Comes naturally? Using stick insects, scientists explore natural selection, predictability

Is evolution predictable? Are changes in a species random or do they happen because of natural selection? According to Science Daily.

"Evolution often appears random, even when driven by the deterministic process of natural selection, because we just aren't aware of all the environmental fluctuations and other factors taking place that drive change," says biologist Zach Gompert. "If we had a better understanding of the mechanisms at play, we might have a better picture of evolutionary change and its predictability."

Gompert and colleagues used data from the past to test their ideas of evolutionary predictability.

Evolution -- and skill -- help hefty hummingbirds stay spry

Evolved differences in muscle power and wing size -- along with a touch of skill -- govern hummingbirds' in-flight agility, according to Science Daily.

The findings by biologists show that larger species of hummingbirds, despite their increased mass, are able to adapt to outmaneuver smaller species.

"Studies of bats, birds and other animals show that increases in body mass can have a detrimental effect on many aspects of flight," says Roslyn Dakin, co-lead author on the study.

"But with hummingbirds, the correlated evolution of increased wing size and muscle mass helps larger species compensate for their greater body masses."

Large-group living boosts magpie intelligence

Growing up in a large social group makes magpies more intelligent, new research shows, according to Science Daily.

Using four tasks to test intelligence, scientists found wild magpies from larger groups showed "elevated cognitive performance."

The study also found more intelligent females produced more offspring.

The research suggests that the demands of living in complex social groups may play a role in the evolution of intelligence.

Earth's first flowers may have emerged up to 256 million years ago

Researchers from have discovered that flowers evolved between 149 and 256 million years ago according to Daily mail.

They analyzed genetic data on flowering plants and evidence from fossils to come up with the new time frame.

Their work goes against two popular theories about plant evolution - one that says flowering plants are younger, and one that says they are older.

Molecular studies have suggested that flowers evolved earlier, but fossil records influenced some scientists to think they are younger.

Dinosaurs ‘too successful for their own good’

Dinosaurs spread across the world shows they may have been a victim of their own success, according to study.

UK researchers believe they were already in decline before the killer asteroid hit because they had occupied every habitat on Earth, according to BBC.

From their roots in South America, the dinosaurs migrated "in a frenzy of movement to cover the planet".