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The Evolution of Evolution

Evolution is innovative, says the New Scientist's Dan Jones. But can evolution itself evolve? "The capacity for evolutionary innovation — or, in buzzword form, 'evolvability' — is built into the fabric of life," he writes. There are many studies lately that shed light on the factors needed to enhance or restrict an organism's evolvability, but the key is to clearly define the word. When researchers talk about evolvability, Jones says, they don't just mean any genetic variation, but variation that means something to an organism's ability to adapt to its environment and that can be passed down to subsequent generations. How robust an organism is — and how well it develops despite genetic mutations — and how well evolving traits are integrated with each other determine an organism's capacity for evolvability, Jones says. The study of evolvability has only just begun, he adds. "A complete theory of integration, modularity and the developmental basis of evolvability will require connecting genetics and developmental biology with morphological studies in both experimental and natural settings," Jones writes.

The Scan

Tens of Millions Saved

The Associated Press writes that vaccines against COVID-19 saved an estimated 20 million lives in their first year.

Supersized Bacterium

NPR reports that researchers have found and characterized a bacterium that is visible to the naked eye.

Also Subvariants

Moderna says its bivalent SARS-CoV-2 vaccine leads to a strong immune response against Omicron subvariants, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Science Papers Present Gene-Edited Mouse Models of Liver Cancer, Hürthle Cell Carcinoma Analysis

In Science this week: a collection of mouse models of primary liver cancer, and more.