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
As a kid, I remember, I was fascinated with how a tree can grow from a tiny seed. I wondered where their bodies came from and how trees get their mass if it obviously is not stored in the seed? My assumption at the time was that all that stuff must come from the soil, but damn, I was wrong. Years later, when I studied biology, I learned that Jan Baptist van Helmont, a … [Read more...] about From where do trees get their mass?
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?
I have been interested in discoveries since childhood. Our local newspaper had a weekly page that summarized scientific advances, and I still remember a special about scientists looking for life on Mars. Much to my disappointment, they weren't looking for little green men; instead, they were looking for water. Almost 30 years later, they're still looking. Why is water so … [Read more...] about Four reasons why water is essential for life
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
Genes define who we are, at least in a physical sense, since they determine our traits. A tiny difference in DNA can specify whether we are a human or a chimp. But how does it work? How can genes, fragments of DNA determine traits? How can genes, for example, determine your eye color, height or even what flowers you like? Let's find out. What are genes? To understand … [Read more...] about How do genes determine your traits?
Depending on who you ask, humans and chimps share 96 to 99 percent of genes. Yet we look staggeringly different. Or do we? Since genes alter our traits, we would expect organisms with so much of their genome identical, also look similar, right? Well, yes, but no. Let's initially put aside the fact that we might not be so different from chimps after all. We indeed are … [Read more...] about Why humans and chimps look different if 99% of their genes are identical?