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From Liability to Viability: Genes on the Y Chromosome Prove Essential for Male Survival

The human Y chromosome has over the course of millions of years of evolution has preserved a small set of genes that has ensured not only its own survival but also the survival of men. Moreover, the vast majority of these tenacious genes appear to have little if any role in sex determination or sperm production. Taken together, these remarkable findings suggest that because these Y-linked genes are active across the body, they may actually be contributing to differences in disease susceptibility and severity observed between men and women.

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EMBARGOED

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 4/24/2014 12:00 PM EDT

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More Questions Than Answers as Mystery of Domestication Deepens

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A recent interdisciplinary conference that led to the publication of a special issue of PNAS on domestication raised more questions than it answered. Washington University in St. Louis scientists Fiona Marshall and Ken Olsen, who participated in the conference and contributed to the special issue, discuss some of the key questions that have been raised about this pivotal event in human history.

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New Method Confirms Humans and Neandertals Interbred

Technical objections to the idea that Neandertals interbred with the ancestors of Eurasians have been overcome, thanks to a genome analysis method described in the April 2014 issue of the journal GENETICS (http://www.genetics.org). The technique can more confidently detect the genetic signatures of interbreeding than previous approaches and will be useful for evolutionary studies of other ancient or rare DNA samples.

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Seeing Double: New Study Explains Evolution of Duplicate Genes

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From time to time, living cells will accidentally make an extra copy of a gene during the normal replication process. Throughout the history of life, evolution has molded some of these seemingly superfluous genes into a source of genetic novelty, adaptation and diversity. A new study shows one way that some duplicate genes could have long-ago escaped elimination from the genome, leading to the genetic innovation seen in modern life.

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A Tale of Two Species

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A pair of new studies from the Wildlife Conservation Society, Idaho State University, and the University of Nevada Reno look at the surprising variety of factors that prevent two closely related species of woodrats from becoming a single hybrid species despite the existence of hybrid individuals where the two species come into contact.

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Bamboo-Loving Giant Pandas Also Have a Sweet Tooth

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Despite the popular conception of giant pandas as continually chomping on bamboo, new research from the Monell Center reveals that this highly endangered species also has a sweet tooth. Behavioral and molecular genetic studies demonstrate that the panda possesses functional sweet taste receptors and shows a strong preference for natural sweeteners.

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Dr. Seuss Meets Darwin in Grad Student’s New Children’s Book

BINGHAMTON, NY – The Jungle Book. Aesop’s Fables. Charlotte’s Web. Fantastical tales of anthropomorphized animals have delighted children for generations. That’s all well and good, said Robert Kadar, but kids need to learn the story behind the real animals − the ones that don’t sing or dance − and how they evolved.

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Shifting Evolution Into Reverse Promises Cheaper, Greener Way to Make New Drugs

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By shifting evolution into reverse, it may be possible to use “green chemistry” to make a number of costly synthetic drugs as easily and cheaply as brewing beer.

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Eyes Are Windows to the Soul – and Evolution

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Why do we become saucer-eyed from fear and squint from disgust? These near-opposite facial expressions are rooted in emotional responses that exploit how our eyes gather and focus light to detect an unknown threat, according to a study by a Cornell University neuroscientist.

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