Biology and evolution

Climate change and human evolution

By Philip Guelpa, 7 November 2020

Significant environmental change in East Africa between 500,000 and 300,000 years ago prompted a major step in human evolution.

Trump administration continues assault on endangered species

By Adria French, 19 September 2020

Recent changes to the Endangered Species Act “to lower regulatory burdens” are driving several species toward extinction.

Stunning discovery of pre-human fossil skull in Ethiopia

By Frank Gaglioti, 19 September 2019

As a near complete skull 3.8 million years old, the find opens the road to future research that will allow scientists to look back to more primitive species, while being able to reassess the transition to true humans.

New human species discovered in the Philippines

By Frank Gaglioti, 21 August 2019

The latest find adds to our knowledge of the complex evolutionary path of human-like species and fills an important gap in our understanding.

Some early modern populations in Britain may have had dark skin

By Philip Guelpa, 22 March 2018

Recently published research suggests that Mesolithic Britons may have had dark skin, but the science is unsettled.

Insights into a new class of HIV retroviral drugs

By Benjamin Mateus, 30 December 2017

Recent investigation into the process of the HIV virus capsid maturation suggests a new method of disrupting its ability to infect.

Genetic study demonstrates that racial classification by skin color has no scientific basis

By Philip Guelpa, 9 November 2017

Skin color is controlled by multiple genes, each with many variants, which have deep evolutionary origins and are widely dispersed across human populations, irrespective of “racial” categories.

Evolutionary divergence between apes and humans may have occurred in Europe, not Africa

By Philip Guelpa, 8 June 2017

Fossil specimens from Greece and Bulgaria may represent very early members of the hominin lineage.

New dating of Homo naledi fossil alters its position in the human evolutionary tree

By Philip Guelpa, 19 May 2017

A South African fossil hominin raises many intriguing questions about how the dialectic of technology, environment, and physical and intellectual development played out in human evolution.

New dinosaur discovery in Myanmar includes feathers

By Matthew MacEgan, 13 December 2016

Researchers recently discovered a dinosaur tail encased within a chunk of amber where its bones, muscle, ligaments, skin, and feathers remain intact.

Vertebrate species populations in dramatic decline

By Philip Guelpa, 1 November 2016

A study by the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London projects that by 2020 vertebrate species populations will have dropped by two thirds since 1970.

Were Neanderthals architects?

By Philip Guelpa, 14 June 2016

Architectural features dating from over 176,000 years ago, found deep in a French cave, may have been built by Neanderthals.

New genetic data show “Back to Africa” migration in Neolithic times

By Philip Guelpa, 23 October 2015

Analysis of ancient DNA from Ethiopia provides evidence of a “reflux” of Eurasian peoples into Africa between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago, contributing significantly to the modern African genome.

Remains of a new species of early human discovered in South African cave

By Philip Guelpa, 14 September 2015

The recovery of remains of at least 15 members of an early human species provides an unprecedented mosaic of characteristics in a single population.

Scientists reveal the history and analysis of Kennewick Man

By Matthew MacEgan, 14 May 2015

A new volume published by the Smithsonian Institution serves as the most comprehensive study of the most important human skeleton ever found in North America.

Oldest known example of abstract symbolic representation discovered in Indonesia

By Philip Guelpa, 9 January 2015

Newly identified markings on a freshwater mussel shell from a site in Indonesia indicate the existence of abstract symbolic thought in human ancestors half a million years ago.

Prehistoric rock art in Indonesia dated to 40,000 years ago

By Matthew MacEgan, 7 November 2014

Archaeologists have used new dating techniques to determine the ages of cave rock art in Southeast Asia, demonstrating that such art was not limited to continental Europe.

Your Inner Fish … An engaging look at our vertebrate ancestry

By Walter Gilberti, 22 April 2014

The three-part series on the evolution of vertebrates concludes Wednesday night at 10pm EST on public television.

New fossil discovery sheds light on the evolution of the human hand

By Philip Guelpa, 26 February 2014

The discovery of a fossilized hominin metacarpal bone in Kenya demonstrates that the evolution of a key adaptation of the hand, thought to be associated with sophisticated tool production, occurred much earlier than had previously been known.

The genetic legacy of the Neanderthals

By Matthew MacEgan, 6 January 2014

Scientists have, for the first time, sequenced the entire genome of a Neanderthal hominin.

