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Posts

April 09, 2014

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6:19 AM | Yale EEB Postdoc in Microbial Evolutionary Ecology
Yale Postdoctoral Position in Microbial Evolutionary Ecology. A two- to three-year postdoctoral position is available immediately in the laboratory of Paul Turner in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University. We are seeking a highly motivated and creative individual to participate in ongoing experimental projects relating to eco-evolutionary theory.  These projects concern […]
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1:05 AM | Pave paradise, put up a parking lot
What the bloody hell are they thinking? Please understand, far northern Queensland is one of TPP's favorite places, so why does big money interests continue to try to pave paradise and put up a parking lot?  In an early bout of developmental insanity, moneyed interests ruined Port Douglas.  What was previously a sleepy outpost on the Daintree River, a last bit of civilization on the edge of rainforest and coral reef (one of the few places on Earth where the two meet).  Port […]
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12:33 AM | Monthly Map
Ireland looks into dairy cows, the UK eyes synthetic biology, and the Philippines grapples with Bt eggplant. (You want it big? Click the image.)  … Read more

April 08, 2014

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9:39 PM | Old Photos Revive Dinosaur Chase
On the fourth floor of the American Museum of Natural History, hiding in plain sight, there is an …
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9:25 PM | Railguns vs. Coilguns
So, the US Navy is about to deploy a railgun on a test bed ship, the Joint High Speed Vessel. The JHSV isn’t intended as a combat ship. It’s a testing ship. What’s moderately interesting is that I previously heard that the railgun would be installed aboard another vessel. But those things change in the military. What […]
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8:47 PM | Call for papers: The University of Edinburgh’s LEL Postgraduate Conference, 28th – 30th May 2014
Every year postgraduate linguists at the University of Edinburgh get together and run a conference. The deadline for submissions is fast approaching (15th April, 2014), but it’s only 500 words, so I’m sure you’ll be able to cobble something together. For more information, visit the website: http://resource.ppls.ed.ac.uk/lelpgc/ . Here’s the call for papers (lifted from the […]
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8:03 PM | Guest post by Kevin Penn: In Search of Bacteria on Drugs: Secondary Metabolites and Microbial Ecology
Below is a guest post from Kevin Penn, who used to work in my lab ...I am a former Research Associate of Jonathan’s interested in understanding evolution and ecology of microbes in natural environments.  Recently I’ve become interested in learning about the expression of secondary metabolite related genes in natural settings to put the gene’s products into an ecological context, because almost certainly microbes are not making natural products just to benefit humans. […]
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5:56 PM | Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Is a sloth's best friend its moth-fur?
This week at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! I'm discussing a new study that purports to demonstrate that three-toed sloths are in a nutritional mutualism with specialized moths, fueled by algae and poop:Sloths’ coarse, shaggy fur accumulates its own little microcosm of living passengers. (If you move that slowly in a tropical forest canopy, you’re going to get some hop-ons.) Among these are an assortment of algae, and moths in the genus Cryptoses. It’s been known for a long […]
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5:22 PM | How many moths must a sloth carry off for the sloth to rely on the moths?
Sloths are weird critters. Cute, in a certain light, but mostly weird. They’re members—with armadillos and anteaters—in a superorder of mammals called the Xenarthra, which are united by a unique form of multi-jointed vertebrae. Their diet consists mostly of leaves, which are poor quality food, and hard to digest. Fortunately, they also have one of […]

Pauli J.N., Mendoza J.E., Steffan S.A., Carey C.C., Weimer P.J. & Peery M.Z. (2014). A syndrome of mutualism reinforces the lifestyle of a sloth, Proc. Royal Soc. B, 281 (1778) DOI:

