a common ancestor
Keep reading Show less

Unraveling the mystery behind dogs' floppy ears

Dogs' floppy ears may be part of why they and other domesticated animals love humans so much.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash
  • Nearly all domestic animals share several key traits in addition to friendliness to humans, traits such as floppy ears, a spotted coat, a shorter snout, and so on.
  • Researchers have been puzzled as to why these traits keep showing up in disparate species, even when they aren't being bred for those qualities. This is known as "domestication syndrome."
  • Now, researchers are pointing to a group of a cells called neural crest cells as the key to understanding domestication syndrome.
Keep reading Show less

How humans evolved to live in the cold

Humans evolved to live in the cold through a number of environmental and genetic factors.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
  • According to some relatively new research, many of our early human cousins preceded Homo sapien migrations north by hundreds of thousands or even millions of years.
  • Cross-breeding with other ancient hominids gave some subsets of human population the genes to contend and thrive in colder and harsher climates.
  • Behavioral and dietary changes also helped humans adapt to cold climates.
Keep reading Show less

How extreme beauty might defy survival of the fittest

Is beauty always a proxy for genetic health and fitness? Charles Darwin didn't think so.

  • The Great Argus Pheasant is a six-foot-long bird with elaborate ornamentation on its wings, including golden orbs that create a 3D optical illusion. It fans its feathers in a full hemisphere above the female hen as part of its mating display. Is all that beauty just a signal of fit and healthy genes?
  • Perhaps not, says Yale ornithologist Richard Prum. The 'beauty happens' hypothesis, or aesthetic evolution by mate choice, was an idea first proposed by Charles Darwin—but it is still not accepted as part of standard evolutionary theory.
  • Prum reasons that the kind of extreme, impractical beauty seen in animals like the Great Argus Pheasant is a result of aesthetic mate choice rather than survival of the fittest. Perhaps some species evolved such beauty because it pleases the animals themselves.
Keep reading Show less