How life generates new forms

When organisms change during the course of evolution, often what drives new forms is not genes themselves, but gene regulation -- what turns genes on and off. A new study identifies the kind of gene regulation most likely to generate evolutionary change, according to Science Daily.

Most modern organisms store genetic information in DNA and transcribe the information from DNA into RNA. Protein "transcription factors" that inhibit or enhance transcription of genes in the DNA are said to regulate gene expression.

In a March paper, a team demonstrated that gene regulation by protein transcription factors more readily powers evolutionary change than another form of gene regulation that works at the RNA level.

Ancient sea reptile was one of the largest animals ever

Sea reptiles the size of whales swam off the English coast while dinosaurs walked the land, according to a new fossil discovery.
The jaw bone, found on a Somerset beach, is giving clues to the ''last of the giants'' that roamed the oceans 205 million years ago, according to BBC.
The one-metre-long bone came from the mouth of a huge predatory ichthyosaur.
The creature would have been one of the largest ever known, behind only blue whales and dinosaurs, say scientists.

How birds can detect Earth’s magnetic field

Researchers have made a key discovery about the internal magnetic compass of birds. Biologists have identified a single protein without which birds probably would not be able to orient themselves using the Earth's magnetic field, according to Science Daily.

The receptors that sense the Earth's magnetic field are probably located in the birds' eyes. Now, researchers have studied different proteins in the eyes of zebra finches and discovered that one of them differs from the others: only the Cry4 protein maintains a constant level throughout the day and in different lighting conditions.

Sea turtles use their flippers like HANDS to karate-chop jellyfish, play with their food and lick their 'fingers' after eating

Flippers aren't just for swimming, they are also used as tools by sea turtles to attack and hold their prey, according to Daily Mail.

Scientists have discovered that these creatures have evolved to use their flippers like hands, allowing them to karate-chop jellyfish.

They can also use their flippers to play with their food, grasp coral to eat the sponge clinging to its surface, and even 'lick' their fingers after eating.   

These movements were previously thought to be too advanced for the small brains of the sea creatures.

Researchers trawled the web for images of the creatures. 

By analysing these pictures the scientists discovered surprising levels of nimbleness. 

The researchers said this was unexpected, due to their tiny reptilian brains being considered too small to co-ordinate such complicated motion.

Why are whales so big?

Anyone who has witnessed majestic whales or lumbering elephant seals in person would be forgiven for associating ocean life with unlimited size in mammals, but new research reveals that mammal growth is actually more constrained in water than on land, according to Science Daily.

This finding researcher is in contrast to previous theories suggesting that pressure on body size should be more relaxed in water, perhaps because of the large environment and ability for animals to float rather than have to support their body weight on legs.

Instead, the group found that aquatic mammal size is bounded at the small end by the need to retain heat and at the large end by difficulties getting enough food to survive.

"Many people have viewed going into the water as more freeing for mammals, but what we're seeing is that it's actually more constraining," said co-author Jonathan Payne. "It's not that water allows you to be a big mammal, it's that you have to be a big mammal in water -- you don't have any other options."

Getting big, but not too big

Although mammals that live in water share a similarly oblong body shape, they are not closely related. Rather, seals and sea lions are closely related to dogs, manatees share ancestry with elephants, and whales and dolphins are related to hippos and other hoofed mammals.