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4:00 PM | Wanted: Diverse, Innovative Problem-solvers, Next Generation Scientists
When I departed for college my grandmother told me to join the debate team, because I was always arguing trying to prove a point. She was correct. I was a chatty Cathy and was always defending... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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3:32 PM | Cretaceous echinoderms are today’s stars
MITZPE RAMON, ISRAEL–There’s a joke in the title, in case you didn’t notice! I was on my own for my second day of fieldwork in southern Israel. I revisited yesterday’s outcrops of the Upper Cretaceous (Coniacian) Zichor Formation, taking more time to plot out future section-measuring and fossil-collecting sites for students. I was also able […]
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3:09 PM | Forcing taxonomy
Things are slowly greening up, but my taxonomy class needs more flowering specimens.  So TPP will have to resort to more forcing, that is, bringing nearly in flower specimens into the glasshouse to hurry them along.  And no, not the other kind of forcing where as a colleague of mine used to say, "I'll teach them (fill-in-the-blank) even if I have to tear their heads off and pour it in."  Actually with new learning technologies, microchips can be implanted thus eliminating the […]
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2:42 PM | Imagine not getting the PhD you’d been working towards… #datadramas
What would happen if you lost all of your research data? The loss of scientific data can have a devastating impact on careers. Imagine if you lost all of the research data you’d been diligently collecting for four years. Now imagine the knock-on effect; you wouldn’t get the PhD you’d been working towards and your future career would be impacted. This nightmare situation actually happened to Billy Hinchen. Hear his story.  Read more
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2:36 PM | A Triassic afternoon in southern Israel
MITZPE RAMON, ISRAEL–This afternoon I walked through the spectacular Middle Triassic sections in Wadi Gevanim on the southern side of the Makhtesh Ramon structure. I will be on a fantastic trip this Thursday to a little-visited Triassic section farther south, so I wanted to refresh my memory of these units. The above image is looking […]
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11:21 AM | Emily Anthes discusses how biotechnology is shaping the future of our furry and feathered friends
Emily Anthes is a science journalist and author. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, Scientific American, Psychology Today, BBC Future, SEED, Discover, Popular Science, Slate, The Boston Globe, and elsewhere.  Read more
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9:29 AM | Relative Risk: Breast Cancer and Genetics — Review for the Progress Educational Trust
Last week, the Progress Education Trust launched a new project called ‘Breast Cancer: Chances, Choices and Genetics’, inspired by Angelina Jolie’s risk-reducing mastectomy surgery. It’s a topic I was previously keen on avoiding. I hoped to get through an entire science-writing career without using the ‘C’ word, but alas. I’ve reviewed the first of the […]
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2:33 AM | Brian Arthur's vision of Complexity Economics
My friend Daria Roithmayr alerted me to a working paper of Brian Arthur laying out a vision for a new approach to studying economics.  Brian Arthur is one of the pioneers of complex systems thought, and has devoted his life to understanding what really happens in our economy, and why this behavior is so different from what classical economics predicts.Classical economics is a theory based on the concept of equilibrium.  Equilibrium, in economics, is a state in which everyone is doing […]

April 07, 2014

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11:59 PM | A re-SMARCable finding
On March 23, Nature Genetics published 3 related papers reporting the finding that SMARCA4 is frequently mutated in a rare ovarian cancer type, small cell carcinoma of the ovary, hypercalcemic type (SCCOHT) [Jelinic et al 2014, Ramos et al 2014, Witkowski et al 2014]  … Read more
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7:17 PM | Peaks and Valleys in the Genome
(This post is by Marius – I am just putting it up. Andrew.)Driven by methodological advances, evolutionary biology is currently much concerned with understanding the way selection shapes the genome. In the search for such signatures of selection – and ultimately the loci associated with them – we often pursue a similar strategy: we compare populations at thousands of genetic markers with the hope of finding genomic regions of particularly high or low differentiation relative […]
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6:04 PM | Speciation in Reverse
I don’t usually advertise my Accumulating Glitches posts on here, but I decided to make an exception for today’s post. …Continue reading →

Kleindorfer S, O'Connor JA, Dudaniec RY, Myers SA, Robertson J & Sulloway FJ (2014). Species collapse via hybridization in Darwin's tree finches., The American naturalist, 183 (3) 325-41. PMID:

