March 01, 2015

12:35 AM | Gene Duplication May Be the Cause of Human Brains
File under my favorite category “things that crea […]

February 28, 2015

9:19 PM | Friday Fabulous Flowers - Olfactory edition
TPP walked into the glasshouse and immediately knew that the taro (Coleocasia esculenta) was in bloom. Generally most people don't notice the distinctive fragrance nor the actual "flower" which hides among the large leaves. This is an aroid, Jack-in-the-pulpit being the best known member of the family here abouts. So, what you really have here is a spike of flowers, an inflorescence known at the spadix, surrounded by a modified leaf, a bract, known as a spathe. In the case of taro only half the […]
8:56 PM | Leonard Nimoy Has Died
Sad news: Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83. His wife,…
3:00 PM | Anilius: The Pipesnake that Wasn't
This post will soon be available in SpanishAnilius scytaleDeep in the Amazon rain forest there lives a fairly small, fairly obscure, red and black snake called Anilius scytale. It is banded, like many red and black snakes, but it has no venom, so it may be a coralsnake mimic. It spends most of its time under ground or in the water. Morphologically, it has a mixture of characteristics that place it somewhere in the no-man's-land we call "henophidia"—it has pelvic vestiges like many boas […]
8:36 AM | Solar-powered cats create furry feline sundial | @GrrlScientist
A time-lapse video focuses on a room filled with cats, all of whom are determined to sleep in a narrow sunbeam as it moves across the floor.Saturday is commonly known on the internet as “Caturday” to recognise it as the one day each week when warring factions lay down their angry words for 24 hours to share stories, pictures and videos of their cats and other pets. Some blog writers and scientists (like me) have adapted “Caturday” for sharing stories, photos and videos […]
2:19 AM | The Tet Zoo Guide to Gazelle Camels
Some of you will know that I’m putting together a giant textbook on the vertebrate fossil record… and, oh god, it isn’t easy. If you want sneak-peeks on how things are going, please consider... -- Read more on
2:18 AM | An Icon and Life
Today, as anyone on any form of social media has heard […]

February 27, 2015

9:00 PM | Just like an elephant and a manatee …
There is a positive correlation between the time since two lineages have diverged and the strength of the reproductive barriers between them. Rothfels et al. (2015) have described a natural hybridization event between two fern genera that diverged from one … Continue reading →
6:07 PM | Your Birthday Song
This link is little bit of fun.  Enter your birthday and it returns the number one song on the American top 40 for that date.  Found out the F1's song was Call me by Blondie, which is sort of appropriate. TPP's is from a totally different era, or is that eon?  The 12th Street Rag (by Pee Wee Hunt and his Orchestra), and yes, TPP likes ragtime; always have. 
5:37 PM | Requiescat, Leonard Nimoy
The New York Times reports that Leonard Nimoy has died at age 83. We’ve already seen his death and funeral on screen, in the movie that was possibly the best episode of the television show that made him famous. But … Continue reading →
5:36 PM | Music for cats
Just when you think you've seen, or heard, it all, along comes something completely different. Some cats are pretty quiet.  Some cats are quite talky, yacky, and chatty. Some cats seem to chirp. Some seem a bit whiny and pleading, especially in the morning before breakfast. Slow old humans.  But never thought of any of our cats as being musical.  So here it is, music for cats.  Now that I think of it, one of ours hums Cosmo's air frequently.
1:24 PM | New Books Party: Books that arrived recently
This week, I share my thoughts about two new books; one that argues for a radical new history of life on Earth, and the other is a newly revised field guide to diving in AntarcticaA New History of Life: The Radical New Discoveries about the Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth by Joe Kirschvink and Peter Ward [400 pages, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015; Guardian Bookshop; Amazon UK hardcover; Amazon US hardcover/kindle US] Continue reading...
8:00 AM | A week of links
Links this week: The Lancet’s obesity predictions. Design things to be difficult. HT: Rory Sutherland Is there any known safe level of government funding? Increasing diversity by hiring groups, not individuals. Plenty of critiques of nudge-style interventions popping up, although they are rarely done well. Here’s another. And what is a nudge? A perspective on consumer […]
5:15 AM | Fry On the Problem Of Evil, Part Two
There’s lots of good blog fodder out there, but I don’t want to let too much time go by before finishing my discussion of Stephen Fry’s presentation of the Problem of Evil. See Part One for the full context. Of all the responses I’ve seen to Fry’s interview, there was one that was so bizarre…
4:53 AM | Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: Star-shaped crinoid columnals from the Middle Jurassic of southern Utah
Just a quick Fossil of the Week post. If all has gone well, I’m somewhere in the Mojave Desert on a College of Wooster Spring Break geology field trip. Above we see isolated columnals (stem units) of the crinoid Isocrinus nicoleti (Desor, 1845) found in the Co-Op Creek Member of the Carmel Formation (Middle Jurassic), […]

