Posts

March 27, 2015

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1:56 PM | Self-promotion: shamelessly selfish or shamefully misunderstood?
I am reposting a blog post that I co-authored with Anne Osterrieder in 2012. I’ve always liked this post and been proud that we did it. A colleague brought it up to me yesterday, and I was sad to hear that the blog had been killed by hackers, with the original post lost, but Anne […]
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8:00 AM | A week of links
Links this week: “If compulsory voting were to help Democrats at all, it would probably help the bad Democrats. The Democrats would end up running and electing more intolerant, innumerate, hawkish candidates.” The management / bureaucratic speak of World Bank reports. It’s worth clicking through to the full article. Paul Meehl was talking about today’s […]
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5:38 AM | Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: An encrusted scleractinian coral from the Middle Jurassic of southern Israel
This week’s fossil is in honor of Annette Hilton (’17), who is my Sophomore Research Assistant this year. She has been diligently working through a large and difficult collection of scleractinian corals from the Matmor Formation (Middle Jurassic, Callovian) of Hamakhtesh Hagadol, Israel. These specimens were collected as parts of many paleoecological studies in our […]
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4:23 AM | YECs Have Been Searching for the Wrong Adam and Eve
A G+ discussion led me to do some thinking. The discuss […]

March 26, 2015

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10:14 PM | When discussing Humanity’s next move to space, the language we use matters.
Elon Musk’s vision for the humanity and colonizing Mars makes me incredibly uneasy. It’s not that Elon Musk has said very many inappropriate things, it’s that so much of the... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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6:06 PM | F-statistics Manhattan Plots in R
Characterizing differentiation across individual genomes sampled from different populations can be very informative of the demographic processes that resulted in the differentiation in the first place. Manhattan plots have grown to be very popular representations of genome-wide differentiation statistics in … Continue reading →
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4:33 PM | OK spring weather
This spring weather is not okay, but it's in OK which generally in my experience has rather poor weather. Spring does begin our storm/tornado season. TPP lives at the very northeastern end of tornado alley, a belt that runs northeast to southwest from the upper midwest down to the Texas panhandle. So here you do, rather than the first flower of spring, here's your first tornado of spring (Tuesday March 24th) photographed by a friend of a friend in Tulsa, that weather Eden of Oklahoma. This is a […]
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4:17 PM | Life in the trenches - teaching biology to non-majors
For nearly 2 decades TPP taught biology to non-majors or freshman majors (but the class was still half non-majors) in large lecture sections, and he was very good at it. Although the upper mid-west is above the Bible belt, evolution was still a controversial subject for many students. Some students were adamantly opposed to evolution and all for religious reasons, some had never been taught evolution and were curious about why it was an issue, probably because high school teachers simply […]
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11:54 AM | Q: Why is the Dawkins Meme Idea so Popular?
A: Because it is daft. I believe there are two answers to that question. For most people it’s convenient. That requires one explanation, which I’ll run through first. For some people, however, memetics is more than convenient. Some, including Dawkins himself and his philosophical acolyte, Dan Dennett, use it as a way of explaining religion. […]
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1:27 AM | A Fine First Finding of Darevskia
While in Romania back in 2011, I photographed the lizard you see here. It’s clearly a lacertid: a member of the Eurasian-African group that contains the familiar Lacerta sand lizards and green... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

March 25, 2015

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5:39 PM | Calling attention to poor speaker gender ratio - even when it hurts
So I saw this Tweet earlier todayWill be an excellent symposium! Register here @UCPlantBreeding http://t.co/Nd86UAr3hJ— Gena Hoffman (@GenaEHoffman) March 24, 2015And that sounded very interesting. So I clicked on the link to check out the Plant Breeding for Food Security: The Global Impact of Plant Genetics in Rice Production A symposium honoring Dr. Gurdev Khush symposium.  And, then I went to the program.  And sadly I saw something there that was not to my liking. […]
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4:06 PM | Killer genetic differentiation
Like most of you out there, I sometimes get bogged down in literature, and the pressure to keep up with new methods can lead to a towering “to-read” folder. I feel forced to read many of these papers no matter … Continue reading →
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3:52 PM | Treponema are not "ancient" but absence from some human's guts is very interesting
So I saw some Tweets today that caught my attention, discussion news stories about "ancient" bacteria being missing from some human's gut microbiomes:Uhh? http://t.co/psM91dMi50 pic.twitter.com/JBvXvhq66T— Nick Loman (@pathogenomenick) March 25, 2015There are no "ancient bacteria". when we actually see the paper i'm sure it will be a doozy. http://t.co/qewzlRHcLX— Pat Schloss (@PatSchloss) March 25, 2015These refer to a sadly inappropriate headline in ScienceWhat is wrong with this? […]
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2:57 PM | Paleontologists Uncover “Super Salamander” Boneyard
Finding fossils takes a combination of skill on luck. You have to be looking in the right place …
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12:36 PM | Birdbooker Report 365
SUMMARY: Books, books, beautiful books! This is a list of biology, ecology, environment, natural history and animal books that are (or will soon be) available to occupy your bookshelves and your thoughts. “Words in leather and wood”. Bookshelves in the “Long Room” at the old Trinity College Library in Dublin. Image: Nic McPhee from Morris, MN, USA. 2007. (Creative Commons.) Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high. How I love them!... Read […]
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12:00 PM | This Nose Knows
Biology concepts – evolution, asymmetry, bilateral symmetry, phonic lips, whales, echolocation, encephalization quotient, densityThis picture gives you a good idea of just how big a spermaceti whale is. Captain Ahab wanted to take this guy on mano y mano. He was nuts.Captain Ahab had an obsession for the white whale in Moby Dick. It was a killer, but not a killer whale. It swamped boats, rammed ships, and generally made a nuisance of itself. But it seemed to be intelligent as well, the […]

