Genetics


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Essay/
Evolution
War in the womb

A ferocious biological struggle between mother and baby belies any sentimental ideas we might have about pregnancy

Suzanne Sadedin

Grasshopper (Acrididae), Barbilla National Park, Costa Rica. Photo by Piotr Naskrecki/Minden Pictures/Corbis

Essay/
Biology
Die, selfish gene, die

For decades, the selfish gene metaphor let us view evolution with new clarity. Is it now blinding us?

David Dobbs

From ‘Amours Difficiles’ (Hard love stories); four stories of mothers and daughters. Eugenia and Violeta. Photo by Adriana Lestido / Agence VU
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Human reproduction
We are multitudes

Women are chimeras, with genetic material from both their parents and children. Where does that leave individual identity?

Katherine Rowland

Giraffes in Kenya. Photo by Mitsuaki Iwago/Minden Pictures/National Geographic
Essay/
Genetics
Unified theory of evolution

Darwin’s theory that natural selection drives evolution is incomplete without input from evolution’s anti-hero: Lamarck

Michael Skinner

Cave art from Sulawesi in Indonesia is now thought to be the oldest in the world. Photo courtesy Maxime Aubert/Indonesian Heritage Department

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Human evolution
In to Asia

New evidence about the ancient humans who occupied Asia is cascading in: the story of our species needs rewriting again

Christopher Bae

A murmuration of starlings in southern Israel. Photo by Amir Cohen/Reuters

Essay/
Biology
A closed loop

The DNA helix gave 20th-century biology its symbol. But the more we learn, the more life circles back to an older image

Jamie Davies

A Distinguished Member of the Humane Society (1831) by Edward Landseer. ‘Bob’ a Newfoundland dog, saved 23 persons from drowning on the London docks and was made a distinguished member of the Royal Humane Society. Courtesy Wikipedia

Deep into the unknown; a 3 foot diameter hydrothermal vent at the Von Damm vent site. Photo courtesy NOAA
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Biology
Earth’s aliens

Alien lifeforms might be living right under our noses, but how can we find them if we don’t know what we’re looking for?

Sarah Scoles

Pea aphids from two color morphs. Photo by Thaddeus McRae
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Ecology and environmental sciences
The gene that jumped

Genes that leap from one species to another are more common than we thought. Does this shake up the tree of life?

Ferris Jabr

At Wounded Knee, South Dakota, 1984. Photo by Pierre Perrin/Gamma-Rapho/Getty
Essay/
Genetics
Haunted by history

War, famine and persecution inflict profound changes on bodies and brains. Could these changes persist over generations?

Pam Weintraub

Tetra-nucleotide ESOM mapping of DNA fragments from microbes in the Gulf of Mexico dead zone. The coloured groupings represent newly discovered species according to their DNA sequence and will aid in uderstanding organisms involved in nutrient cycling. Image courtesy Brett Baker/UTMSI/Cameron Thrash (LSU) /Olivia Mason (FSU)
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Information and communication
Perfect genetic knowledge

Human genomics is just the start: the Earth has 50 billion tons of DNA. What happens when we have the entire biocode?

Dawn Field

Weight of numbers: if unchecked, self-replicators such as these monarch butterflies can multiply exponentially. Photo by Frans Lanting/Gallery Stock
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Biology
Life’s restlessness

Why does life resist disorder? Because ever since the first replicating molecules, another kind of stability has beckoned

Addy Pross

Photo by Peter Marlow/Magnum
Essay/
Family life
Is that my baby?

Sperm donation is socially acceptable but donor eggs still provoke a wave of unease about blood relations and motherhood

Amy Klein

Fancy bird; a Voorburg-Cropper Pigeon. Photo by Richard Bailey
Essay/
Genetics
Wild thing

How and why did humans domesticate animals – and what might this tell us about the future of our own species?

Jacob Mikanowski

Photo by Nik Taylor/Getty
Essay/
Biology
Dead or Alive?

Is it time to kill off the idea of the ‘Selfish Gene’? We asked four experts to respond to our most controversial essay

David Dobbs, John Dupré, Karen James and others

Out of Siberia. A Nenet woman dressed from head to toe in clothes made from reindeer fur. Photo by Heidi Bradner/Panos

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Palaeontology
Origins

Paleogenetics is helping to solve the great mystery of prehistory: how did humans spread out over the earth?

Jacob Mikanowski

Detail from Echinus-Diadema 2009. ©Philip Taafe
Essay/
Evolution
Possible creatures

It seemed Darwin had banished biological essences – yet evolution would fail without nature’s library of Platonic forms

Andreas Wagner

Photo by Gallery Stock
Essay/
Genetics
Plastic people

Epigenetics has shown that there’s no such thing as a normal human body, so how did it get hijacked by the body police?

Julie Guthman & Becky Mansfield

Illustration by Matt W. Moore
Essay/
Biology
Life doesn’t make trash

A genome is not a blueprint for building a human being, so is there any way to judge whether DNA is junk or not?

Itai Yanai & Martin Lercher