December 02, 2014

2:41 PM | The genetics of another multi-level society
Long-time readers (i.e., “for more than one week”) of The Molecular Ecologist will notice that this is the 2nd post on the socio-genetics of a primate multi-level society. The first being Melissa’s post last week that covered my recent paper … Continue reading →
12:37 PM | Languages adapt to their contextual niche (Winters, Kirby & Smith, 2014)
Last week saw the publication of my latest paper, with co-authors Simon Kirby and Kenny Smith, looking at how languages adapt to their contextual niche (link to the OA version and here’s the original). Here’s the abstract: It is well established that context plays a fundamental role in how we learn and use language. Here […]

WINTERS, J., KIRBY, S. & SMITH, K. (2014). Languages adapt to their contextual niche, Language and Cognition, 1-35. DOI: 10.1017/langcog.2014.35

Silvey C, Kirby S & Smith K (2014). Word Meanings Evolve to Selectively Preserve Distinctions on Salient Dimensions., Cognitive science, PMID:

Piantadosi, S., Tily, H. & Gibson, E. (2012). The communicative function of ambiguity in language, Cognition, 122 (3) 280-291. DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2011.10.004

8:00 AM | The power of heuristics
Gerd Gigerenzer is a strong advocate of the idea that simple heuristics can make us smart. We don’t need complex models of the world to make good decisions. The classic example is the gaze heuristic. Rather than solving a complex equation to catch a ball, which requires us to know the ball’s speed and trajectory and […]

December 01, 2014

11:06 PM | We Are All Idiots Sometimes
We are all idiots… sometimes. You are. I am. He is. They are. We are all idiots sometimes. And that’s OK. We can’t be “on” 24/7. I am reminded of Scott Adams in his book The Dilbert Principle, where he wrote (and I paraphrase here) about an incident with a pager. He changed the battery […]
8:46 PM | Carnival of Evolution #77: The Carnival is Dead, Long Live the Carnival
Carnival of Evolution #77 is now up at… the Carnival of Evolution blog.Apparently, Eco-Evo-Evo-Eco had the unanticipated honor of hosting the very last independently hosted CoE, Carnival of Evolution #76, on 2 October 2014.  I guess Felipe P. J. did such an amazing job hosting that nobody wanted to try to follow his act; Bjørn was unable to find a host for November.  So Bjørn will now be hosting the CoE locally, on the CoE blog itself; he has apparently gotten […]
8:11 PM | A mystery tree to identify
Let's have some fun!  You readers haven't had a challenge for awhile. Here's a photo, the only photo, that TPP got by email today.  Can I identify this tree?  What other information do we have? Well, it's a tree.  It was photographed in Indiana, which really narrows things down a lot.  And if you notice, there's a garden fence, so it could be an exotic ornamental. Oh, yes, TPP got this one.
5:29 PM | Prehistoric Lizard Had the Teeth of a Dinosaur
The Mesozoic is often called the Age of Dinosaurs. This terminology casts a long shadow over ancient life. …
5:23 PM | Crocodilians Hunt With Tools!
What would happen to mankind if crocodiles and alligators were to develop enough...
4:25 PM | Do communities exist? Complex patterns of overlapping marine species distributions
Leaper et al. 2014 Do communities exist? Complex patterns of overlapping marine species distributions. Ecology 95:2016–2025 I picked this paper because I felt it was a more stats-y/empirical-y way at getting at some old debates in ecology. The methods seem both very complex and very simple at the same time; if you’re interested, skim the Dunstan paper(s) they […]
3:55 PM | Scientific Advent Calendar
Wow!  It's December Oneth!  OK, having survived Thanksgiving and the obscene start to holiday shopping, here's a great little gift brought to our attention by PZ Myers, the Cosmic Genome Science Advent Calendar 2014.  Yep, today you get to open the first little door and inside is little bit of science for your edification and enjoyment. Enjoy.
12:50 PM | U.S. Education Department helps bail out for-profit college that lured students into bad loans
Talk about trying to fly under the radar: announcing a deal during Thanksgiving week is a sure sign that someone—in this case the U.S. Department of Education—doesn’t want you to notice.In the deal announced on November 20, a student debt collection company, ECMC Group, will buy 56 college campuses from Corinthian Colleges Inc., a for-profit university. Corinthian runs these campuses in 17 states under the names Everest College, Everest Institute, and […]
11:00 AM | Compensatory evolution: a possible mechanism of population divergence
After spending my graduate career using genetic data to reconstruct historical demographic events, one of the things that excite me the most about my postdoc work is the opportunity to use experimental methods to make evolution happen (insert mad scientist laugh … Continue reading →
4:12 AM | Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: Fish-bitten echinoid spines from the Middle Jurassic (Callovian) of southern Israel
This week we revisit a group of fossils covered in an earlier blog post. It is now the subject of a paper that has just appeared in the journal Lethaia entitled, “Bitten spines reveal unique evidence for fish predation on Middle Jurassic echinoids“. My co-authors are my good Polish colleagues Tomasz Borszcz and Michał Zatoń. […]
1:05 AM | Klinefelter Syndrome, Autism, & the Female Protective Effect?
I spoke with an individual a few days ago who had Klinefelter Syndrome (KS). For those who aren’t familiar, KS is one of the most common intersex conditions in which […]