February 26, 2015

8:14 PM | Funding the LTEE—past, present, and future: Questions from Jeremy Fox about the LTEE, part 4
This is the 4th installment in my responses to Jeremy Fox’s questions about the long-term evolution experiment (LTEE) with E. coli. This response addresses his 5th and 6th questions, which are copied below.  ~~~~~ How have you maintained funding for the LTEE … Continue reading →
7:14 PM | Wind chill and plant cold hardiness
A reader asks an interesting question.  How does wind chill affect plants?  If a plant is cold hardy to say 10 F [22 degrees F below freezing for those of you who use rational C units], and the wind chill is -20 degrees, will the additional cold hurt or kill my plant?  OK, the short answer, no. The wind chill doesn't affect plants, only the absolute temperature. The wind chill factor is how much colder the temperature seems to us warm-blooded animals because of the […]
5:00 PM | What Brian Williams and bumblebees have in common
Journalists are held to the highest standards of accuracy, which is why so many seemed shellshocked to learn that Brian Williams, beloved NBC Nightly News anchor, lied about his experiences in the Iraq war. In his most recent accounts, Williams claimed to have been in a helicopter shot down by enemy fire — a claim that was vocally disputed by veterans who were with Williams at the time. Williams has since admitted that he got the story wrong, but what's most intriguing about his […]
3:00 PM | dN(eutralist) > dS(electionist)? Part 1
In a new series of posts, I will now proffer neutralist and selectionist reviews of recent publications. I point readers to an excellent review of the debate by Masatoshi Nei (2005). Besides being a fun exercise in PoV’s, I hope … Continue reading →
2:52 AM | Incorporating animal mass mortality events in ecology and evolutionary biology
[ This post is by Samuel Fey, Stephanie Carlson, and Adam Siepielski; I am just putting it up.  –B. ]Many thanks to Andrew for the invitation to write a post on our recent article published in the January 27 issue of PNAS on recent shifts in the occurrence, magnitude, and cause of animal mass mortality events. We thought we would use this opportunity to write about the motivations for this study, our basic findings, and how we hope this study improves our ability to better […]

