October 31, 2014

1:00 PM | What we’re reading: The diversification of bacteria, landscape genomics of cottonwood, and the skewed sex ratio of science
In the journals Plata G., C.S. Henry, and D. Vitkup. 2014. Long-term phenotypic evolution of bacteria. Nature. doi: 10.1038/nature13827. Overall, bacterial phenotypic evolution can be described by a two-stage process with a rapid initial phenotypic diversification followed by a slow … Continue reading →
9:15 AM | A week of links
Links this week: A good Jared Diamond interview. The 10,000 hours rule – the best you can do is find the peak of your own ability. Tinder works because a picture is “worth that fabled thousand words, but your actual words are worth… almost nothing”. (HT: Razib) Dumb incentives, although economists would be the first to point […]
5:29 AM | Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: Upper Carboniferous seed casts from northeastern Ohio
We haven’t had a paleobotanical fossil of the week for awhile, so here are a couple of nice seed casts from the Upper Carboniferous Massillon Sandstone exposed near Youngstown, Ohio. They fall within the “form genus” Trigonocarpus Brongniart 1828. A form taxon is one that may not have any systematic or evolutionary validity, but it […]

October 30, 2014

5:16 PM | Rediscovering some critical terms of use in microbial discussions: #microbiomania and #microbophobia
Earlier this week I was trying to come up with a short term to use when referring to the "Overselling of the Microbiome" and related hype. And I came up with one I really really like: microbiomania. The term just captures the essence of hype about microbiomes to me I guess.So - of course - the first thing to do was to see if anyone else used this term.  And the number one thing I looked at was domain names.  Nope.  Microbiomania.Com and Microbiomania.Org are now mine.  And […]
4:45 PM | How it feels to be #BlackandSTEM and a Woman
I was sitting on this post for a while now. I said I would publish it this week, but I already felt procrastination kicking in. It was going to get pushed into next week or later. Then I got a tweet... -- Read more on
3:05 PM | One more thing to worry about
That's just swell! The universe could end any time, although the odds are rather low really, but still what a thing to stay awake at night worrying about. After figuring out that the universe was expanding, cosmologists wondered if the universe would end in a Big Crunch, sort of a reverse of the Big Bang, or in a Big Chill, expanding outward forever.  Then the discovery, sort of, of Dark Energy suggested that the universe would end in some sort of particle decay, a Big Rip, something that […]
2:59 PM | Haldane’s Sieve
This week we have a guest post by Graham Coop and Joe Pickrell. Here, Graham [GC] and Joe [JKP] answer a few questions we had about the development and future of their blog, Haldane’s Sieve. If you’re interested in population genetics … Continue reading →
12:00 PM | Eeeek! That bug is hairy!
In honor of Halloween – all you ever wanted to know about the inner workings of a tarantula. That is, of course, if you’re not too scared…      
7:09 AM | Chaos In The Church
Pope Francis has been continuing his campaign of liberalization within the Roman Catholic Church. At the recent synod on the family, reform-minded bishops within the Church, many installed by Francis, proposed language that, while not changing doctrine, would have liberalized the Church’s stance toward homosexuals and divorced people. The paragraphs that are getting all the…

