Author: AnneH

The Evolution of a Theory: Darwin and Evolution 150 Year Later

Biology has changed a lot over the past 150 years. Scientists have discovered entirely new forms of life, deciphered the molecular code of heredity and observed the machinery of life on the smallest dimensions. And through it all, one scientific theory has stood the test of time. New discoveries in ...

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Bicentennial Birthday: Darwin Day 2009!

Put on your party hat.  Tomorrow, in universities and public auditoriums, at festivals and museums, people around the world will be celebrating the life and works of one of the most influential scientific minds in history:  Charles Darwin.  February 12th is Darwin's 200th birthday, and this year - 2009 - also ...

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Thinking Outside the Box: Bacterial Genetics and the Peopling of the Pacific

Not all bacteria are bad.  Sure, there are plenty of nasty bugs that can make life pretty unpleasant; the ones that cause leprosy, anthrax, and cholera immediately come to mind. But there are also plenty of beneficial bacteria living inside of us that we may not even know about. Some of them help us ...

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Reading Between the Lines: An Unlikely Use for Mitochondrial DNA Analysis

At the Spittoon we love to hear how scientists are using our DNA to unlock the mysteries of our ancestors.  In fact, hardly a week goes by when we don’t report on the latest discovery in the field of genetic ancestry. Occasionally, however, researchers manage to uncover some mystery of the human past using ...

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One if by Land, Two if by Sea: New Genetics Study Indicates Multiple Paleo-Indian Migration Routes

It seems like new discoveries about the peopling of the Americas are a dime a dozen these days.  Without a doubt, the journey those first Americans took from the frozen wastelands of Asia down the Pacific coast into the Americas has been an active research subject for many decades.  Archaeologists, linguists, ...

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Across the Pillars of Hercules: Recent Study Confirms Prehistoric Connection between Iberia and North Africa

Less than eight nautical miles wide, the Strait of Gibraltar is an easily surmountable barrier between northwest Africa and Spain. Military invaders such as Hannibal of Carthage and the caliphs of the Islamic Empire have had no trouble traversing this sliver of sea in the process of invading Europe. But in ...

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What’s in a Name: Surnames and the Y-Chromosome

My surname — Holden — has gone through many incarnations since it originated in England nearly 700 years ago.  Letters were added, then dropped.  Some branches of my family added an extra "u" in the middle, while others changed the pronunciation entirely.  Then, when my ancestors arrived in America over 200 ...

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Hidden in Plain Sight: New Genetic Discoveries Shed Light on the Spread of Farming in Eastern Europe

Before genetics came into the picture, researchers interested in the introduction of agriculture to Europe had only the archaeological record to go on — a limited collection of primarily stone and bone artifacts that left much room for interpretation. But as researchers began applying population genetics to ...

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X Marks the Spot: New Study Reveals Value of X-Chromosome in Tracing Prehistoric Human Migrations

In the world of genetic anthropology, mitochondrial DNA and the Y-chromosome are the major players.  They are regions of our genome scientists use most frequently when tracing both ancient and historical human migrations, and are an important tool for genealogists using DNA to piece together their family ...

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Where Today Meets Yesterday: A New Approach to Studying the Genetic History of Southeast Asia

Archaeologists rarely agree on anything.  So it's no surprise that for years two groups of scholars have drawn completely opposite conclusions about the relationship between the ancient people of Thailand and China. Some experts argue that, thousands of years ago, people from Thailand migrated into East ...

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