Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why are Robins’ Eggs Blue?

It’s finally spring in Massachusetts, even if it doesn’t feel like it just yet, and many people associate the beginning of spring with robins returning back to the northeast from their annual migration. Once the robins have had their fill of worms in the beginning of spring (up to 13 worms in one day!), they will begin nesting in late April through May and eventually lay their notorious bright blue eggs. But why are there eggs so blue? It seems somewhat counterproductive to the species, as one would imagine that bright blue eggs would stand out against the brown nest and surrounding earthy tones, and that predators could spot the eggs in an instant.

Surprisingly though, robins have evolved this attribute as a survival strategy due to intense sexual selection. A female robin lays blue eggs as a health indicator, meaning that a female with very vivid and brightly colored eggs will be a strong and healthy female. The male robin can be sure of this because in order to protect these conspicuous colored eggs, the female must be strong and healthy. Of course, this adaptation is not only based on the female’s health status. A male robin will instinctively be more drawn to the brightest and the bluest eggs, encouraging him to take better care of them.  If the eggs are not bright blue, the male will subconsciously not put enough effort into being attentive to the nest. This could be because the energy that he would put in to taking care of a nest with an “unfit” mother may be too great, and the chance of success for the young to fledge (and eventually reproduce and pass on the father’s genes) may be too low. Likewise, if the male does not have the gene that causes him to care more efficiently for bright blue eggs, the mother will have to pick up the slack, and the chance of success for the nest plummets.

Generally, when the eggs are hatched, the male will take care of the chicks while the female builds another nest and lays more eggs, those of which are hopefully just as vibrant as the first. Since taking care of multiple nests with eggs that are so attractive to predators is a two-bird job, the vibrant colored eggs encourage cooperation between the pair, and encourages the parents to stick together all season and continue to reproduce. The benefits of having blue eggs out way the risks, and therefor leads to an overall accomplishment for the ultimate goal, which is successfully passing on genes.

Erika Nevins (Group B)

Monday, March 30, 2015


For a long time now (since the 1980's) video games have been studied for their effects on people, and though at first it seemed that video games were bad for a person; video games are now being brought into a new light as good.

There's something to be said about the negative results of early video game studies; early studies on new technologies are often flawed, and there's normally more funding into studies that find negative effects as opposed to studies with more friendly findings.

One of the surprising finds in current video game research is that people who play video games on an average of 3 to 6 hours a day were healthier than those who didn't play. This is not to say that playing video games makes you healthy, but it's proof that video games are not a streamline cause for obesity.

Video game users also benefit from enhanced motor mechanics and hand eye coordination. Games have been proven to help develop physical skills or improve standard practices of every day life. A study on surgeons who practice microsurgery in Boston discovered that those who play video games were 27% faster and made 37% less errors than those who do not play video games. Vision is also improved especially in noticing subtle changes in shades which is useful for reading X-ray charts or even basic skills such as night driving. Another study found that people who played action games were better at perceptual tasks such as pattern discrimination that those that didn't play any video games.

Another standard enhancement seen in people who play video games is their ability to make decisions. People who play action games are especially adept at making decisions; making decisions 25% faster than others and are no less accurate. Video games also offer training in multitasking which is a good skill in every day life such as driving or focusing with distractions.

A new study has actually found correlation between video game usage and the thickness of certain areas of our brains. After controlling for sex and age, the researchers found that there is a strong positive correlation between video game usage and the thickness of our dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and the left frontal eye fields (FEF's). The DLPFC is used for decision making and strategic planning while the FEF's are responsible for eye movement and visual spatial attention.

Evidence for gaming is psychiatric help is also becoming common; researchers at the University of Auckland prompted 94 young people diagnosed with depression to play a 3D fantasy game "SPARX" and in many cases the game was able to reduce the symptoms more so than the standard treatments.

Lastly there are actually video games being produced to enhance your memory and cognitive abilities such as "Brain age".

I'm not sure how everyone else feels about video games, but I'm certainly a fan and I'm glad I play video games.