February 25, 2015

11:13 PM | You Should Know: Dr. EE Just, Forgotten Father of Epigenetics
Welcome to the twenty-fourth installment of You Should Know. Today I am shining a Black History Month spotlight on #BLACKandSTEM historical figure and scientific leader, Dr. Ernest Everett Just. Dr.... -- Read more on
9:23 PM | Today's all male genomics meeting brought to you by Oxford Nanopores
The Tweets about this really say it all so I am just going to embed them here:Disappointed that 9/9 speakers lined up for @nanopore’s MinION conference are men #YAMMM cc @phylogenomics @hollybik— Karen James (@kejames) February 25, 2015@kejames Was it renamed ManIon conference? @nanopore @phylogenomics @hollybik— Claudia Taake (@ct_la) February 25, 2015@kejames @nanopore @phylogenomics @hollybik However, close to 100% of the attendees are woman, […]
5:45 PM | News, infotainment, comings and goings
These days it's hard to draw a line between news and entertainment. Although TPP doesn't rely upon these types of TV shows for news, apparently many people do. John Stewart's annoucement about leaving the Daily Show left TPP quite sad; he did a great job of putting things and people into perspective, and giving you a grin or two during grim times. The revelations about Brian Williams generated a feeling of who cares? Never watched the guy and wasn't impressed. Watching Bill O'Really […]
4:05 PM | When Did Dinosaurs Learn to Fly?
Birds are dinosaurs. That’s a fact underscored by dozens upon dozens of discoveries in the last 30 years. …
3:25 PM | The conservation genomics gap
Is genomic data a boon or a hurdle for conservation? Aaron Shafer and Jochen Wolf take a strong stance on the issue in a newly-published review in Trends in Ecology and Evolution: genomic data could be really useful for conservation, but not … Continue reading →
1:00 PM | Mirroring Evolution
Biology concepts – bilateral symmetry, radial symmetry, planulozoa hypothesis, cephalization, last animal common ancestor, porifera, platyhelminth, cnidarian, echinodermataHalloween was a classic slasher film. Jamie Lee Curtis looks so young, decades before Freaky Friday or yogurt commercials. Michael Myers could cut a man in half with his machete, but could he produce two mirror image halves?Slasher movies have been around for years. The heyday of the knife-wielding madman was in the […]

Moroz, L., Kocot, K., Citarella, M., Dosung, S., Norekian, T., Povolotskaya, I., Grigorenko, A., Dailey, C., Berezikov, E., Buckley, K. & Ptitsyn, A. (2014). The ctenophore genome and the evolutionary origins of neural systems, Nature, 510 (7503) 109-114. DOI: 10.1038/nature13400

Holló, G. & Novák, M. (2012). The manoeuvrability hypothesis to explain the maintenance of bilateral symmetry in animal evolution, Biology Direct, 7 (1) 22. DOI: 10.1186/1745-6150-7-22

Wallberg, A., Thollesson, M., Farris, J. & Jondelius, U. (2004). The phylogenetic position of the comb jellies (Ctenophora) and the importance of taxonomic sampling, Cladistics, 20 (6) 558-578. DOI: 10.1111/j.1096-0031.2004.00041.x

Astley HC (2012). Getting around when you're round: quantitative analysis of the locomotion of the blunt-spined brittle star, Ophiocoma echinata., The Journal of experimental biology, 215 (Pt 11) 1923-9. PMID:

8:28 AM | Academic Freedom
Let’s consider a hypothetical situation. Professor Jones, who has tenure, learns that a graduate student in a different department has conducted a class in a manner he finds objectionable. So Jones writes a blog post in which he attacks the graduate student by name. He uses incendiary rhetoric he could reasonably know would lead to…
8:00 AM | Accepting heritability
At Stumbling and Mumbling, Chris Dillow writes: [M]aybe some lefties do reject the heritability of IQ on ideological grounds. I want to make another point – that there’s no need for them to do so. You can accept that IQ (or ability generally) is heritable and still be a strong egalitarian. I say this because […]
12:17 AM | A Macabre Start to My Time in Florida
I’m in Gainesville for what I’m anticipating will be my last Ph.D. field season. I’m here to study the movement patterns of brown anoles (Anolis sagrei), trying to understand how their behaviour departs from territoriality to allow for female multiple … Continue reading →
12:01 AM | Smells Like A Boy: Lemurs May Use Scent of Mother to Determine Baby's Sex
A long time ago, the great-great-great ancestors of humans and our relatives began to invest heavily in eyes. Sure, we have other senses — hearing, taste, touch — but primates excel at sight. There are lots of hypotheses to explain why eyesight was so evolutionarily valuable, from finding food to reading faces. But whatever the reason, vision became dominant, while other senses were left to languish, including our sense of smell. Primate olfaction is thought to be so […]
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