January 06, 2015

12:22 PM | [#2015PostPubRev] QM/MM analysis shows correlation between promiscuity and flexibility
To kick off my 2015 resolution, here’s a paper that uses molecular modelling to correlate the observed promiscuity profile of o-Succinylbenzoate Synthase with the involvement of alternative amino acids within the same active site. Enzyme Promiscuity in Enolase Superfamily. A Theoretical Study of o-Succinylbenzoate Synthase Using … Continue reading →
9:00 AM | Royal BC Museum insect curator position in danger, but you can make a difference
  The following is a guest post by Professor Felix Sperling  I’m always amazed when I see a well-established natural history museum that doesn’t have entomology curators. What are their administrators thinking? Insects form half of the known species diversity of our planet, a fundamental fact that too many people are unaware of. The ecological […]
7:30 AM | The Handicap Principle. Why we behave extravagantly
In the ethologic science, there are many original theories which surprisingly reveal some seemingly strange traits and behaviors. One of these theories, an extremely interesting one, called The Handicap Principle, has been suggested by the Israeli ethologist Amotz Zahavi. According to him, certain phenotypic animal traits or behaviors seem to be, on the first look, […] The post The Handicap Principle. Why we behave extravagantly appeared first on Social Ethology.
1:37 AM | Gladiatorial glassfrogs, redux
Readers with supernaturally good memories might remember the two articles, published here back in January and February 2013, on glassfrogs, a highly unusual and poorly known group of Neotropical... -- Read more on

January 05, 2015

11:20 PM | Of Post-Publication PeerReview and 2015
January is a good time to set goals for the year to come. Judging from the success tags as #365papers and #52papers are having on Twitter, I’m not the only one that would like to read ‘properly’ (as supposed to quickly scroll through) a few more papers in … Continue reading →
9:53 PM | It’s plosing first…
Okay, everybody knows how plants can cope with adverse conditions, especially when it comes to dormant organs just waiting to resprout when spring or whatever environmental trigger lights on, and then “whoot whoot”, I’m here. I’m alive and well. This is a sign of resprouting, or let’s pretend. It’s been far too long this blog’s […]
9:14 PM | Energy Tree
You'll be completely blown away by a pretty cool design for some urban green energy, a wind turbine tree, by New Wind. Let's face it, those great big old wind turbines dotting our local landscape are not really very attractive, and generally they are impractical for home and urban use. What you want around your house or along campus or park walkways or in parking lots where you want some attractive trees. So this wind turbine takes the form of a tree, sort of. It might have […]
8:59 PM | Cultural Beings Evolving in the Mesh
This one wrestled me hard. In it I use new terminology and concepts–coordinators, phantasms, cultural beings–as though I know what they mean and am comfortable with them. But that’s not quite the case. It’s only recently that I’ve invented them. It’s one them to use terms in a document where you define them. It’s another […]
7:32 PM | Journal Club: Halfsider: a bizarre half-male half-female bird
SUMMARY: A “halfsider” -- half male and half female bird -- has been mentioned in the news over the holidays. More properly known as bilateral gynandromorphs or tetragametic chimæras, these unusual birds are actually two genetically distinct individuals -- twins -- fused into one being. But what is it like to be such an individual? A recently published paper shares observations of the behaviour and social life of one such individual living in the wild. . "Halfsider" Northern […]

Peer B.D. (2014). Observations of a Bilateral Gynandromorph Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) , The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 126 (4) 778-781. DOI:

Agate R.J., J. Wade, S. Mann, J. Wingfield, C. Schanen, A. Palotie & A. P. Arnold (2003). Neural, not gonadal, origin of brain sex differences in a gynandromorphic finch, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100 (8) 4873-4878. DOI:

Chue J. (2011). Sex determination and sexual differentiation in the avian model, FEBS Journal, 278 (7) 1027-1034. DOI:

6:57 PM | Job: Faculty Positions at Institute Pasteur
FACULTY POSITIONS IN MYCOLOGY The Institut Pasteur in Paris announces an international call for outstanding candidates at all levels to establish independent research groups in the Mycology Department. Preference will be given to studies on human pathogenic filamentous fungi and yeasts, fungal cell biology or population genetics and genomics. Research on model species will be … Continue reading Job: Faculty Positions at Institute Pasteur →
6:31 PM | Science Word of the Day: Involucrum
What makes a whale a whale? Flippers, the need to breath air, the ability to give milk, and …
5:28 PM | Eppur Si Muove
Over the break, I watched a couple of episodes of The West Wing including one about political attacks on science. It reminded me – a lot – of an experience that I had 20 years ago ... Continue reading →
5:05 PM | Halfsider: a bizarre half-male half-female bird | @GrrlScientist
A rare half male and half female – “halfsider” – bird won the intertööbz over the holidays. This unusual bird is comprised of two genetically distinct individuals – twins – fused into one being. But what is it like to be such an individual? A recently published paper shares observations of the behaviour and social life of one such bird living in the wildImagine looking out your window one morning and seeing a bird at your feeding table that looks as […]
4:03 PM | Dispersal capacity predicts both population genetic structure and species richness in reef fishes
Riginos et al. 2014 Dispersal capacity predicts both population genetic structure and species richness in reef fishes American Naturalist 184:52-64 This was a strange paper for me to read in some ways, because it harks back to some things that I probably should know something about: fish dispersal (honestly!), diversification, and phylogenetic analyses. The basic idea is that fish […]
3:28 PM | One year’s worth of references for Creature Feature
I’ve gotten into the bad habit of not posting links to the scientific publications upon which my Creature Feature columns are based. Unfortunately, the length and format of the column are incompatible with including references in the pieces themselves, but … Continue reading →
2:27 PM | The Vocal Iconicity Challenge!
Do you fancy the prospect of putting your communication skills to the test and winning $1000? If so, you should probably go and check out The Vocal Iconicity Challenge: Devised by Gary Lupyan and Marcus Perlman, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the aim of the game is to devise a system of vocalizations to communicate a […]
8:00 AM | Self evident but unexplored – how genetic effects vary over time
A new paper in PNAS reports on how the effect of a variant of a gene called FTO varies over time. Previous research has shown that people with two copies of a particular FTO variant are on average three kilograms heavier than those with none. But this was not always the case. I’ll let Carl Zimmer provide the background: In 1948, […]