~ Mitch (B)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Breast Cancer Metastasis and the Weapons Against It

Everyone knows that cancer is bad, and that's a given.  But how does a cancer such as breast cancer come to be so dangerous to the human body when it can be so easily removed? The answer is metastasis; when the cancerous cells remove themselves from the primary tumor and spread to the other parts of the body.  While this seems simple in concept, breast cancer must go through many steps before it is conditioned to the microenvironment that is found in the bone.

Primary tumors are known to associate with mesenchymal cells, which cross-communicate to produce tumors that are more suited to the local tumor environment.  These tumors are selected over cells that are less suited, and so tumors with these receptors become overly selected for and start to dominate the primary tumor tissue.  By being selected, these tumors become more sensitive to a chemokine in the bloodstream that makes them more resistant to activated cell death and makes them more mobile. This chemokine, CXCL12, is released by bone in order to recruit immune cells to inhibit inflammation based bone destruction.  However, once breast cancer cells have been attuned to this chemokine with an increase in the receptors, CXCR4/7, they are also prepared to survive and proliferate once they reach the source of the chemokine.

Once these cancer cells reach the bone marrow, they are not only suited to this environment, but primed to strive in it.  Since they are in an environment with high CXCL12, they proliferate more than in the primary tumor, as well as causing more angiogenesis to the secondary tumor site and increasing inflammation, causing a positive feedback loop.

What steps have been taken to stop this process, you ask? Well, there have been recent trials that test the effectiveness of a CXCR4 blocker in order to lower the tumor's sensitivity to CXCL12 and limit its metastasis to bone.  This drug, originally used to block HIV entry to immune cells, blocks all cells' receptors to CXCL12.  While this may weaken the immune response to bone destruction, it has a much lower toxicity level than many other FDA approved cancer drugs that kill rapidly dividing cells indiscriminately.  This relatively safe method is still being tested with favorable results and may bring light on a new way to treat patients.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Hiding in Plain Sight

Chameleons don’t only change color in order to hide, they often do it to regulate their temperature or to communicate with other chameleons. Chameleons are cold blooded, and can’t produce their own body heat, they rely on external sources for heat. A chameleon will change its color to be darker when its cold in order to absorb more heat, and then go lighter when it warms up in order to reflect the sun’s light. Chameleons also change their color to communicate with other chameleons, either for mating or for territory.

Scientists believe that they now know how chameleons change their color so easily. Before they thought that it was done through pigments in their skin similar to how octopi or squid, with a cell called chromatopheres. Instead researchers have discovered what they believe to be the real way that chameleons change color, they use a layer of nanocrystals in a special layer of their skin called iridopheres.

These iridopheres are crystals held in the skin, and are held together at different tightness for different colors. The scientist working out of the University of Geneva worked with the panther chameleon. They discovered that these chameleons have two layers of the iridophore cells. The first and top layer of the iridophere is used for their color changing. The different organization of these cells in the skin allow for the different colors the chameleon can show. When the chameleon is calm the cells are in a dense network and reflects blue wavelengths, giving the chameleon its blue color. At this time the chameleon can also appear to be green because of the yellow pigments called xanthophores in the lizard’s skin, which when mixed with the blue wave lengths makes them appear green. When it is excited the cells are loosened, which allows the other colors like yellow and red to be shown. These cells are mostly found in the males, because males of many species out in the wild tend to be brighter and flashier in order to attract mates. Females tend to be duller in color, and have less of the upper layer of iridophere cells.

The second layer of the iridophere is filled with larger and less organized crystals. This layer is helpful for the lizard’s internal heating. The crystals in this layer being good at much of the infrared light, helping the chameleon avoid over heating in hot and dry locations.  These two layers of the iridophere allows the chameleon to have the best of both worlds, it allows them to quickly change their color while being able to maintain a constant body temperature.

This discovery is an important one for the scientific community. While it may seem like an unimportant discovery it could actually be a very interesting advancement for new technologies.

