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Life sciences/Evolutionary biology/Evolutionary theories

he contemporary theory of biological evolution is one of the most robust products of scientific inquiry. It is the foundation for research in many areas of biology as well as an essential element of science education. To become informed and responsible citizens in our contemporary technological world, students need to study the theories and empirical evidence central to current scientific understanding.

When evolutionary biologist Rebecca Price first started teaching at the University of Washington, Bothell, she quickly realized she had her work cut out for her. She found herself with a course load of five classes per year, and because her students were extremely diverse, she knew she had to find teaching strategies “that worked across generations and across cultures.”

Working within an interdisciplinary program, she “was inspired to be really creative,” she said. “I asked myself, ‘How can I get people to really enjoy learning about evolution?’”

Books on vanishing frogs, secretive seabirds, and the fascinating history of feathers were among the winners of the 2012 AAAS/Subaru Science Books & Film (SB&F) Prize for Excellence in Science Books. The annual award, established in 2005, recognizes books for young readers that encourage an understanding and appreciation of science.

This year’s winners feature compelling mysteries and exquisite artwork, and for the first time include a book written and illustrated by the same person:

Researchers have revealed new details about the brain, pelvis, hands, and feet of Australopithecus sediba, a primitive hominin that existed around the same time early Homo species first began to appear on Earth. The new Au. sediba findings, unearthed in Malapa, South Africa, make it clear that this ancient relative displayed both primitive characteristics as well as more modern, human-like traits.

Due to the “mosaic” nature of the hominin’s features, researchers are now suggesting that Au. sediba is the best candidate for an ancestor to the Homo genus.

Hana Ayala

Hana Ayala