Posts

December 05, 2014

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2:00 PM | Stuff online, chestnuts and sibilants edition
“Deoxyribonucleic asshole” is about right. James Watson, credited as co-discoverer of the molecular structure of DNA, is auctioning off his Nobel Prize medal in a fit of pique over his recent shunning for being a racist, sexist, jerk. Harassing citizens … Continue reading →
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1:14 PM | New Books Party: Books that arrived recently | @GrrlScientist
This week, I share brief comments about two ecology books that you will love; one covers the habitats of Britain and Ireland and the other is an especially lucid yet passionate account of global climate change.Britain’s Habitats: A Guide to the Wildlife Habitats of Britain and Ireland by Sophie Lake and Durwyn Liley [Princeton University Press, 2014; Amazon UK hardcover; Amazon US hardcover] Continue reading...
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10:15 AM | Stone Age Minds (with Dr Kenny Smith and Dr Suilin Lavelle)
As part of the free online course, Philosophy and the Sciences, Dr Kenny Smith and Dr Suilin Lavelle have prepared a three-part video series on Evolutionary Psychology and Cultural Evolution called Stone Age Minds: Clocking in at under 40 mins for the all three parts, the series provides a good primer on the basic principles underpinning modern […]
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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. […]
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3:30 AM | The Genetic History of Feathers
There’s a lot of really exciting work going on in genome comparisons. My recent review on the cats highlights some of the power of this kind of work. Another, similar piece of work was recently released. Titled “Feather development genes and associated regulator innovation predate the origin of Dinosauria”[1], the work compares the whole genomes […]
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12:55 AM | Video: Iguanodon, History of a Dinosaur!
Iguanodon was discovered before the word “dinosaur” was invented and the story of Iguanodon research is the story of dinosaur research as paleontologists use new fossils to test old ideas about what the animal looked like and how it moved. Was it a lumbering quadruped? A springy kangaroo reptile? A little of both? Join us as […] The post Video: Iguanodon, History of a Dinosaur! appeared first on Past Time.

December 04, 2014

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8:37 PM | How Pterosaurs Filled Their Lungs
Imagine a balloon inside a cask. There’s an opening at the top to blow air into, but here’s …
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7:25 PM | Be thankful for cartoonists and comedians, and the truth they speak
Once again Tom Tomorrow gets it just about right, especially if you watch Phlox News.  TPP finds this all very depressing. Something really ugly is going on. 
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3:17 PM | Wild zebrafish sex: a lab mystery solved
Laboratory zebrafish hide a dirty little secret. Although the tiny fish have proven to be a vital model of vertebrate development and disease genetics, zebrafish reproduction—at least in the lab—has wildly variable outcomes. Offspring sex ratios can vary from extremely … Read MoreThe post Wild zebrafish sex: a lab mystery solved appeared first on Genes to Genomes.
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2:00 PM | The Evolution of Recombination
In a recent publication, Lesecque et al (2014). provide key evidence that fills in some of the blanks to an age old question – how do recombination hotspots evolve? Their analyses of major PRDM9 (a polymorphic zinc finger protein with … Continue reading →
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1:51 PM | Journal Club: Do pufferfishes hold their breath when inflated?
SUMMARY: A newly-published study by a team of Australian scientists reveals that inflated pufferfish do not hold their breath, that they continue to obtain oxygen across their gills as usual. The researchers also found that even though inflated pufferfish consume as much as five times more oxygen than when they are resting, they do not compensate for their increased energetic demands by absorbing oxygen through their skin. Bloat, the porcupine pufferfish from the 2003 comedy, Finding Nemo When […]

McGee G.E. & Clark T.D. (2014). All puffed out: do pufferfish hold their breath while inflated?, Biology Latters, 10 (12) DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2014.0823

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1:30 PM | Do pufferfishes hold their breath when inflated? @GrrlScientist
A newly-published study by a team of Australian scientists reveals that inflated pufferfish do not hold their breath -- refuting common widespread belief.When harassed, a pufferfish rapidly gulps water (or air) into its stomach, transforming itself into a spiky beach-ball that’s three or four times larger than the deflated fish. They do this to avoid being swallowed by predators. But does an inflated pufferfish breathe? Most people think inflated pufferfish hold their breath, and […]
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1:00 PM | Female Scientists Have Got You Covered
Elly Zupko tweeted this image during #shirtstorm: Long story short, that shirt – celebrating important female scientists – is becoming a reality. Check out the kickstarter campaign for the full story. Tagged: shirtstorm
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8:00 AM | The unrealistic assumptions of biology
Biologists are usually among the first to tell me that economists rely on unrealistic assumptions about human decision making. They laugh at the idea that people are rational optimisers who care only about maximising consumption. Some of the points are undoubtedly correct. Humans do not care primarily about consumption. They seek mates or other objectives related […]
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4:19 AM | Where to submit your paper – response to reviews.
My blog posted in open access Where to submit your paper. Or “If at first you don’t succeed, fail fail again … then try open access” has been viewed 2771 times in 5 days and has now been subject to some post-publication reviews. It seems appropriate to do a quick follow up in which I respond to those comments.The original post made several points:If you have some great work, submitting to high-impact journals like Science/Nature is fine – even though the […]
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2:26 AM | Why are all baby animals so cute?
One of the great side benefits of having done a lot of field work in Queensland Australia is that TPP has seen a lot of really unusual animals, but none is any more fun or any cuter than the platypus. TPP has observed them many times in several different places. They are apparently fairly common even if less commonly seen. Here's a nice article about the natural history of platypuses, and an image borrowed from the article. Never saw baby platypuses before, but they are sure are […]