Posted by: Madison Boone (A)


CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. These are found in microbial and bacterial genomes. Scientists found these at the ends of genes where a sequence of DNA would be followed by the exact same sequence in reverse, then followed by a bunch of random “spacer DNA”, then repeat the same sequence followed by its reverse again then more of the “spacer DNA”. Weird right? When this was originally discovered, scientists thought nothing of it. But in 2005, scientists discovered that these palindromic repeats could be the microbial form of the immune system against bacteriophages! Why is that so exciting? Well, this discovery “led Eugene Koonin from the National Center for Biotechnology Information in Bethesda, Maryland, and his colleagues to propose that bacteria and archaea take up phage DNA, then preserve it as a template for molecules of RNA that can stop matching foreign DNA in its tracks, much the way eukaryotic cells use a system called RNA interference (RNAi) to destroy RNA (Elizabeth Pennisi, Science Magazine)”. So, this technique can be used to target human DNA and stop that in its tracks as well! Which would be extremely helpful in curing human genetic diseases.

So here’s how this process works: As discovered by Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research and Hannover Medical School in Germany in 2011 reported in Nature, when CRISPR responds to an invading phage, the bacteria transcribe the spacers and the palindromic DNA into a long RNA molecule that the cell then cuts into short spacer-derived RNAs called crRNAs. An additional stretch of RNA, called tracrRNA, works with a protein called Cas9 which was found to be a nuclease. A nuclease is a specified enzyme that cuts DNA at two places that correspond to each strand of the DNA’s double helix. The tracrRNA works with Cas9 to produce crRNA, and together these all work together to attack foreign DNA that matches the crRNA.
The CRISPR systems are also much faster than other current methods of targeting DNA sequences such as TALENs, which require scientists to custom-make new proteins for each DNA target. CRISPR just uses RNA to target DNA, this means that in a few weeks, scientists can obtain tangible results that would take them months to replicate using other methods. But that’s not all! The CRISPR system is also much more efficient in human cells than TALENs are at cutting the target DNA, and CRISPR also works on more genes than TALENs do as well according to Church’s research group. This makes it possible to alter virtually ANY GENE using the CRISPR method, and it is also possible to fine-tune gene activity as well! A new method discovered by Doudna and Lei S. Qi from UC San Francisco and his colleagues called CRISPRi can be used to turn genes off in cells. The CRISPRi would work just like RNAi, reversibly turning off genes that match its sequence by binding to them and signaling them to be degraded.

All of these new advances in methods for gene regulation and genome editing are advancing incredibly quickly, which is good news for the future of clinical research and for people suffering from genetic diseases! Science like this makes me feel good about being a biology major!
-Posted by Ashley Condon (Group A)

A Mirror In Outer Space

A first time ever experiment is occurring later this year on the international space station. In the coming years, humanity hopes to embark on journeys reaching further into space than ever before - eventually hoping to send individuals on a manned mission to Mars. Before they can do this, however, more must be understood about how exactly the human body functions in space, and what adverse effects life in microgravity have on the human body. Later this year, astronaut Scott Kelly will embark on the first ever year long mission aboard the International Space Station, which will be the longest continuous time that anyone has spent in space. Kelly will be performing other duties while on this mission, but the mission's main focus will be studying the effects of long term residence in a microgravity environment. Conveniently, Kelly has a twin brother (who is also an astronaut) who will be monitored on earth during Kelly's stellar excursion, providing a control for the experiment, and hopefully allowing researchers to ascertain a deeper understanding of physiology in space.

Astronaut twins Scott (on the left) and Mike Kelly. 

Thanks to evolution, the human body is pretty well adapted to living on earth. Most of our physiology is based upon being pulled down on by a force of 9.8 m/s/s, and once you remove this force, strange things begin to happen. The biggest effect is felt in the astronaut's lower body, as this part (which has spent its entire existence supporting something) suddenly doesn't have anything to do. The load bearing bones (the legs, hips, and spine) begin to break down, releasing calcium into the body (doctors call this phenomena spaceflight osteopenia). This causes the bones to become more brittle, increasing the chance of a fracture. The release of calcium into the astronauts system can also increase the likelihood of kidney stones. This reduction occurs at a frightening rate, up to 1.5% of load bearing bone mass lost per month.

