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Professor Lawrence Gilbert and his team at the University of Texas at Austin have discovered a population of tropical butterflies that exemplify "evolution in action," and a rare research opportunity. Gilbert says they may be witnessing a species of butterfly splitting into two different species. The stars of this research are the Heliconius butterflies, found in Central and South America. Despite the genetic similarities between the two groups of the butterflies, one group is showing a color preference during mating. With support from the National Science Foundation, Gilbert and his team are working to gain insights about genetics, behavior, ecology, and evolution.
In this episode, host Emily Graslie meets with Dr. Robert Martin to discuss the evolution of human birth. They also highlight the progress being made to reduce mortality rates related to giving birth. Part of "The Brain Scoop" series.
The cloning of Dolly the sheep can trace its origins all the way back to Charles Darwin's trip to the Galapagos Islands in the 1800s. Darwin's evidence for evolution was overwhelming, but scientists still didn't know how traits passed from parent to offspring. As microscopes improved, scientists were able to see cells divide and eventually discovered the genes that make up DNA. This, along with other technological advances, has opened up an exciting new area of scientific study: nanotechnology.
The seemingly peaceful atmosphere in an organic garden on the University of Florida campus belies the battles happening among many of its tiniest inhabitants: the insects. For entomologist Christine Miller, there are endless opportunities here to study how insects compete and even fight for a mate. With support from the National Science Foundation, Miller and her team are researching mate selection and animal weapons as a key to better understanding animal behavior, diversity, and evolution. Understanding evolution is essential for figuring out solutions to modern problems such as antibiotic resistance, a major problem in medicine, and for understanding how life on the planet became so diverse and how it may change in the future. Part of the National Science Foundation Series “Science Nation.”
Real satellite imagery, as well as simulations, explore how Earth's moon has changed over time. This video looks at how the moon likely formed about 4.5 billion years ago, how impacts from large objects formed craters, and how additional impacts from smaller objects continue to cause cratering.
In this episode, host Joe Hanson discusses how the human body is full of design flaws. He argues that these flaws are due to evolution and that the human body is still evolving. Part of the "It's Okay to Be Smart" series.
Human babies drink milk; it's the food especially provided for them by their mothers. Various cultures have also added the milk of other mammals to their diet, and adults think nothing of downing a glass of cows' milk. But worldwide, only a third of adults can actually digest lactose, the sugar in milk. Human geneticist Spencer Wells tracks down the genetic changes associated with the ability to digest lactose as adults. Combining genetics, chemistry, and anthropology, this story provides a compelling example of the co-evolution of human genes and human culture.
The species of Goby fish, Sicyopterus stimpsoni, also known as the inching climber, thrives in the waters off Hawaii. To reach the safe haven of its freshwater spawning area, this Goby must scale a waterfall, or at least the rock behind it, using suction cups on its body. With support from the National Science Foundation, scientists at St. Cloud and Clemson Universities study these extraordinary fish to better understand how they’ve adapted and evolved in order to achieve such vertical feats. Part of the National Science Foundation Series “Science Nation.”
Working in the islands of the Caribbean, biologist Jonathan Losos has discovered the traits that enable dozens of anole species to adapt to different vertical niches in the forest. Differences in limb length, body shape, and toepad size allow different species to flourish on the ground. However, lizards living on thin branches or high in the canopy have different characteristics. These varied adaptations have played a key role in reproductive isolation and the formation of new species.
In contrast to the peaceful wildlands featured in the prior segments, the urban campus of the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) seems like an unlikely place to find field biologists studying juncos. But in the early 1980s, some juncos decided to make this atypical urban and coastal habitat their year-round home. Since then, scientists have documented a remarkable array of changes in the physical traits, behaviors, and physiology of the colonist population of juncos at UCSD when compared to juncos from the nearby native range. Part of Ordinary Extraordinary Junco (Chapter 6).
Paleontologists have studied the fossil record of human evolution just like they have done for other major transitions, including the evolution of tetrapods from fish and the evolution of birds from dinosaurs. Sean Carroll and Tim White discuss the most important human fossils and how they illuminate key phases of human evolution, focusing in particular on three traits: larger brains, tool use, and bipedality.
With support from the National Science Foundation, some Brown University scientists are doing extensive research on bats, studying everything from their agility in flight to the elasticity of their bodies. Researching a bat's evolution, its structure and biomechanics in flight will help scientists better understand evolution and could lead to the development of aerodynamic materials for more lightweight, agile aircraft.
Part of the "Branches on the Tree of Life" series. The phylum Chordata includes tunicates, sea lancelets, hagfish, and all familiar vertebrate animals. Explores how these seemingly diverse animals evolved and how the group is unified by four characteristic structures: a hollow dorsal nerve chord, a supportive notochord, gill slits, and a post-anal tail. Key milestones in vertebrate evolution include improvements in swimming and feeding, the evolution of paired fins and a primitive lung, movement onto the land, and the emergence of the amniotic egg.
Over the past four decades, evolutionary biologists Rosemary and Peter Grant have documented the evolution of the famous Galápagos finches. They track changes in body traits directly tied to survival, such as beak length, and identify behavioral characteristics that prevent different species from breeding with one another. Their pioneering studies have revealed clues as to how 13 distinct finch species arose from a single ancestral population that migrated from the mainland 2 million to 3 million years ago.
Natural selection is a mechanism of evolution. In this episode, Pinky and Petunia discuss the relationship of natural selection and antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Part of "The Amoeba Sisters" series.
Introduces viewers to dirt's fascinating history. Four billion years of evolution have created the dirt that recycles our water, gives us food, provides us shelter, and that can be used as a source of medicine, beauty and culture.
After the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago, populations of marine stickleback fish became stranded in freshwater lakes dotted throughout the Northern Hemisphere in places of natural beauty like Alaska and British Columbia. These little fish have adapted and thrive, living permanently in a freshwater environment drastically different than the ocean. Stickleback bodies have undergone a dramatic transformation, some populations completely losing long projecting body spines that defend them from large predators. Various scientists, including David Kingsley and Michael Bell, have studied living populations of threespine sticklebacks, identified key genes and genetic switches in the evolution of body transformation, and even documented the evolutionary change over thousands of years by studying a remarkable fossil record from the site of an ancient lake ten million years ago.
Millions of years ago, a group of bacteria, the cyanobacteria, developed a new way to harness energy from the sun. This new development had important consequences for the evolution of both the atmosphere and the diversity of life on Earth.
Political scientist James Fowler makes the connection between smiling profile pictures on Facebook and human evolution.
Paleoanthropologist Dr. Tim White discusses how his team unearthed the fossil of Ardipithecus ramidus, an early hominid that lived about 4.4 million years ago. Dr. White discusses the fossil record and hominid evolution.
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Biology related concepts
A collection containing 59 resources, curated by Benetech
Resources to teach younger students about animals
A collection containing 58 resources, curated by DIAGRAM Center