October 29, 2014

11:58 PM | Job: Faculty position in Molecular Genetics & Microbiology, Duke University School of Medicine
Applications for tenure-track and tenured faculty position, Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology This is an open position seeking individuals that employ genetic and/or genomic approaches to investigate important and fundamental biological questions. The following areas are of special interest to this search genetic basis for behavior or disease in model systems and/or humans host […]
9:59 PM | CEO of Soylent goes even further off the deep end - going after his microbiome
Well, this is pretty deranged: Soylent CEO Is Lifehacking Water By Pissing In the Sink.  Forget all the wackiness of Soylent and the idea of limiting water intake.  And just look at the part of this on the micro biomeFeces are almost entirely deceased gut bacteria and water. I massacred my gut bacteria the day before by consuming a DIY Soylent version with no fiber and taking 500mg of Rifaximin, an antibiotic with poor bioavailability, meaning it stays in your gut and kills […]
9:04 PM | The Undersea Afterlives of Three Little Piggies
Science often answers questions that I never would have thought to ask. For example, what happens to a …
5:33 PM | Golden rain and fall color
Fall color this year is varied and very good this year, but as always fleeting. The area immediately behind our house is under the canopy of two sugar maple trees, one large and one huge, and the light especially in the late afternoon is just perfused with a completely lovely golden glow. And as a bonus, the weather was warm enough to sit on the patio and enjoy the light with a glass of wine.  But then it started to rain, not water, not cats and dogs, not frogs, but leaves, and […]
2:31 PM | Very depressing trend - decline of collections based research
The decline in collections-based research at universities has been in decline for some time as hiring decisions attempted to track newer, shinier, more fundable areas of biology. We used to say that collections-based research would only persist in museums and botanical gardens, but obviously that isn't so any longer. This is of course very short sighted, but that is actually the nature of science these days. Legislators no longer understand the need or value of basic research, […]
1:04 PM | Bat signals: genomic traces of sensory rewiring
How does evolution rewire an animal’s sensory system? In time for both National Bat Week and Halloween, new research in G3 investigates this question by comparing the genomes of bat species that “see” the world in different ways. The black … Read More The post Bat signals: genomic traces of sensory rewiring appeared first on Genes to Genomes.
12:00 PM | Almost This Or Almost That? Must Be The Other
Biology concepts – Protista, taxonomy, phylum, kingdom, monophyletic, paraphyletic, cladistics, algae, diatom, dinoflagellateEuglena gracilis is an organism in the Kingdom Protista. It has one long flagellar undulipodium, but it can also move by amoeboid movement. It has chloroplasts and can do photosynthesis, but it also can eat other organisms. Is it any wonder that classifying protists is so hard?Classifying living organisms is self-perpetuating job. Imagine if the dentist sold candy […]

Fu G, Nagasato C, Oka S, Cock JM & Motomura T (2014). Proteomics Analysis of Heterogeneous Flagella in Brown Algae (Stramenopiles)., Protist, 165 (5) 662-675. PMID:

Wei Y, Liu Q, Yu J, Feng Q, Zhao L, Song H & Wang W (2014). Antibacterial mode of action of 1,8-dihydroxy-anthraquinone from Porphyra haitanensis against Staphylococcus aureus., Natural product research, 1-4. PMID:

Maggs CA, Fletcher HL, Fewer D, Loade L, Mineur F & Johnson MP (2011). Speciation in red algae: members of the Ceramiales as model organisms., Integrative and comparative biology, 51 (3) 492-504. PMID:

Strauch SM, Richter P, Schuster M & Häder DP (2010). The beating pattern of the flagellum of Euglena gracilis under altered gravity during parabolic flights., Journal of plant physiology, 167 (1) 41-6. PMID:

9:39 AM | Improving behavioural economics
A neat new paper has appeared on SSRN from Owen Jones – Why Behavioral Economics Isn’t Better, and How it Could Be (HT: Emanuel Derman via Dennis Dittrich). My favourite part is below. As I have said many times before, giving a bias a name is not theory. [S]aying that the endowment effect is caused by Loss […]
9:00 AM | Exotic field collecting…in the hallway!
The following post is by Chloe Gerak, a Masters student at UBC who completed an undergraduate project at Simon Fraser University in the Gries lab.This past weekend, she won the top prize for an undergraduate talk at the Annual General  Meeting of the Entomological Society of British Columbia with a talk entitled “How the false widow […]

