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Darwin 200

The 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Robert Darwin falls on 12 February 2009. No single researcher has since matched his collective impact on the natural and social sciences; on politics, religions, and philosophy; on art and cultural relations. In this landmark year, our Nature news special provides continuously updated news, research and analysis on Darwin's life, his science and his legacy.

Nature marks the anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's On The Origin Of Species 150 years ago, with a special on biodiversity. As nations prepare progress reports on their pact to reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010, International Year of Biodiversity, Pavan Sukhdev urges governments to secure the flows of nature's 'public goods'. Meanwhile, William R. Turner and colleagues argue that natural ecosystems be made a bulwark against climate change, Robert J. Smith and colleagues propose that local agencies need to set the conservation research agenda and Douglas Erwin calls upon paleontologists to create models of the root causes of biodiversity. Features examine Brazil's forests and species barcodes, and there's a profile of ecosystem services advocate Gretchen Daily.


  • Evolution : Insight

    A century and a half ago, Charles Darwin detailed his theory of evolution by natural selection in his book On the Origin of Species. How does this remarkably successful theory apply to life on our planet? How have the scientists of subsequent generations built on Darwin's ideas? And does revisiting the original theory shed new light on the remaining puzzles?

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News & Features

  • Biodiversity's bright spot

    While species losses mount worldwide, conservationists in Brazil have made great strides towards saving the golden lion tamarin and its forest habitat from destruction. Gene Russo reports.

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  • Putting a Price on Nature

    Gretchen Daily knows the value of ecosystems – but can ascribing financial worth to them help to maintain biodiversity? Emma Marris meets an ecosystem-services evangelist.

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  • On the origin of bar codes

    Genetic sequences in a cell's mitochondria can be used to accurately determine species. Could this be because they are responsible for creating what they identify? Nick Lane investigates.

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  • The entangled bank unravels

    This third special issue in Nature's year-long celebration of Charles Darwin focuses on the dire challenges to Earth's biodiversity – and finds some reason for hope.

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  • Costing the Earth

    The value of biodiversity must be accounted for, says Pavan Sukhdev. It is time for governments to invest to secure the flow of nature's 'public goods'. For an interview with Sukhdev, click here.

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  • A force to fight global warming

    Natural ecosystems and biodiversity must be made a bulwark against climate change, not a casualty of it, argue Will R. Turner, Michael Oppenheimer and David S. Wilcove.

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  • Let the locals lead

    To save biodiversity, on-the-ground agencies need to set the conservation research agenda, not distant academics and non-governmental organizations, argue Robert J. Smith and colleagues.

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  • A call to the custodians of deep time

    Palaeontologists must model the causes of biodiversity rather than simply cataloguing fossils, says Douglas Erwin, as they curate the only record of ecosystems undamaged by humans.

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Books & Arts

  • Bonds forged on the high sease

    Shared experiences on global voyages linked Darwin and his fellow naturalists, explains Alistair Sponsel.

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  • Log of life beneath the waves

    Mark Schrope reviews World Ocean Census: A Global Survey of Marine Life by Darlene Trew Crist, Gail Scowcroft & James M. Harding, Jr.

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  • Q&A: Bird behaviour, Darwin and dance

    Nicky Clayton, a biologist and psychologist who studies the behaviour of birds, and who is also a salsa and tango dancer, collaborated with Rambert Dance Company to create a work commemorating Charles Darwin. As The Comedy of Change tours the United Kingdom, she explains how communicating via motion is common to both dance and the natural world.

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Audio & Video

  • Nature Podcast: Biodiversity

    In this special biodiversity show, we ask: should palaeontologists get predictive, and should the environment be factored into our economies? Plus, we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Darwin's 'Origin' by looking at the cultural context into which it was received both at home and abroad.

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  • Podcast Extra: Pavan Sukhdev

    We measure our economies in terms of trade, production and services - but one vital component is missing: the environment. Pavan Sukhdev is the study leader for a UN-run program on the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity, and he wants to see these resources accounted for. Kerri Smith talks to him.

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  • A letter from the past

    On the dubious position of Aelfus in the evolutionary tree of mankind.

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  • A burst of segmental duplications in the genome of the African great ape ancestor

    It is generally accepted that the extent of phenotypic change between human and great apes is dissonant with the rate of molecular change. Between these two groups, proteins are virtually identical, cytogenetically there are few rearrangements that distinguish ape-human chromosomes and rates of single-base-pair change and retrotransposon activity have slowed particularly within hominid lineages when compared to rodents or monkeys.

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  • Sequencing the nuclear genome of the extinct woolly mammoth

    A joint US/Russia team of 22 scientists describe what they did to sequence 80 per cent of the mammoth genome, 1000 years after extinction. Stephan Schuster and colleagues used hair from several different species found preserved in the permafrost.

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  • Mechanism of phototaxis in marine zooplankton

    Darwin suggested that the eye as we know it today, would have been preceded by a 'proto-eye'. Marine plankton can sense the direction of light using what are called 'eyespots' containing just two cells. Gáspár Jákely and colleagues from Germany believe they this simple mechanism for sensing light provides clues to what a proto-eye might have looked like.

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  • PDF of Global Darwin series

    A downloadable file (size 2MB) of the four Nature Opinion articles looking at the influence of Darwin's ideas around the world.

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  • Nature Publishing Group collection

    In his seminal work On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Darwin collected his thoughts on what became the most important concept in biology - evolution. In celebration of Darwin's 200th anniversary, journals across Nature Publishing Group are publishing a range of articles showcasing how Darwin's seminal work and ideas have enriched and transformed diverse disciplines.

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