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Evolution: DNA and the Unity of Life

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Shared Biochemistry

What shapes the characteristics of all living things?
Same gene, different organism

Learn about two bioengineering examples: fish that make a glowing jellyfish protein, and yeast that make spider silk.

Why can living things decode the information in each other's genes?
To answer this question, we need to dive into the basics. What are genes, anyway? And how do living things read the information in genes to build proteins?
What are Proteins?

Learn about proteins, the molecules living things are made of.

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Types of Proteins

Explore the types of proteins and learn about their varied functions.

What are DNA and genes?

Get to know the molecule that holds the instructions for building every living thing.

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Build a DNA molecule

Find out how the DNA code letters A, C, G, and T make a DNA molecule by building one yourself.

How a firefly's tail makes light

Walk through protein synthesis with this animated example.

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Transcribe and Translate a Gene

See how cells "read" the information in a DNA sequence to build a protein—in a bit more detail.

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Paper Transcription and Translation
If organisms build proteins the same way, do they build the same proteins?
Shared Functions, Shared Genes

Take a closer look at the unity of life: the basic functions required for life, and the genes and proteins that underlie them.

How does science defeat bias?
Science isn't a collection of facts. It's a process that people use to learn about the world.
The Trouble With Cognitive Bias

Our brains are very clever, but they also use some shortcuts that lead to wrong assumptions. Learn how science helps to defeat these natural, inborn biases.

Natural Selection

How do species change over time?

Common Ancestry

What is the evidence that living species evolved from common ancestral species?


How do the differences arise in DNA that lead to differences in characteristics of organisms?


How does natural selection lead to the formation of new species?
  • Credits
  • Funding

    This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. DRL-1222869 and DRL-1418136.

    Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.