Evolution

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Some sparrows sitting in a tree

Inbreeding detrimental for survival

Inbred birds don’t live as long and have fewer offspring than non-inbred birds. Inbreeding is equally harmful regardless of where the birds live.

Panthera leo’s family tree takes shape

Once upon a time, lions were the world’s most widespread mammals. Now we know more about their genealogy – and that could make it easier to help the species survive.

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A tiny arctic shrub reveals secrets of plant growth on Svalbard

It’s not easy being a tiny willow on the wind-and snow-blasted islands of the Norwegian territory of Svalbard. It turns out that Salix polaris, the polar willow, handles these tough conditions by growing as best it can in response to July temperatures — a response that researchers recorded all over the archipelago.

Mystery of the blunt-tipped beetle penis

It took seven years, countless beetle penis field investigations, and hours upon hours on hands and knees in coastal wetlands. This is the story of all the research that has to happen before a new species can finally get its official name.

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Thinking outside the box of fossils

During the time of Darwin, anthropogeny was the study of human origins. Its sub-discipline paleoanthropology has since taken over, which focuses on fossils found in dry parts of Africa. These fossils don’t tell us much about why or where humans actually evolved.

WITH PHOTO COLLECTION

Svalbard reindeer populations rebounding from centuries of hunting

As reindeer go, the animals living on Svalbard might not be Santa’s first choice. They’re a smaller subspecies of their common mainland relatives, and to save energy they basically never run. But because they were nearly exterminated from Svalbard around 1900 — and were then protected in 1925 — the animals provide unique insights into how conservation can help species thrive.

Planting the seeds for a bioliterate tropical country

Ecologist Daniel H. Janzen has spent virtually all of his half-century career trying to catalogue and understand the creatures in a patch of dry tropical forest in northwestern Costa Rica. Little did he realize his efforts would evolve into building a sea-to-summit conservation area — and a drive to inventory all million species in the country in partnership with the Costa Rican government.

How do species adapt to their surroundings?

Several fish species can change sex as needed. Other species adapt to their surroundings by living long lives — or by living shorter lives and having lots of offspring. The ability of animals and plants to change can sometimes manifest in apparently extreme ways.

How plants respond to attacks

Plants have to defend themselves against drought, enemies and disease. But different threats demand different responses. So how do plants know what’s attacking them?

Norwegian public asked to name a species

The moss world will never be the same. The moss Norwegian researchers thought they knew has played a trick on them. In return, researchers are calling on the Norwegian public to name a new species.

In the bullfinch world, she gets to decide

A lot of birdwatchers like the bullfinch. They’ve probably noticed that the female can chase off the more colourful male from the bird feeder. That makes this species different.

Vampire bats’ bloody teamwork

Vampire bats are the only mammals that feed exclusively on blood. The way they manage to do that offers us some remarkable insights into evolution.

Is the woolly mammoth really gone for good?

Should we reintroduce animal species that have died out? New technology may offer opportunities that no one could imagine a few decades ago. But the answer may not be as simple as you think.

Why the passenger pigeon died out

The passenger pigeon was once among the most numerous species on earth. The last passenger pigeon died in the Cinncinati Zoo just over 100 years ago. How did it all go so wrong?

Brawler at the bird feeder

The common redpoll gets into brawls when it seems like it should really be watching out for enemies. How can that end well?