Alongside bone loss, astronauts also experience some degree of muscle atrophy. Much like the load bearing bones, the muscles in ones back and legs experience a reduction in use, which results in their weakening; without proper exercise, astronauts can lose up to 20% of their muscle mass in 5 to 11 days. Up until now, astronauts have bungie corded themselves to a treadmill, used a stationary bike, or have used a device called ARED (which simulates weightlifting) to help stave this off, but research is still being done to improve interstellar fitness.

Body Fluid changes in Outer Space
Another physiological challenge that astronauts face in microgravity occurs within their fluid systems. Gravity plays a huge part in how our bodies manage fluids. Once an astronaut enters a microgravity environment, his or her fluids (which are no longer being pulled down by gravity) being to congregate in the upper body, resulting in symptoms that resemble the common cold. Plasma volume (the water in the blood stream) can decrease up to 20%, which can result in something called Orthostatic intolerance, which is the loss of the ability to stand without help for more than 10 minutes at a time. This effect is exacerbated with longer stays in space, but so far no astronaut has failed to recover once they have returned to Earth. A reduction in body fluids puts less stress on the heart than would normally occur, which causes the heart to atrophy as well, which lowers blood pressure. This can cause complications once the astronaut returns to a gravitational environment. Shifting fluids also result in an increase in intracranial pressure. This in turn puts pressure on the optic nerve, which can cause vision problems in astronauts.

Why is all of this stuff such a big deal? Currently, we want to send people to Mars, a journey which will take six months with today's technology. Since there aren't any hospitals on Mars, anyone who goes there will have to be in a condition in which they'd be able to survive the harsh conditions of a foreign planet, which is something that hasn't quite been figured out. Hopefully NASA will be able to gain some important insights from the Kelly mission that will allow a better insight into how to treat space adaptation syndrome.

Posted by David Almanzar (Group A)


    Manganese is a metal that in very small amounts, is actually necessary for life as we know it. Manganese is normally found in such small traces that many cells express a gene that produces a protein to pump manganese into our cells from our environment. In recent times humans have been unearthing many metals that would normally be resting under the surface due to industrialization and one of these metals is manganese. Manganese is a common byproduct of industrialization and the levels in the air have been rising dramatically.
    While the levels of manganese have been kept under control enough to not be harmful to us or our food directly, these high levels could be causing a much bigger problem that lacks urgency due to its subtle nature. Recent studies have shown that these high levels of manganese have drastically effected the efficiency of bees in their foraging tasks. The studies focused on how the manganese levels effected dopamine levels in the brains of bees. These altered dopamine levels caused bees to take on less foraging tasks and be less efficient in their tasks.
    These facts could be very dangerous to humans and for that matter, all life on the planet. Bees are crucial to our lives and their number are already on the descent. Bees are responsible for all the fruits and vegetables we eat being pollenated so that growth can ensue. If bees were to no longer be functioning as efficiently and in lower numbers there would surely be a major decrease in the availability of fruits and vegetables which would trickle down even further to preventing the animals that we eat for meat from getting their own sufficient diets.
    So while global warming and other human impacts on the Earth may be stealing the spotlight, we humans have severely affected our planet in many ways. Small, almost unnoticeable effects such as an increase in manganese levels may not seem urgent and may seem minuscule but nonetheless it can be a planet killer. If actions against the rise of these levels are not taken humans could be in for a rude awakening in the future whether it be from the downfall of our necessary companions; the bees, or from human brains being affected in the same way once the levels of manganese climb to a detrimental point.
This is the article from which I learned most of this stuff if anyone wants to go check it out. ://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150324210043.htm

Cullan Bartel, Group A

Crayfish (invertebrates) suffer from anxiety as well..