December 03, 2014

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8:57 PM | Wordless Wednesday: This Stops Today
fergusonaction.com #ThisStopsToday: Some of the last words of Eric Garner, the man who died on camera in police custody while being taken down in an illegal choke hold on July 17, 2014. Today the... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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8:19 PM | Nine Academics, 4 Truths about Morality, and an Open Source Evolution of Morality Reference Library
Nine academics, many prominent in their fields, have collaborated to produce an arguably singularly objective starting point for anyone wishing to understand morality as the product of evolutionary processes.
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7:53 PM | The executioner within us and our homicidal fantasies
Great crimes are sometimes committed by small people. Vasili Blokhin was born in 1895 in a poor Russian peasant family and at the age of 15 worked as a bricklayer, until he was mobilized on the World War I’s front. After the Bolshevik Revolution in October 1917, he actively adheres to the Soviet power as […] The post The executioner within us and our homicidal fantasies appeared first on Social Ethology.
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4:00 PM | Isolation by environment explains why the grass isn’t always greener
Ever since Sewall Wright introduced isolation by distance in 1943, the interplay between genetic differentiation and geographic distance has been a foundational, sometimes frustrating, aspect of population genetics studies. But distance isn’t just distance. The walk to my car isn’t any longer when … Continue reading →
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3:00 PM | Don’t Buy This
One of the co-founders of the structure of the DNA, James Watson, is selling his Nobel Prize medallion. And since he’s bringing himself back into the media spotlight, an article at slate reminds us all of some of his verbal gems.: “Whenever you interview fat people you feel bad, because you know you’re not going […]
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1:00 PM | How Slime Molds Our World
Biology concepts – Protista, fungus-like protists, penicillin, undulipodia, serendipity, potato famine, networks, co-evolution, slime moldIt’s one thing for Dr. Fleming to have discovered pencillin by accident. It’s another to admit to everyone – most people would just say, “I meant to do that.” Fleming was great at serendipity; he discovered human lysozyme when some snot dripped from his nose when he had a cold onto a bacteria filled agar plate and they […]

Goss, E., Tabima, J., Cooke, D., Restrepo, S., Fry, W., Forbes, G., Fieland, V., Cardenas, M. & Grunwald, N. (2014). The Irish potato famine pathogen Phytophthora infestans originated in central Mexico rather than the Andes, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111 (24) 8791-8796. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1401884111

Tero, A., Takagi, S., Saigusa, T., Ito, K., Bebber, D., Fricker, M., Yumiki, K., Kobayashi, R. & Nakagaki, T. (2010). Rules for Biologically Inspired Adaptive Network Design, Science, 327 (5964) 439-442. DOI: 10.1126/science.1177894

Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Hiroyasu Yamada & Ágota Tóth (2000). Intelligence: Maze-solving by an amoeboid organism, Nature, 407 (470) Other:

Brock, D., Read, S., Bozhchenko, A., Queller, D. & Strassmann, J. (2013). Social amoeba farmers carry defensive symbionts to protect and privatize their crops, Nature Communications, 4 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3385

Brock, D., Douglas, T., Queller, D. & Strassmann, J. (2011). Primitive agriculture in a social amoeba, Nature, 469 (7330) 393-396. DOI: 10.1038/nature09668

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December 02, 2014

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11:57 PM | When is Gerrymandering Actually Gerrymandering?
Some time ago, I posted about how gerrymandering works. In the 2012 congressional elections, something… odd… happened. In North Carolina, at a statewide level, the majority of votes were cast for democratic candidates. It wasn’t a large majority, 50.6% voted Democrat, while 48.75% voted Republican (with Libertarians and write-ins getting the remainder). It would make […]
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8:28 PM | Well aged specimens
You never know what you'll find when poking around in the deep, dark seldom-visited corners of an herbarium. So TPP keeps getting surprises. So you find a slim folder hidden away beneath a pile of unmounted specimens and out of curiosity you take the folder out for a look see.  The folder contained 5 specimens from the Lamiaceae, the mint family, 2 species of Lamium (deadnettles) and 3 species of Nepeta (cat mints).  OK, not too remarkable really. The […]
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8:07 PM | ASHG Meeting Report: The X-factor in complex disease
One of the major risk factors for autoimmune diseases is being born with two copies of the X chromosome. For example, women—who typically carry two Xs—face around ten times the risk of lupus, while men with lupus are around 15 … Read MoreThe post ASHG Meeting Report: The X-factor in complex disease appeared first on Genes to Genomes.
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7:50 PM | Snotworms For Dinner
Deep in the sea, on the denuded carcasses of whales, there live humble little scavengers. They’re the snotworms, …
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4:26 PM | Survey for science bloggers
Paige Brown Jarreau is doing a PhD in science communication at Louisiana State University, and part of her research focuses …Continue reading →
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4:07 PM | But Temporary and Partial Comfort is not Alliterative! (and sells less well)
I spent the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in Kentucky, ignoring the whole Black Friday foolishness as much as possible, although there were a couple of good social science NPR pieces on the phenomonon that I shared to the VSI page on Facebook. Instead we went to the woods and whacked dead things with sticks. We hung out with friends, old and new, and played games. Easy and cheap. The long drive home on Sunday was much improved by a slew of old Escape Pod stories and a well-done radio […]
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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 →
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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: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25066300

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

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