Ridgway, S. & Hanson, A. (2014). Sperm Whales and Killer Whales with the Largest Brains of All Toothed Whales Show Extreme Differences in Cerebellum, Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 83 (4) 266-274. DOI: 10.1159/000360519

Oliveira, C., Wahlberg, M., Johnson, M., Miller, P. & Madsen, P. (2013). The function of male sperm whale slow clicks in a high latitude habitat: Communication, echolocation, or prey debilitation?, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 133 (5) 3135. DOI: 10.1121/1.4795798

BODDY, A., McGOWEN, M., SHERWOOD, C., GROSSMAN, L., GOODMAN, M. & WILDMAN, D. (2012). Comparative analysis of encephalization in mammals reveals relaxed constraints on anthropoid primate and cetacean brain scaling, Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 25 (5) 981-994. DOI: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2012.02491.x

Montgomery, S., Geisler, J., McGowen, M., Fox, C., Marino, L. & Gatesy, J. (2013). THE EVOLUTIONARY HISTORY OF CETACEAN BRAIN AND BODY SIZE, Evolution, 67 (11) 3339-3353. DOI: 10.1111/evo.12197

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8:00 AM | An evolutionary perspective on behavioural economics
I often complain that behavioural economics (behavioural science) often appears to be no more than a loosely connected set of heuristics and biases, crying out for theoretical unification. Evolutionary biology is likely the source of that unification. Over the last few years, I’ve spotted the occasional attempt to analyse a bias through an evolutionary lens. But […]

March 24, 2015

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9:40 PM | Fruits and vegetables up close and personal
Here's some pretty neat images of young, immature, fruits and vegetables. See if  you can figure out what you're looking at. Oh, the strawberry does not show you the individual seeds, but the individual fruitlets on the fleshy receptacle, an accessory fruit that will clearly get much larger.  Warning: the images are flogging a book.
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7:26 PM | Favorite Examples of Evolution
When the cold bites, When the review stings, When the news is sad, I simply remember these evolving things, And then I don’t feel so bad!      — with apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein Over on Twitter, the biology … Continue reading →
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7:07 PM | The Rise of Evolutionary Biology Can Be Attributed To … A Harry Potter Character?
As mentioned in my previous post, the Modern Synthesis of evolutionary biology during the 1930s and 1940s was the result of combining different fields, such as systematics, genetics and paleontology. The genetic piece of the evo-puzzle was put in place by Theodosius Dobzhansky, who wrote the influential Genetics and the Origin of Species in 1937. He is […]

Kleinman, K. (2012). Systematics and the Origin of Species from the Viewpoint of a Botanist: Edgar Anderson Prepares the 1941 Jesup Lectures with Ernst Mayr, Journal of the History of Biology, 46 (1) 73-101. DOI: 10.1007/s10739-012-9325-9

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6:35 PM | Of dinosaurs and feathers
A 2014 study in Science – provocatively titled “A Jurassic ornithischian dinosaur from Siberia with both feathers and scales” – might just change how we think about all dinosaurs. Based on the age and identity of the specimen that the paper describes, the authors say perhaps all dinosaurs, not just the ones closely related to […]
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1:28 PM | Panamanian golden frog skin microbiota predict ability to clear deadly infection
The fungal skin infection, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), has pushed many amphibian species to the brink of extinction. One such species, the Panamanian golden frog, is likely extinct in the wild and has been maintained in captive breeding colonies since 2006. … Continue reading →
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10:00 AM | Royal honours for Canadian student!
Eloise Rowland, graduate of the Gries Lab of Simon Fraser University was recently recognized by the Royal Entomological Society for the best paper published in the journal Physiological Entomology in 2013 and 2014. This paper, part of Eloise’s MSc work, examines the role of sound in the sexual communication of the gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar. […]
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8:03 AM | John Urschel Does Math
My main line of research is in algebraic graph theory. In particular I am interested in the eigenvalue spectra of Laplacians on graphs. Those don’t often get mentioned over at HuffPo, so I raised an eyebrow when I saw this: A mathematician by the name of John Urschel recently published a complex paper in the…
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1:28 AM | New Problem Of the Week
As you might have noticed, Sunday Chess Problem had the week off. If you really need to get your fix, though, you can have a look at this web page I made for my chess problems. You’ll recognize a few of them from the Sunday Chess Problem series. I did, however, manage to get the…

March 23, 2015

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11:09 PM | A Week in the Life of U131
When you’re collecting data on the behaviour of individual animals over time, as I am this summer, your observations sometimes feel less like a collection of numbers and more like a collection of personal narratives. Of course, the data are both … Continue reading →
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8:31 PM | What did the earliest skulls on land look like?
As one of the earliest tetrapods, Acanthostega gunnari can tell us a lot about...
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7:25 PM | Sciencespeak: Pycnofiber
Pterosaurs were into fuzz before dinosaurs. That’s true in a historical sense, at least. In 1831, over a …
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7:03 PM | Research tidbits - AJB March 2015
The American Journal of Botany is a publication of the Botanical Society of America. Highlights of several interesting articles is a new feature of each month's volume; this is vol. 102 (3).  Mostly these are brief, non-technical descriptions of a study and they include a nice image. They give you some idea of the types of research, the diversity of scientific interests, and the kinds of questions that interest botanists these days.  You can also access the […]
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2:57 PM | Lighten up people, we're just messin' with you!
Oh, those fun-loving GnOPes.  Thank Tom Tomorrow for letting us in on the joke. To think anyone ever took them seriously. Seriously.  
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