Evolutionary links between the development of language and stone tool technology

By Philip Guelpa, 19 November 2013

The use of sophisticated imaging techniques demonstrates that regions of the brain used in language production and stone tool manufacture overlap, suggesting an evolutionary link in the development of cognition.

New fossil skull find may revolutionize view of early human evolution

By Thomas Douglass, 22 October 2013

A newly reported skull from the site of Dmanisi in Georgia demonstrates wide variation in brain size and morphology within an early Homo erectus population, with implications for other fossil species and ancient population structure.

New research sheds light on a key dietary change in early human evolution

By Philip Guelpa, 14 October 2013

Multiple studies of carbon isotopes in fossil hominin teeth from southern and eastern Africa document the change from woodland to grassland diet which marked a major step in the evolution of early humans.

Genome sequencing of “living fossil” fish sheds light on the evolution of land animals

By Philip Guelpa, 30 April 2013

Decoding of the full genetic sequence of the coelacanth, a member of a group known as lobe-finned fish, has helped to explain some of the key genetic mechanisms associated with the evolution of life.

Study finds mammals diversified only after the extinction of dinosaurs

By Philip Guelpa, 22 February 2013

A major study using both fossil and genetic data has produced a detailed reconstruction of the ancestral placental mammal and supports the interpretation that the great adaptive radiation of mammals took place only after the extinction of dinosaurs.

Stone tools and the evolution of modern human cognition

By Philip Guelpa, 18 December 2012

A newly reported microlithic technology from a site in South Africa helps close the apparent temporal gap between the biological evolution of modern humans and the archaeological evidence of fully modern cognitive abilities.

New fossils support a multiple-species view of early human evolution

By Philip Guelpa, 31 August 2012

Newly reported fossils from East Africa indicate multiple branches in early human evolution.

Did Neanderthals create cave art?

By Philip Guelpa, 10 July 2012

It is possible that simple representations such as disks and negative hand prints, which new dating indicates were the earliest forms of cave art, were, in fact, originated by Neanderthals.

A further discussion on human evolution

3 January 2012

Philip Guelpa responds to a letter on his article about the relationship between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens

New research may show that Neanderthals did not go extinct

By Philip Guelpa, 27 December 2011

DNA derived from the Neanderthals has been found in many human populations around the globe

New hominin fossil finds in South Africa may fill a gap in the record of human evolution

By Philip Guelpa, 23 September 2011

A newly reported fossil discovery from the Malapa, South Africa may provide greater insight into the evolution of the genus Homo from our australopithecine ancestors. The fossils consist of remains of two individuals, an adult female and juvenile male, possibly a mother and son.

New research sheds light on cognitive abilities of animals

By Frances Gaertner, 10 June 2011

Recent research has begun to investigate the cognitive abilities of animals and is helping to identify the evolutionary developments made by human beings that began to distinguish them from apes.

Fossil discovery confirms “Lucy” walked upright

By Chris Talbot, 25 February 2011

A new 3.2 million-year-old fossil discovery at Hadar, Ethiopia shows that Australopithecus afarensis, an ancestor of modern humans, had arched feet and was “committed” to walking upright.

A letter on the Denisova discovery

25 January 2011

The World Socialist Web Site received this letter in response to “The Denisova discovery: Ancient genomics shed new light on human origins,” published January 17, 2011.

The Denisova discovery: Ancient genomics shed new light on human origins

By Thomas H. Douglass, 17 January 2011

An international team of scientists made headlines last year when they used genetic evidence to show that an ancient people, once living in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia, were distant cousins of the Neanderthals and contributed to the modern human genome before their extinction.

The Artificial Ape: How humans invented themselves

By Philip Guelpa, 3 January 2011

The new book by Timothy Taylor proposes that a technological invention was critical to the biological evolution of modern humans.

“Strange Fruit” by Kenan Malik: A polemic against racism and identity politics

By Nancy Hanover, 8 May 2010

Kenan Malik has situated himself in the crosshairs of the dispute over the nature of race, arguing from the standpoint of Enlightenment rationalism and scientific objectivity.

New fossils provide insights into early human evolution

By William Moore, 20 October 2009

After 15 years of painstaking study, the journal Science has published a series of articles on the fossilized remains of Ardipithecus ramidus, which is interpreted to be an early form of hominin, the group including humans and all human ancestors back to the evolutionary split with the last common ancestor with chimpanzees.