A work, published in Science by French researchers from Université de Bordeaux (France), shows the presence of a neural mechanism of an anxiety-like behavior in animal, specifically crayfish, throughout evolution. It is claimed that anxiety has only been found in human and a few other vertebrates. This is the first case discovered in the history that anxiety-like behavior also exists in invertebrates. Additionally, they have also found that this emotion weakens and disappears as anxiolytic is injected (suggesting a similar mechanism as in human).

 Figure 1: Photo of a crayfish used in the experiment (in the cross-shaped mazed)

First of  all, anxiety is a form of behavioral response to stress, including lasting fear and nervousness. This involuntary response raises awareness and the ability of detecting threats in individuals, consequently, increasing their life expectancy.

During experiment, researchers repeatedly exposed crayfish to an electric field (stress environment) for thirty minutes before placing them in an aquatic cross-shaped maze. The maze was set up in a way that two of its arms were lit up and the other two were kept dark. Dark area was found to be reassuring for crayfish. Results of the experiments illustrate a tendency that those that are anxious stay in the dark arms of the maze and those who are not anxious (in the control group) remain throughout the whole maze.

From a neuro-biological standpoint, this anxiety response is related to an increase in serotonin level in brain. This neurotransmitter, is responsible for the feelings of well-being and happiness is released when body experiences stress, suppressing anxious feelings. Researchers have also injected a dose of anxiolytic, commonly used in human (benzodiazepine), to crayfish and found similar effects as if in human: weakening the symptoms of anxiety.

Researchers believe that this analysis of this ancestral behavior will essential for studying the neuronal bases of this emotion. This is also a behavioral study on a unique model, which is invertebrates. Further studies can be done based upon the finding from this experiment. 

Posted by Phi Duong (Group A)

Sleep Deprivation

      As college students, we are always bombarded with a load of work all at once, and run on little, to no sleep. This seems to occur mostly during midterms and finals week, or a random "hell week" during the semester, when it seems like professors plot against us students, and  schedule all exams and have everything due within the same week. I am currently  going through one of those random "hell week" and running on 8 hours of sleep since Monday. I am in great need of sleep, and find my self dosing off during lectures and on the bus back home.
       It is said that college students are the most sleep deprived. A Research done in 2001 at Brown University was done where they found that approximately 11% of students report good sleep, while 73% report sleep problems. In the study, students reported that the top reasons preventing them from sleep included: dorm noise, socializing with roommates, schoolwork, and personal health issues. Sleep is a very important part of a healthy lifestyle. Not doing so will hinder the ability for our brains to function properly,and our body to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. Sleep deprivation can affect important aspects of your mind and body such as your mood, energy, ability to learn, memory, good judgment, reaction time and efficiency.  
      Three  advice on helping you sleep better is: stop all usage of technology 30 min prior to bed, yes this includes cell phones. The light block melatonin which can help you fall asleep.  A 30 min wind down with relaxation and reading can make it easier to fall asleep. The second advice is no caffeine after 3:00 PM. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants, which disrupt sleep, so if you feel like you need a drink in order to boost up your energy, try a small energy booster snack or drink. The last advice would be to sleep only an hour longer during the weekend than you usually would on your latest weekday wake-up time. Therefore, don't rely on the weekend to catch up on sleep but this only worsens your sleep pattern. The best solution is to get a regular amount of sleep as many nights as possible. 

Posted By: Barbara Afogho (Group A)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Save the Whales?

Save the Whales? 

You may have heard of what has come to be a cliche environmental activist pitch of "Save the Whales!".  It comes up in movies, television shows, and sometimes occurs in real life.  Some people will keep walking, act like they're listening to headphones.  Now I personally am not an environmental activist, and I don't usually think about animal cruelty in my spare time but I recently saw the documentary "Blackfish" about Orcas in captivity.  It was eye opening and made me think again about animals, especially Orcas being kept in their unnatural habitat and subject to captivity.  I remember going to Seaworld when I was younger and being amazed by all of  the animals, and the "tricks" they could do.  I never thought about how the animals could feel (and yes Orcas can feel, scans show they might have even deeper emotions than humans).  But watching the documentary expose how Orcas were taken from their homes and their families where they had close bonds made me think about what humans are actually doing.