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5:45 PM | Talking “rubbish” with the environment minister
Sitting down with Minister of Environment Laila Iskandar at Alexandria’s ongoing Biovision conference, she talked to Nature Middle East about going back to the basics in terms of solid waste sorting and recycling–a thing that was overdue, according to her.  Read more
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4:49 PM | Biology without Darwin?
.Variety is both the spice of life and the basis of evolution. Varieties are what survives natural selection's perpetual test. So without variety there can be no evolution. I see that Derek Bickerton has a paper in the latest issue...
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4:42 PM | Speciation in Reverse
Darwin's finches have become a textbook example in evolutionary biology, specia...
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4:41 PM | Birdbooker Report 315
SUMMARY: Books, books, beautiful books! This is a list of biology, ecology, environment, natural history and animal books that are (or will soon be) available to occupy your bookshelves and your thoughts. “Words in leather and wood”. Bookshelves in the “Long Room” at the old Trinity College Library in Dublin. Image: Nic McPhee from Morris, MN, USA. 2007. (Creative Commons.) Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high. How I love them!... Read […]
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3:58 PM | A Wooster Geologist is finally warm enough
MITZPE RAMON, ISRAEL–When I left Wooster on Saturday morning it was 34°F and overcast. It was sunny and an astonishing 84°F when I arrived in Tel Aviv on Sunday afternoon. That additional 50 degrees felt very good indeed after a winter of polar vortices and late-March snowstorms. I’m now based in the Ramon Suites Hotel […]
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1:23 PM | Ignore the sunk costs
Edge has a great set of short notes by various authors on how Daniel Kahneman has influenced them. It is worth flicking through them all, but excerpts from my two favourites are below. First, some excellent advice via Jason Zweig: Anyone who has ever collaborated with him tells a version of this story: You go […] The post Ignore the sunk costs appeared first on Evolving Economics.
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12:53 PM | Hummingbirds: still evolving endless forms most wonderful | @GrrlScientist
A new study finds that the rising Andes is tied to the rapid speciation of hummingbirds. This study also predicts that hummingbirds will evolve twice as many species as what we see today."There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are […]

McGuire J.A., Witt C.C., Remsen, Jr. J.V., Corl A., Rabosky D.L., Altshuler D.L. & Dudley R. (2014). Molecular Phylogenetics and the Diversification of Hummingbirds, Current Biology, DOI:

Hoorn C., Wesselingh F.P., ter Steege H., Bermudez M.A., Mora A., Sevink J., Sanmartin I., Sanchez-Meseguer A., Anderson C.L. & Figueiredo J.P. & (2010). Amazonia Through Time: Andean Uplift, Climate Change, Landscape Evolution, and Biodiversity, Science, 330 (6006) 927-931. DOI:

Mayr G. (2004). Old World Fossil Record of Modern-Type Hummingbirds, Science, 304 (5672) 861-864. DOI:

Doorn G.S.V., Noest A.J. & Hogeweg P. (1998). Sympatric speciation and extinction driven by environment dependent sexual selection, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 265 (1408) 1915-1919. DOI:

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11:36 AM | Raw milk enthusiasts want you to drink a bacterial stew. Yum.
Sometimes it is astonishing how ignorant people can be. Now it's the turn of fans of "raw milk," a new fad that is sweeping the U.S.I still remember reading milk cartons as a kid, and asking my parents what "pasteurized" meant. While I don't remember exactly what they said, I'm sure they told me that it made the milk safe by killing bacteria. Even as a kid, I understood that bacteria in my milk were probably a bad thing.Louis Pasteur is one of the most famous scientists in history, and rightly […]
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11:30 AM | How to break out of a scientific career rut, Part 3: Investigate internal barriers
 Contributor, Ben Thomas  … Read more
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10:18 AM | Nature Futures Competition: The Winners Revealed
At the start of this year, Futures ran a competition challenging readers to write a science-fiction story in just 200 characters. After a difficult judging session, we’re pleased to award first prize to Catherine Rastovski, who wins a year’s subscription to Nature plus a gift voucher for the Futures 1 eBook. Five runners up — Adam Flanders, Arran Frood, Judith Reeves-Stevens, Anssi Sajama and Chaim Schramm— also receive gift vouchers for Futures 1.  Read more
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