November 30, 2014

7:12 PM | 2001: A Space Odyssey – A (human) nature-centred perspective
I recently went to the cinema to see 2001: A Space Odyssey. Of course I had seen it (several times) before, but never on the big screen (@CamPicturehouse deserves a credit here). Although there isn’t much molecular biology or biochemistry in there, … Continue reading →
6:47 PM | Wilt proof for winter protection
It's a bit warmer this weekend, so late season garden chores go to the top of the list. This weekend is also when the Phactors traditionally purchase a nice fir tree for holiday decorating. The reason for this is simple; the trees have been harvested and won't get any fresher. While it isn't time to set up the tree inside, the tree is set in a bucket of water in our garage. If the weather accomodates, i.e., it isn't really cold, it gets sprayed with wilt proof. The commerical product is a […]
10:53 AM | EVOLUTION: Not by genetic mutations, but by Epigenetic Adaptation
This article focusses on bacterial evolutionary change, but the principle of what is discussed is fully applicable to all organisms including ourselves. For instance, a Neo-Darwinian explanation of bacterial evolution and other species across the whole spectrum of life would go something like this: Species evolve and eventually can become a different species via generations […]
1:50 AM | Big-Headed Carnivore a Sign of Triassic Recovery
I’ve spent much of my weekend writing about Jurassic World. I won’t rehash the details here – you …

November 29, 2014

6:51 PM | Where to submit your paper. Or “If at first you don’t succeed, fail fail again … then try open access”
The confluence of two experiences motivated this post. First, I was involved in a conversation on Twitter (below) that was reacting to suggestions (in a commentary in Nature) that the high volume of open-access papers was the cause of the reviewer fatigue that so often bedevils journals and editors (such as myself). At one point in this thread, someone pointed to a blog post titled “Why I Published in PLoS ONE. And Why I Probably Won’t Again for Awhile.” The main […]
1:40 PM | The fungus among us: Kew Gardens' Fungarium | @GrrlScientist
Mushrooms: they’re more than what you’ll find in your holiday grazing, as we learn in this gorgeous video about Kew Garden’s Fungarium, which houses the oldest and largest collection of fungi in the world.I grew up atop a giant fungus. But I didn’t know this until I was in grad school. Shortly after this humongous fungus was discovered lurking beneath the forest on the foothills of Mount Adams in southwestern Washington state, another, larger specimen of Armillaria […]

November 28, 2014

8:41 PM | Black Friday - Who is not with the program?
The daily newspaper on Wednesday must have weighed 10 pounds. News-wise it was a fairly scanty day; it was all the advertising inserts. If you live in the USA, and read a daily newspaper, yours was probably similarly fattened. For reasons that remain mysterious to TPP, the friday after Thanksgiving, which is always on a Thursday for reasons that remain mysterious to TPP, has turned into the biggest shopping day of the year. Part of this is because Christmas is only a month away although […]
3:28 PM | New books party: Books that arrived recently | @GrrlScientist
Today, I share my first impressions of books about how human use of toxic chemicals is affecting evolution, how modern humans came into being after the human-chimp split, and the ethics of everyday life.Unnatural Selection: How We are Changing Life, Gene by Gene by Emily Monosson [Island Press, 2015; Amazon UK hardcover/kindle UK; Amazon US hardcover/kindle US] Continue reading...
2:00 PM | Caught sweeping ‘cross the sea
  The salmon louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis is an ectoparasite linked to declines in wild salmonid populations as well as causing huge economic losses in salmon farms. Previous studies, using a variety of molecular markers, yielded conflicting results ranging from strong … Continue reading →
1:00 PM | Stuff online, “a note so high nobody could reach it” edition
“Nothing on Earth sounds less like freedom to me.” A grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson for killing an unarmed black teenager. Grand juries hardly ever decide not to indict, and Wilson’s testimony before … Continue reading →
8:00 AM | A week of links
Links this week: Where is the literature on behavioural political economy? Bashing a paper that claims people search for meaning as they approach a new decade (i.e. at 29, 39, 49 etc.) Vernon Smith on Adam Smith. A bucketload of Charles Darwin’s papers are now available online.
7:14 AM | Black Fly Day? How about Cyto Monday!
When identifying insects, the further you want to identify them, generally the smaller the morphological characteristics you need to look for are. For instance, to recognize the taxonomic order Diptera, you need only count the number of pairs of wings an insect has (usually…), but to identify a fly to species, you may need to [...]
4:27 AM | Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: Large Miocene barnacles with bioimmurations from Maryland
These two beautiful barnacles are from the Calvert Formation (Middle Miocene) exposed near Parker Creek in Maryland. They are likely of the genus Chesaconcavus. Barnacles are most unlikely crustacean arthropods, cousins of shrimp, crabs and lobsters. Most, like these above, cement themselves head-downwards on a hard substrate like a rock or shell (or boat hull), […]
12:28 AM | Giving Thanks
Today is Thanksgiving. While as a holiday it is unique to the US and a few others, in many ways, Thanksgiving is universal. Basically every culture throughout history has had a celebratory feast before the dark of winter sets in. Harkening back to ancient harvest celebrations, Thanksgiving is about expressing thanks for all the good […]The post Giving Thanks appeared first on Science Sushi.

November 27, 2014

2:00 PM | Geophylogeny plots in R for Dummies
Amid basting my tofurky, here’s a follow-up to my previous post on quick-fix overlays of admixture plots on geographical maps in R. I recently discovered a wonderful R package called “phytools” from Liam Revell, which makes really neat phylogenetic trees (with … Continue reading →
1:00 PM | More turkeys, please
Domesticated animals are the product of unnatural selection. To view some of the unnatural diversity in turkeys – check out Porter’s Rare Heritage Turkeys. They have the Sweetgrass, the Chocolate Slate, the White Holland, the Red Phoenix, and – my personal favorite – the Pencilled Palm (amongst many more varieties). They even have information on […]
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