Mutation Madness: How and why SARS-CoV-2 keeps changing

by Sophia Swartzfigures by Shreya Mantri The first reports of a mysterious, pneumonia-like illness surfaced in early December 2019. Fast-forward to 2021, and the culprit—SARS-CoV-2, a virus a thousand times smaller than a speck of dust—has sickened more than 111 million people, infected all seven continents, and killed approximately 2.5 million.  The toll of COVID-19 is heart-wrenching and borders on dystopian. Our pandemic present is … Continue reading Mutation Madness: How and why SARS-CoV-2 keeps changing

What Does an Evolutionary Biologist Do?

How do you introduce yourself, scientifically? My name is Mia Miyagi, and I’m an evolutionary biologist, which means that I study how the process of evolution works and how that process has generated the incredible biodiversity that we have today. More specifically, I’m a theoretical population geneticist. Population genetics is how we think about evolution and variation across entire populations. In other words, how individuals … Continue reading What Does an Evolutionary Biologist Do?

Insights from the Past: Lampreys give teeth to theories of vertebrate immune system evolution

by Aleks Prochera figures by Jovana Andrejevic Imagine wading through the fresh waters of the Paleozoic era over 300 million years ago. You bump into various ancient marine creatures from fishes adorned with horseshoe-shaped shields to aquatic scorpions the size of a modern-day seal. Around you, however, there also exists an unseen world teeming with microbes: viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Despite their deceivingly microscopic size, these organisms pose a … Continue reading Insights from the Past: Lampreys give teeth to theories of vertebrate immune system evolution

An Evolutionary Argument for why Grandmas Rule

by Rebecca Silberman figures by Aparna Nathan Seen through the harsh, unsentimental lens of evolutionary biology, menopause doesn’t make sense. Why don’t women live like giraffes, like tarantulas, like pigeons, reproducing throughout their lives in order to maximize each person’s “fitness,” or reproductive success? Even in other long-lived, social species like elephants, females don’t stop having children before the end of their lives, and while … Continue reading An Evolutionary Argument for why Grandmas Rule

Cancers Evolve – Tagging and Tracking Can Help Us Understand How

by Catherine Gutierrez figures by Aparna Nathan Forty-nine years ago, President Richard Nixon launched a “War on Cancer”. That war has not ended—it rages on today, with cancer right behind heart disease as the leading cause of death in the United States. Nearly 1.8 million new cases of cancer are expected in 2020 in the U.S. alone, and rising rates of cancer risk factors such … Continue reading Cancers Evolve – Tagging and Tracking Can Help Us Understand How