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Cassandra Extavour. Credit: Erica Derrickson 2020

Cassandra Extavour Selected as HHMI Investigator

September 23, 2021
Congratulations to Cassandra Extavour selected as one of 33 2021 Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigators. The 33 scientists come from 21 US institutions. Extavour will join a community of Investigators who are tackling some of the most challenging problems in biomedical research.  Through its flagship Investigator Program, HHMI helps to advance biomedical research and science education... Read more about Cassandra Extavour Selected as HHMI Investigator
Charles Davis

Herbaria awarded $4.7 million to mobilize digital collections of Asian plant biodiversity

September 15, 2021

Charles Davis, OEB Professor and Curator of Vascular Plants at Harvard University Herbaria, has been awarded $4.7 million from the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections Grant for his team’s collaborative project "Bringing Asia to digital life: mobilizing underrepresented Asian herbarium collections in the US to propel biodiversity discovery.”

Asia is the largest continent on Earth, and includes the world’s tallest mountains, lowest...

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LIFE RECONSTRUCTION OF TAYTALURA. Original artwork by scientific illustrator Jorge Blanco

The Dawn of Modern Reptiles

August 26, 2021

Lizards and snakes are a key component of most terrestrial ecosystems on earth today. Along with the charismatic tuatara of New Zealand (a “living fossil” represented by a single living species), squamates (all lizards and snakes) make up the Lepidosauria—the largest group of terrestrial vertebrates in the planet today with approximately 11,000 species, and by far the largest modern group of reptiles. Both squamates and tuataras have an extremely long evolutionary history. Their lineages are older than dinosaurs having originated and diverged from each other at some point around 260...

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Late Devonian early tetrapods. Original artwork by scientific illustrator Davide Bonadonna

Sustained fast rates of evolution explain how tetrapods evolved from fish

August 23, 2021

One of the biggest questions in evolution is when and how major groups of animals first evolved. The rise of tetrapods (all limbed vertebrates) from their fish relatives marks one of the most important evolutionary events in the history of life. This “fish-to-tetrapod” transition took place somewhere between the Middle and Late Devonian (~400-360 million years ago) and represents the onset of a major environmental shift, when vertebrates first walked onto land. Yet, some of the most fundamental questions regarding the dynamics of this transition have remained unresolved for decades....

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Artistic Reconstruction of Ctenorhabdotus campanelliformis (top) and Thalassostaphylos elegans (bottom)  Illustrated by Holly Sullivan

Rare Cambrian fossils from Utah reveal unexpected anatomical complexity in early comb jellies

August 20, 2021

Ctenophores, also known as comb jellies, are a group of over 200 living species of invertebrate animals with a transparent gelatinous body superficially resembling that of a jellyfish. There is much interest in ctenophore evolution in recent years as their controversial phylogenetic position in the animal tree of life has prompted conflicting hypotheses. While some studies suggest they might represent the earliest branching animals, others suggest a more traditional position as close relatives of jellyfish.

These hypotheses carry different and important implications for...

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