 The documentary was mainly about an Orca, Tilikum, who is currently being kept in captivity in Florida.  Tilikum has injured multiple trainers even killed some..  Researchers believed Tilikum was in a sort of psychosis due to being held in solitude, injured by the female Orcas he was in his minuscule tank with, and not getting rewards for his "tricks".  Even though Tilikum allegedly killed three humans he is still being subjected to performing, but his "punishment" is being in a tank in solitude only  performing a couple stunts for shows and being used for breeding.  This arises the question, is it fair to Tilikum and other Orcas to be blamed for the killing? Or the people around them.  Orcas have only harmed one human in the wild, and killing none; yet in captivity they have injured over one hundred, killing four.  The people who captured the young Orcas from their family when they were only a couple of years old.  It was even reported that when humans first began hunting Orcas to hold them in captivity, they would take the pups, and sometimes kill the older Orcas they were with which is highly illegal.  Yes, it is illegal to kill Orcas in the wild, but isn't taking Orcas into captivity essentially killing them? It reduces their life span by 70%, but they definitely didn't tell me that when I was visiting Sea World (they actually say that Orcas live longer and happier lives in captivity due to veterinary care which is not true).

 There are currently 57 Orcas in captivity, 24 of these being in the United States.  I am in no way saying that watching animals isn't entertaining, I go to the zoo and as I mentioned I've been to Sea Worlds and had fun! But can we really keep animals in captivity for our own enjoyment, even if its detrimental to them? How would us humans feel if one day a superior animal arose they put us in small cages and pools and forced us to do tricks in order to get fed.
Fate of Captive Orcas
PBS - Ethics of Captivity
Netflix - "Blackfish" directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite

Posted by Victoria Bortolussi (C)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How to Stay Healthy: Exercise Regularly, Avoid Junk Food, and Eat Your Boogers

How convenient...
Picking your nose is pretty gross, right? Right. You don’t have to be overly squeamish to agree… digging for gold in public is about as socially unacceptable as laughing at a funeral. How could it get more repulsive? How about this -- picking your nose and then eating it. Just the thought of it makes me cringe… and it brings up a sour old memory of this girl I used to go to elementary school with. Megan (she’ll never read this) was a normal, happy-go-lucky girl, who just so happened to have this sincerely unfortunate habit of picking her nose and then eating the… well, you knowHer notoriety was well-known throughout the school, and her status as a routine sinus-harvester was a day-to-day hot topic on the playground. Once we moved on to middle-school, she must have had some sort of social epiphany, because her nasal fixation and booger consumption thankfully stopped being a thing. Though her habit had dismantled, her reputation remained -- and all throughout highschool I could never bring myself to forget the infamy she brought upon herself.

This isn't Megan...
But maybe Megan wasn’t all that crazy… tons of toddlers and young children exhibit this behavior. It even has its own word -- mucophagy. Could it possibly be evolutionarily-inspired? University of Saskatchewan biochemist Scott Napper thinks so. Napper has theorized that eating boogers poses a survival benefit by introducing to the immune system pathogens and germs that have been trapped and entangled in nasal mucus. Austrian medical doctor Friedrich Bischinger agrees -- he notes that snot contains a powerful biochemical arrangement of antiseptic enzymes that cripple and kill harmful bacteria. Orally introducing these weakened microorganisms could potentially allow the immune system to assess these antigens for antibody production -- all while providing little to no harm to the human body. Napper even suggested that since boogers have a sugary taste (although I cannot vouch for that), mucus may provide a tasty incentive for young children to chow down.