October 28, 2014

9:00 PM | Sex and power. The reproductive instinct of conquerors
The French writer Alexadre Dumas Sr., who had traveled to Caucasus in the years of 1858 and 1859, was telling in his traveling diary that the best gift that the Georgian and Lezghian youth could give to their fiancées were the chopped hands of the individuals from the neighboring tribe. These hands, brought as trophies, […] The post Sex and power. The reproductive instinct of conquerors appeared first on Social Ethology.
8:41 PM | Epic battle of wills
An epic battle of wills is shaping up here in the Phactor household.  Mrs. Phactor purchased a small throw rug to place at the bottom of the stairs leading to our basement. Every time she goes by she says, "Who crumpled up this rug?" And she straightens it. Every time a certain cat goes by, she says, "Who straightened out my play rug?" And she crumples it up to her liking. Some things are just more interesting in 3D than 2D. Note the milk bottle ring, always a favorite cat toy. Thousands […]
8:34 PM | The Making of the Mammalian Nose
As far as anatomical ventilation systems go, our noses are pretty impressive. Scrolled sheets of bone called turbinates …
7:19 PM | Genetics reveal the diversity of pollinators’ other cargo: fungi
The following is a cross-posting from the Stanford CEHG Blog by Jeremy Hsu, a graduate student in Elizabeth Hadley’s lab at Stanford University. Many animals that visit flowers are known to carry microfungal communities; these fungi are important ecologically because … Continue reading →
4:07 PM | Urban Science Adventure: Make Autumn Leaf Lanterns
It’s fall and lovely outside, but you also want to keep your students or grand/children engaged in fun activities. Well, take a look up and then down. Those beautiful autumn leaves are your... -- Read more on
4:03 PM | A message from Martha by Mark Avery | review | @GrrlScientist
This absorbing book is an engaging and wistful, yet measured, chronicle about the tragic loss of one very special, iconic, species, the passenger pigeon. This is the year of the passenger pigeon. Despite this, you might wonder how three books about the passenger pigeon could possibly have been published this year -- and, iconic or not, what more could possibly be said about an extinct species one hundred years on? Yet each book brings something new to the table. But my favourite of this trio […]
2:17 PM | How to teach yourself about an obscure snake
This article will soon become available in SpanishThe world is full of obscure snakes. According to Darren Naish at Tetrapod Zoology, the more you know about them, the better a person you are. Writing this blog, and in my research, I am often confronted with the challenging task of finding out something - anything at all - about a species of snake that I've never heard of before. This post is a walk-through of the process that I usually use to track down even the most basic information […]
1:49 AM | Salamanders Regrew Limbs 300 Million Years Ago
Salamanders are the only four-limbed vertebrates which can regrow lost limbs, and exceptionally well-preserved fossils suggest that their early ancestors shared this ability.
1:47 AM | An invasive species drives rapid evolution in a native
 Anolis carolinensis male, dewlapping. Photo by Ambika Kamath.In 1959, W.L. Brown and E.O. Wilson proposed the following eco-evolutionary process: two closely-related species come into contact, interact strongly (usually over food and other resources), and thereby experience natural selection to diverge from one another--ecology influences evolution. Then, if such divergence resulted in sufficient resource partitioning, the species’ population dynamics would stabilize and the two (or […]

October 27, 2014

8:23 PM | GSA Award Essays
Check out the GSA award winners' essays in this month's issue of GENETICS! GENETICS SOCIETY OF AMERICA MEDAL Unanticipated Success Stories: An Interview with Angelika Amon Angelika B. Amon "I would argue that under some circumstances, studying yeast cells is … Read More The post GSA Award Essays appeared first on Genes to Genomes.
5:45 PM | If you can’t be a good example, be a warning. How EcoInternet’s #Scicomm #Fail can make you a more culturally aware science communicator
When I started grad school I was excited. Excited because I saw the pursuit of knowledge as the this special calling, free of the BS that my friends who worked in corporations or the government or... -- Read more on
4:15 PM | Some suggestions for having diverse speakers at meetings
Been having a lot of discussions online in response to my post (Apparently, the National Academy of Sciences thinks only one sex is qualified to talk about alternatives to sex #YAMMM) tracking the awful gender ratio for speakers and session chairs at meetings run by the National Academy of Sciences in their Sackler series.  Some people were asking what one can do to improve gender diversity at meetings so I thought I would post this which I was meaning to do anyway […]
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