Kissing supposedly shows the highest form of affection, so it may seem blasphemy trying to explain it by chemistry, natural selection, or even mathematics. But let's give it a try and answer a few intriguing questions: Are humans the only animals that kiss? How did kissing evolve, and what function does touching of lips serve? Do animals kiss? Oh yes, they do! Kissing … [Read more...] about Evolution of passion: Why humans and other animals kiss
What is this "fitness" the evolutionary biologists often talk about? When something good occurs to a living being, it gains fitness -- like if it works out at the gym. Indeed, the meaning isn't far from that, because going to the gym undoubtedly can improve fitness. Or lose it if you don't know what you're doing and you injure yourself. But what is it? Loosely defined, … [Read more...] about What is fitness in evolutionary biology
Evolution has an odd way of appearing to be a perfect process, and with good reason. Many things in the natural world fit like a glove on a hand. Terms like ”natural selection” and “survival of the fittest” imply evolution is a goal-oriented process, with the goal being perfect adaptation to the environment. But is it? Dinosaurs didn't evolve to be even bigger. Instead, they … [Read more...] about Why evolution isn’t perfect and giraffes don’t evolve even longer necks
Natural selection is one of the main driving forces of biological evolution. In the first article of my evolution series, you learned that biological evolution occurs mainly due to random mutations when organisms copy DNA. While random mutations should result in random changes, most evolutionary changes are not even close to being random due to natural selection. But what is … [Read more...] about What is natural selection and how does it work?
If you’ve ever wondered how can scientists determine the relatedness of different species and how much time has passed since they diverged, a molecular clock could have come on your radar. What is a molecular clock and how is it used? Let's find out. The molecular clock is a method that can tell how long ago two or more species diverged depending on the degree of … [Read more...] about What is a molecular clock and how does it tell evolutionary time?
Do you think you know what a species is? If you see two different animals, they belong to two different species. Or do they? Is this an “ugly” duckling in the picture, or is it just a different kind of bird? When I talk about species or speciation, I often pause thinking about how deep I should explain it. On the surface, term species appears to be precisely defined. I … [Read more...] about What is a species?
As I write this, there is a large pandemic of coronavirus spreading across. Congratulations if you are lucky enough to read this article several years in the future! I'm a biologist with a special geekiness towards ecology and evolution. What else should I write about if not the evolution of viruses? What are viruses A virus essentially is genetic information in a … [Read more...] about How do viruses evolve and why it happens so quickly
Evolution, in a literal sense, means change. Anything can change and thus evolve, right? One of the first videos on Youtube was “Evolution of dance,” and since then, youtube has evolved itself a lot. Pokemon evolve, our personality can evolve, apes and monkeys can evolve, and even viruses evolve, too. At the same time, usually, when someone refers to evolution, they mean the … [Read more...] about What is evolution and how does it work
Even if you understand the basics of evolution, the way in which new species evolve can remain a mystery. It's easy to imagine how the length of a hummingbird's beak increases through generations. It's also possible to understand how, over millions of years, apes could turn into humans. But how could this lead to a diversity of species? It is estimated that more than … [Read more...] about How do new species evolve through isolation
“Avoid gluten in your diet, because our ancestors did not eat it, and neither should you!” “Rub your face with mud; early humans literally lived in it.” Similar statements are trendy as more people follow the seemingly reasonable logic that natural things are good and unnatural things are not. “Why do I need to brush my cat’s teeth? Have you seen a tiger flossing in … [Read more...] about Why natural lifestyle isn’t necessarily the best for you