Antibodies in the bloodstream
While no real studies have been done to confirm this hypothesis, it’s very interesting to think of how this socially frowned-upon habit expressed commonly in children could have evolved to protect the human body from germs. As a side note… I sincerely apologize if you chose to enjoy your lunch while reading this post, but just consider it “food for thought.” The next time you’re feeling like a hypochondriac, enjoy yourself a snack from the goldmine and rest assured -- it’s biology! Also, let me know if you notice any difference in immunity, because I won’t be trying this one out for myself!

Posted by Michael Salhany (6C)

Genomic analysis paints the picture for our primate ancestry

Genomic Analysis Paints the Picture for our Primate Ancestry

               Genome sequencing technology is breaking new ground on the human genome by studying our genetic neighbors. The very first non-human primate genome that was sequence and published is the chimpanzee, using shotgun de novo assembly. With the exception of gibbons, every hominid species has its genome fully sequenced. With all this genomic data, we can paint an incredibly accurate phylogenetic tree. Before, we would make trees using only one gene as a reference, which would lead to false positives on which species were more closely related. If we observed just one gene, we could come to different conclusions. For example, one particular gene between gorillas and humans may be coincidentally close, and if we use that gene as a basis, then we would come to the conclusion that humans are most closely related to humans. We're fairly certain that this isn't true, because we've used the entire genome to get an average of closeness for each gene. Our current model looks like the tree below;
Primate phylogenetic tree.
                How do we reach these conclusions with DNA? A lot of techniques revolve around comparing the percent of similar DNA of specific types. Humans and chimpanzees have DNA that has about 1.4% difference in DNA, but this only accounts for nucleotide substitutions, not for small insertions and deletions in the genome. When you compare small insertions and deletions, the differences get much bigger. What's the value to this? The more differences we can discern from DNA, the easier it becomes to differentiate them. We're no longer working with fraction percent differences, and it becomes much clearer who is closely related and who is not. Insertions and deletions may account for major evolutionary mutations, so they cannot be ignored.

                Even if you think DNA is totally bogus, scientists make an effort to support their claims with interdisciplinary evidence. Scientists have retroactively supported their theories on the close relation to bonobos and chimpanzees by observing their behavior and examining the ecological past of their environment. Bonobos have a matriarchal society where females form close bonds to gain an advantage against males. Chimpanzees don’t have this behavior. Scientists believe this has to do with the feeding opportunities that these species have experienced in their evolutionary past. The common ancestor of chimps and bonobos once coexisted with gorillas, which consumed all the food on the ground and forced the ancestor to be arboreal to eat tree food. At some point, this environment suffered a drought, so the ground plants and gorillas were wiped out as a result. The chimp ancestors were able to survive, and once the ground plants grew back (and the gorillas didn’t), the chimps were able to capitalize on the abundance of food. These chimps eventually evolved into bonobos.
There is a video on national geographic that details it here.

Posted by Patrick O'Loughlin

Evolution can be defined as the process by which different kinds of living organisms are thought to have developed and diversified from earlier forms during the history of the earth. It can also be defined as a change in heritable traits of biological populations over successive generations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organization, including the level of species, individual organisms, and at the level of molecular evolution.
Human evolution is the lengthy process of change by which people originated from apelike ancestors. Scientific evidence shows that the physical and behavioral traits shared by all people originated from apelike ancestors and evolved over a period of approximately six million years.
One of the earliest defining human traits, bipedalism -- the ability to walk on two legs -- evolved over 4 million years ago. Other important human characteristics -- such as a large and complex brain, the ability to make and use tools, and the capacity for language -- developed more recently. Many advanced traits -- including complex symbolic expression, art, and elaborate cultural diversity -- emerged mainly during the past 100,000 years.
Humans are primates. Physical and genetic similarities show that the modern human species, Homo sapiens, has a very close relationship to another group of primate species, the apes. Humans and the great apes (large apes) of Africa -- chimpanzees (including bonobos, or so-called “pygmy chimpanzees”) and gorillas -- share a common ancestor that lived between 8 and 6 million years ago. Humans first evolved in Africa, and much of human evolution occurred on that continent. The fossils of early humans who lived between 6 and 2 million years ago come entirely from Africa. 
Most scientists currently recognize some 15 to 20 different species of early humans. Scientists do not all agree, however, about how these species are related or which ones simply died out. Many early human species -- certainly the majority of them – left no living descendants. Scientists also debate over how to identify and classify particular species of early humans, and about what factors influenced the evolution and extinction of each species.

