​The Other Magical, Medicinal Sticky Bud

No, it's not marijuana. It's a close cousin, known as Humulus lupulus, better known as "hops." You know it as a key ingredient in beer, but its fat, resinous flowers are also prized for their flavor and their medicinal properties. We're just starting to unlock the biochemical secrets of hops, and discover why this… » 12/16/14 11:18am 12/16/14 11:18am

A Plant that Survives by Stealing Genetic Material

Beneath our feet, plants are locked in a slow-motion struggle for the elements necessary for survival: water, sunlight, and nutrition. But some plants have learned to game the system, stealing water and nutrients from their neighbors. Some of these parasites even steal genetic material. » 8/20/14 10:25am 8/20/14 10:25am

Why Did Plants Evolve These Weird and Horrific Flowers?

Most people don't have very strong feelings about flowers, unless they are incredibly beautiful or smell really good. But it turns out that flowers represent a major technological advance for plants, and evolution has generated some pretty unimaginably weird specimens. » 8/18/14 1:26pm 8/18/14 1:26pm

What Do Extreme Ecosystems Tell Us About The Nature Of Life?

Our planet has some pretty intense environments, ranging from dense ice to molten rock — and they all play host to some form of life. What do extremophiles — creatures that live in unimaginable conditions — tell us about the very nature, and limits, of life? » 8/06/14 1:02pm 8/06/14 1:02pm

Why Would Evolution Favor These Insane Adaptations?

Life has been evolving on Earth for approximately 3.5 billion years. And in that time, to quote Jurassic Park's chaos theorist Ian Malcolm, "Life, uh… finds a way." Life has found ways to flourish in an incredible number of habitats, and this has led to some almost unbelievable adaptations. » 7/31/14 11:00am 7/31/14 11:00am

Plants Are Actually Kind of Evil

Generally speaking, plants get filed under the "boring" category. Occasionally, they smell nice, look pretty, or provide some tasty food, but that's about it. Until you realize that these immobile life forms are engaged in a terrifying daily battle that involves theft, slavery, eavesdropping — and explosives. » 7/24/14 12:00pm 7/24/14 12:00pm

6 Animals Shaped By Artificial Selection into Beautiful Monsters

Artificial selection, also known as selective breeding, is a nice way of saying that humans have guided the evolution of other animals until they become mutants. The stories of these six human-created mutants offer a fascinating perspective on how evolution works. » 7/11/14 12:00pm 7/11/14 12:00pm

You're Worrying About GMOs For the Wrong Reasons

Scientists have demonstrated that genetically modified organisms have no measurable negative impacts on human health. Indeed, they may hold the key to feeding a world impacted by climate change. But does this mean GMOs are completely without risk? Nope. Here are some good reasons to be concerned.… » 6/05/14 12:43pm 6/05/14 12:43pm

Genetic Manipulation: The First 50,000 Years

Genetically modified plants and animals are often feared as "Frankenfoods," but is there really anything dangerously new about manipulation of DNA? People have been creating extreme genetic mutants with plants and animals for tens of thousands of years. » 5/23/14 11:20am 5/23/14 11:20am

Has Humanity Carved the Earth into Many Islands?

In 1967, biologists Robert MacArthur and E.O. Wilson developed a new ecological theory: Island Biogeography. It wound up becoming crucial to the way we understand how animals adjust to living in a world that has been completely altered by humans. » 5/13/14 1:24pm 5/13/14 1:24pm