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With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Georgia Tech biochemist Nicholas Hud and a team at the Center for Chemical Evolution (CCE) are working to chip away at how life on earth began. They are homing in on how chain-like chemicals called polymers first came together and evolved three-and-a-half to four billion years ago. Part of the National Science Foundation Series “Science Nation.”
As shown on the History Channel. Africa's Sahara Desert is the size of the United States, making it the largest desert in the world. It's also the hottest place on the planet. But now the series of geological discoveries has revealed this searing wasteland hides a dramatically different past. Scientists have unearthed the fossils of whales, freshwater shells, and even ancient human settlements. All clues to a story that would alter the course of human evolution and culminate in biggest climate change event of the last 10,000 years.
British naturalists Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace both set out on epic adventures to study various species and their development. They gathered evidence on the variation among individual members of a species, the relationships among species, and the patterns of geographic distribution across many species. Based on such evidence, they independently came to the same revolutionary conclusions: species change over time by means of natural selection, and species descend from other species.
Sarah Brosnan, a psychologist and neuroscientist at Georgia State, has released a study helping to prove that primates share similar feelings of inequity as humans, and she will extend the research with a five year National Science Foundation grant. In the next round of research Brosnan will work with Bart Wilson at Chapman University to do similar hands-on and computer game-like experiments on both humans and primates. The idea is to better understand how economic decision making strategies evolved and which if any are uniquely human.
For life to survive, it must adapt and readapt to an ever-changing Earth. The discovery of the Antarctic icefish has provided an example of adaptation in an environment both hostile and abundant, where the birth of new genes and the death of old ones have played crucial roles. Researchers Bill Detrich, Christina Cheng, and Art DeVries have pinpointed the genetic changes that enable icefish to thrive without hemoglobin and red blood cells and to avoid freezing in the icy ocean.
The marine reptiles Ichthyosaurs arose after the Great Dying, which wiped out at least 90 percent of life in the oceans. This event changed the seas forever and triggered a new evolutionary arms race between predator and prey. Part of the “Eons” series.
Powerful forces have forged the conditions on Earth that have made life possible. The millennia have been witnesses to the formation of the planet: its singular position in relation to the sun, the evolution of the continents, and the birth of entire mountain chains. All of these elements combine to create Earth’s constantly changing climate. Homo sapiens emerge into this unpredictable and violent world, fighting for survival from the start. It is these early humans’ ability to adapt that allows them to triumph even in the face of incredible adversity and sets the path for modern man. Part of the "How Climate Made History" series.
Charles Darwin once boldly predicted that buried deep in the earth are transitional fossils of creatures with intermediate features between ancestral animal groups and the modern animal groups. Since Darwin’s time, many transitional fossils have been discovered, and they provide crucial insights into the origin of key structures and the creatures that possess them. And University of Chicago paleontologist and award-winning author Neil Shubin provides a first-hand account of the painstaking search for the transitional fossil of Tiktaalik, a creature with a mix of features common to fish and four-legged animals.
The goal of this research is to determine the mechanisms underlying predatory and defensive behavior guided by an extraordinarily novel sensor in snakes. Pit vipers, pythons and boas possess special organs that form images in the brain of the thermal environment, much like vision occurs in the human brain. Thus, these snakes see heat, and this amazing system is the most sensitive infrared detector on Earth, natural or artificial. A better understanding of infrared-based thermal imaging in snakes is important not only for understanding complex behavior in these highly efficient predators, but also for understanding the evolution of imaging sensors and the behaviors they support in other animals including people. Part of the National Science Foundation Series “Science Nation.”
What's the difference between a venom and a poison? Host Emily Graslie highlights some cool reptiles and amphibians and discusses how they use their natural toxins to stay ahead in the evolutionary arms race. Part of "The Brain Scoop" series.
Juncos, also known as snowbirds, are readily observed in backyards, city parks, and forests. These little gray birds are so common they can be easily overlooked. But for scientists who study animal behavior, ecology, and evolutionary biology, the junco is a rock star. Part of Ordinary Extraordinary Junco (Intro).
Part of the "Branches on the Tree of Life" series. The term "algae" is a catchall for several evolutionary lines of photosynthetic organisms: dinoflagellates, red algae (plastids with chlorophyll A), diatoms, yellow-brown algae and brown algae (chlorophylls A and C), and green algae (chlorophylls A and B). Explores the diversity, structure, ecological roles, and modern classification of these primary producers.
Explores the fascinating features of the animal kingdom. The taxonomy of the different invertebrate and vertebrate phyla are the focus of the program, with special emphasis placed on the evolutionary relationships of the various phyla. Each of the major phyla are discussed, going from simple to more complex organisms. Other terminology includes: sponges, cnidarians, flatworms, roundworms, segmented worms, mollusks, arthropods, echinoderms, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.
Part of the "Branches on the Tree of Life" series. Imagine an animal with no mouth, no digestive system, no excretory or circulatory organs, no brain nor nervous system, and no movement as an adult. In spite of their simple nature, sponges are actually one of the most interesting animal phyla when viewed in developmental, ecological, and evolutionary terms. Clarifies the structure, function, classification, and ecological roles of sponges through animations and time-lapse microscopy.
For nearly 40 years, Dr. Ellen Ketterson and her research team from Indiana University have been studying juncos in the mountain forests of Virginia. This segment introduces viewers to the junco, the researchers, and the core methods they use to study birds. Set in field, lab, and aviary locations, one landmark study is highlighted in detail: a long-term field experiment investigating the complex effects of the hormone testosterone on behavior, physiology, and evolutionary fitness. Part of Ordinary Extraordinary Junco (Chapter 2).
Leaf cutter ants could be called the overachievers of the insect world. They are farmers, medicine makers, and green energy producers. With support from the National Science Foundation, bacteriologist Cameron Currie studies the complex evolutionary relationships between the ants, the fungi they cultivate and eat, and the bacteria that influence this symbiosis. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Currie works with the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center on campus to explore how the ants manage to degrade cellulose. Her goal is to discover new ways humans might break down biomass into biofuels. The bacteria component of the ant colony could also help scientists develop more effective antibiotics for human health and agriculture.
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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