January 04, 2015

11:52 PM | Why Does Regressive Autism Occur When It Does?
“We took my son on a pilgrimage to the Bronx for an evaluation three months after he had a frightening regression in March. He had been receiving early-intervention services for […]
7:46 PM | Monikers Only Matter for Vertebrates
In the latest issue of Scientific American, David Shiffman has a short article titled “Monikers Matter“, on the potential importance of common names for the conservation of species. He highlights the case of Charopa lafargei Vermeulen & Marzuki, a species of recently discovered snail only known from a single hill in Malaysia which is slated for demolition [...]
7:21 PM | Signaling the Intent to Signal
Before I get distracted by too much nit-picking, let me get to the summary paragraph: Thomas Scott-Phillips' book, Speaking Our Minds, contributes seriously to the study of language origins. First and foremost, it demands that pragmatics—the study of language in...
5:18 PM | Outstanding trees! Outstanding photography!
Here's a teaser photoessay of some amazing trees, mostly massive old things, truly great trees, "behemoths of biomass and beauty" (the quoted phrase is not TPP's, but he doesn't remember where he saw it). The photographer is Beth Moon and the coffee table book must be amazing.  TPP is tempted even though he swore off coffee table books a few years back. TPP has attempted to photograph a number of pretty amazing trees over the years and it isn't easy especially in the tropics where you […]
7:57 AM | Sunday Chess Problem
When I started this series, one of the first topics I highlighted was the idea of a logical problem. The idea is this: White has a main plan for achieving his objective. However, if he tries to play it immediately black has a defense that will defeat him. So white must first play a foreplan,…
3:03 AM | Cuomo on Church and State
Mario Cuomo, governor of New York from 1983-1994, died on New Year’s day. He is a throwback to a time when Democrats weren’t cowards, and were actually capable of articulating a compelling and humane vision of how society should be. Consider this speech, delivered at the University of Notre Dame in 1984. Cuomo was a…
1:15 AM | Tadpole nests, past and present
Thanks to that recent Tet Zoo article about American spadefoot toads and their tadpoles, I’ve had visions in my mind of drying ephemeral pools in hot, arid environments, crammed with crowded, gasping... -- Read more on

January 03, 2015

10:10 PM | How to do statistics
This fall, I wrote a series of “How to” blog posts that proved somewhat popular, or at least well-read:How to write/present science – 2700+ viewsHow to be a reviewer/editor – 2600+ viewsWhere to submit your paper – 4000+ viewsI hadn't initially planned a series like this, it just kind of emerged. However, I had long planned one particular “How to” post. Ironically, that post was the one I still hadn’t written. Now that it is 2015, the time seems […]
5:46 PM | It's a cat's life
Our cats really have it made. Being home for several days during the holidays you get to see the extraordinary activity level of the typical domestic cat first hand. Yes, if ever one of those cat-cams were afixed to our kitty-girls, the resulting video would only be slightly more exciting than one obtained from a 3-toed sloth. First, be it noted that both cats sleep on our bed, mostly, confining the smaller of us to much less than half the bed, and on occasion actually claiming the entire […]
3:44 PM | Ellen DeGeneres and the Burden of Bloggers to Make Positive Change
"Thrust Your Uniquely Positive World Vision on the Universe." Darin L. Hammond Takeaways: The world is full of negativity, and everyone has the chance to better the lives of others. As a writer you have power to change the world with your words. Resist the negativity with your secular, positive world view, creating an earth with happier people. The courage of Ellen DeGeneres The Fame and Power of Ellen Before her fame, Ellen Degeneres was bashful and afraid of [...]
3:25 PM | Thomas Paine and Christianity
Some time ago, a person on G+ challenged me with the cl […]
10:30 AM | The Squirrel Grand Nutional | @GrrlScientist
Enjoy a hawk’s-eye view of the squirrel Grand Nutional Steeplechase, which was run a few days ago at Faintree racecourse.I’ve recently been sharing cute hamster and squirrel videos for “Caturday” (the weekly animal appreciation day on the intertööbz), so imagine my delight when I noticed that Steve “the Squirrel Man of Hitchin’” Barley uploaded a new squirrel video onto his YouTube channel a couple days ago -- just in time for the first […]

January 02, 2015

8:36 PM | North American spadefoot toads and their incredible fast-metamorphosing, polymorphic tadpoles
Time for more spadefoot toads (that is, members of the anuran clade Pelobatoidea or Anomocoela). This time, we’re going to look at the two North American spadefoot toad genera (Spea and Scaphiopus).... -- Read more on
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