Early humans first migrated out of Africa into Asia probably between 2 million and 1.8 million years ago. They entered Europe somewhat later, between 1.5 million and 1 million years. Species of modern humans populated many parts of the world much later. For instance, people first came to Australia probably within the past 60,000 years and to the Americas within the past 30,000 years or so.
The beginnings of agriculture and the rise of the first civilizations occurred within the past 12,000 years.

Paleoanthropology is the scientific study of human evolution. Paleoanthropology is a subfield of anthropology, the study of human culture, society, and biology. The field involves an understanding of the similarities and differences between humans and other species in their genes, body form, physiology, and behavior. Paleoanthropologists search for the roots of human physical traits and behavior. They seek to discover how evolution has shaped the potentials, tendencies, and limitations of all people.
Early human fossils and archeological remains offer the most important clues about this ancient past. These remains include bones, tools and any other evidence (such as footprints, evidence of hearths, or butchery marks on animal bones) left by earlier people. Usually, the remains were buried and preserved naturally. They are then found either on the surface (exposed by rain, rivers, and wind erosion) or by digging in the ground. By studying fossilized bones, scientists learn about the physical appearance of earlier humans and how it changed. Bone size, shape, and markings left by muscles tell us how those predecessors moved around, held tools, and how the size of their brains changed over a long time. Archeological evidence refers to the things earlier people made and the places where scientists find them. By studying this type of evidence, archeologists can understand how early humans made and used tools and lived in their environments.

 The process of evolution
The process of evolution involves a series of natural changes that cause species (populations of different organisms) to arise, adapt to the environment, and become extinct. All species or organisms have originated through the process of biological evolution. In animals that reproduce sexually, including humans, the term species refers to a group whose adult members regularly interbreed, resulting in fertile offspring -- that is, offspring themselves capable of reproducing. Scientists classify each species with a unique, two-part scientific name. In this system, modern humans are classified as Homo sapiens.
Evolution occurs when there is change in the genetic material -- the chemical molecule, DNA -- which is inherited from the parents, and especially in the proportions of different genes in a population. Genes represent the segments of DNA that provide the chemical code for producing proteins. Information contained in the DNA can change by a process known as mutation. The way particular genes are expressed – that is, how they influence the body or behavior of an organism -- can also change. Genes affect how the body and behavior of an organism develop during its life, and this is why genetically inherited characteristics can influence the likelihood of an organism’s survival and reproduction.
Evolution does not change any single individual. Instead, it changes the inherited means of growth and development that typify a population (a group of individuals of the same species living in a particular habitat). Parents pass adaptive genetic changes to their offspring, and ultimately these changes become common throughout a population. As a result, the offspring inherit those genetic characteristics that enhance their chances of survival and ability to give birth, which may work well until the environment changes. Over time, genetic change can alter a species' overall way of life, such as what it eats, how it grows, and where it can live. Human evolution took place as new genetic variations in early ancestor populations favored new abilities to adapt to environmental change and so altered the human way of life.
The big question I now ask is;
-since biologists and scientists say that we evolved from apes millions of years ago, what do those ancient apes evolve from?
-what will the current apes on the planet evolve to in 100 thousand years’ time?
-Also since evolution is allegedly the case, what then will the current humans evolve to in a million years to come ? or even aliens evolved from what ?

If Charles Darwin cannot wake and answer these questions, or any other modern scientists cannot, then maybe evolution is just some big scientific hoax.

by Osuji Chukwunonso ( group C)