Marx and Darwin: Two great revolutionary thinkers of the nineteenth century

Part 3

By Chris Talbot, 19 June 2009

Marx and Engels immediately recognised the significance of Darwin’s theory when On the Origin of Species appeared 150 years ago, laying out a scientific conception of the process of historical evolution of the biological world.

Marx and Darwin: Two great revolutionary thinkers of the nineteenth century

Part 2

By Chris Talbot, 18 June 2009

Marx and Engels immediately recognised the significance of Darwin’s theory when On the Origin of Species appeared 150 years ago, laying out a scientific conception of the process of historical evolution of the biological world.

Marx and Darwin: Two great revolutionary thinkers of the nineteenth century

Part 1

By Chris Talbot, 17 June 2009

Marx and Engels immediately recognised the significance of Darwin’s theory when On the Origin of Species appeared 150 years ago, laying out a scientific conception of the process of historical evolution of the biological world.

The primate fossil “Ida”: the science and the hype

By William Moore, 13 June 2009

While the recently announced discovery of “Ida,” a remarkably well-preserved early primate fossil, promises insights into the evolution of later primate forms, including humans, the way it has been presented to the public distorts both its significance and the processes of biological evolution.

Walking, running, and human evolution

New insights derived from the hobbits of Flores

By William Moore, 13 May 2009

Recent research results suggest Flores hobbits are more distinctive than previously thought, providing new insights into human evolution.

Britain: ISSE to hold meetings on Charles Darwin

9 May 2009

The International Students for Social Equality in Britain are holding a series of meetings to mark the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth.

“Hobbits” of Flores: Implications for the pattern of human evolution

By William Moore, 16 February 2009

Recent developments in research regarding the so-called “hobbits” of Flores, Indonesia, may lend support to the multilineal or “branching” view of human evolution.

Australian biotechnology company enforces cancer gene patent, restricting medical scanning

By Frank Gaglioti, 28 November 2008

Biotechnology firm Genetic Technologies has moved to enforce its patent over two critical genes implicated in the development of breast and ovarian cancer, shutting down genetic scanning on potential cancer victims in publicly funded facilities.

Behind the creationism controversy at Britain's Royal Society

By Paul Mitchell, 17 October 2008

The Royal Society’s education director was forced last month to resign, for at the very least seeming to advocate the teaching of creationism alongside evolution in school science classes.

Letters from our readers

7 October 2008

The following is a selection of recent letters sent to the World Socialist Web Site.

Neanderthals and modern humans--a key to understanding human evolution

Part 2

By William Moore, 4 October 2008

This is the conclusion of a two-part article. Part 1 was published October 3. The evidence bearing on the question of the Neanderthal/modern human relationship falls into several categories, each giving only a partial and biased view of reality. Two of these categories are biological--the fossil record and, more recently, DNA analysis. A third major source of data is archaeology--the artifacts and other material traces left by the two populations. In this review I will focus on the biological data, since that is the origin of the recent announcements.

Neanderthals and modern humans--a key to understanding human evolution

Part 1

By William Moore, 3 October 2008

This is the first of a two-part article. Two recent announcements of research into the relationship between Neanderthals and modern humans tend to add weight to the interpretation that the ancestors of these two human lineages parted genetic company quite a long time ago.

Science, religion and society: Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion

By Joe Kay, 15 March 2007

In his new book, Dawkins has done us a service, if only in making more acceptable the general proposition that religion and science are at odds with each other, and that it is science that should win out.

New fossils illuminate the evolution of land vertebrates from fish

By Walter Gilberti, 1 May 2006

A major fossil discovery at a site in northern Canada has provided compelling evidence of the evolutionary transition from ancient fish to the first tetrapods—four-legged terrestrial vertebrates that include amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

New fossil discovery shows earlier human migration out of Africa

By Walter Gilberti, 29 May 2000

A multinational team of paleoanthropologists has published their findings following the unearthing last May of the oldest undisputed human fossil remains outside of Africa. The remains of two individual skulls were discovered at an archaeological site at Dmanisi, Georgia, in the former Soviet Union. These new findings have pushed back the estimated time of the first human migrations out of Africa by several hundred thousand years.

New fossil find provides important clues to man's prehistory

By Frank Gaglioti, 5 May 1999

The April 23 issue of the Science magazine announced the discovery of the fossilised remains of a new species of hominid [human ancestor], which provides important clues into the early history of human beings. The find was made by a multinational team of scientists headed by Ethiopian anthropologist Dr. Berhane Asfaw.