July 12, 2014

8:31 PM | Hamsters, pizzas and playgrounds
SUMMARY: Dwarf hamsters are small but they have an outsized effect on one's life. Phodopus sungorus. Image: Ko1 (CC by SA 2.5). Once again, it's caturday, which means it's time for us to relax and recover from that most recent post-World Cup game hangover by watching animals doing fun stuff! This week's cute animal videos were inspired by a piece I wrote a little while ago, about a study of wheel-running behaviour in wild mice. Although that study focused on... Read more
6:32 PM | Notes from France
I’ve just returned from two weeks in France, the first week on the International Statistical Ecology Conference 2014 in Montpellier, and the second at the Laboratoire d’Écologie Alpine (LECA) in Grenoble, visiting the groups of Wilfried Thuiller and Sébastien Lavergne, which was both great. Some impressions from the ISEC: First of all, my compliments to…
1:47 PM | Is this a new form of #OpenAccess Spam - spammy blog comments pointing to Bentham
Well, this is very very weird and not sure what to make of it.  In the last week the filter that Google runs for Blogger Comments has picked up a slew of highly spammy comments coming from one account.  And all of the comments include a link to Bentham Science publishers - one of the annoying Spammy new publishers. See some of them below (note I have removed the links to Bentham but trust me, this went to a Bentham site).  Anyone else getting Spam comments pointing to Bentham? […]
1:15 AM | Outdoor Annoyances and the Perils of Urban Fieldwork
Fieldwork can be wonderful for many reasons. But every field site invariably has something–an organism, a certain confluence of weather conditions, particular people–that make it difficult to do research at that site. And in this context, difficult is different from … Continue reading →

July 11, 2014

11:53 PM | Modern YEC is Not An Aberration of Traditional Christianity, Part Two
As it happens, the previous post was mostly a digression from what I really wanted to discuss. The set-up here is that back in 2007, philosopher Mary Midgley published a pamphlet discussing creationism, intelligent design, education, and various related topics. Philosopher Nicholas Everitt has just published a critical review (subscription required) of Midgley’s pamphlet. Glenn…
7:28 PM | Humanity on a high
Altitude sickness comes from lack of oxygen in the atmosphere, but lack of oxygen can cause other complications. Despite this, some specific populations across the globe compensate through biochemical specialisations in the way their bodies operate. This is particularly obvious in tribes living the Andes or high up on the Tibetan plateau, some 4000m above […]
1:00 PM | What we’re reading: Sexual selection and fish placentas, SNPs versus observational pedigrees, and the stupidest statement ever on replication
In the journals Pollux BJA, RW Meredith, MS Springer, DN Reznick. 2014. The evolution of the placenta drives a shift in sexual selection in livebearing fish. Nature. doi: 10.1038/nature13451. We show that post-zygotic maternal provisioning by means of a placenta … Continue reading →
1:00 PM | Stuff online, vampire barnacles edition
This week, at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! No, some human populations aren’t more genetically prone to violence than others. Take note, Runkeeper. A crowd-sourced algorithm to find the scenic route between point A and point B. Pretty much. Evolutionary … Continue reading →
1:00 PM | Friday coffee break: Meeting David Attenborough, the best case ever for keeping your samples organized, and hope against the frog-killing fungus
Here’s what we’ll be talking about while we’re waiting in line for a latte. From Noah: The BBC’s new nature documentary host had an embarrassing meeting with her most famous predecessor. From Sarah: A proposed bill of rights for science students, and terrifying news about increasing use of the strongest antibiotics as bacteria evolve to […]
5:57 AM | Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: Silicified chonetid brachiopods from the Permian of West Texas
Above are four valves of the chonetid brachiopod Dyoros planiextensus Cooper and Grant, 1975. They are preserved by silicification and were recovered from a block of the Road Canyon Formation (Roadian Stage of the Guadalupian Series of the Permian System) from the Glass Mountains of southwestern Texas. It is from the same unit and location […]
3:44 AM | MSiX: Marketing Science Ideas Xchange
For those in or near Sydney at the end of July, there’s an interesting conference in the works – the Marketing Science Ideas Exchange. From the blurb: The Marketing Science Ideas Xchange (MSiX) is the first event of its type in Australia dedicated to the interface between behavioural science and marketing. The conference will demonstrate why […]

July 10, 2014

7:44 PM | Dzień dobry!
Dzień dobry! Greetings from Poland! Czy mówisz po polsku? Do you speak Polish? This summer Katie Lee and Mary Rogers (that’s us!) from LEE are doing field work in Southern Poland. We will have a few blog posts over the summer about our experiences. Jedziemy do Polski!  Poland was chosen as our field site for a variety of reasons. Our badania (research) asks questions about life experiences and reproductive health. The area of Poland in which we are recruiting study […]
5:33 PM | A small mammal with an outsized impact
[ This post is by Craig W. Benkman; I am just putting it up.  –B. ]When we think of species having large and disproportionate impacts on communities, animals like sea otters come to mind. By eating and depleting sea urchins, sea otters prevent urchins from eating and depleting kelp. The huge difference between having kelp forests and their diverse community of fishes, sea lions, and eagles, versus largely kelp-less barrens arises simply from contemporary ecological processes; otters […]
5:23 PM | Oh, no, she's back!
Conservatives' fascination with Sarah Palindrone is a puzzling phenomenon. TPP has never heard the woman say anything interesting, clear, or remotely profound. Her chatter consists of political sound bites strung together, as if anything intellectually deeper than a TV commercial is beyond her mental grasp.  Her sentences are a word-salad of phrases that literally make her a Palindrone, (someone who sounds just as dumb forward as backward), a term TPP coined just […]
2:05 PM | Paper of interest: Whole genome and exome sequencing of monozygotic twins discordant for Crohn's disease
For those interested in microbiomes it is definitely worth looking at this paper: BMC Genomics | Abstract | Whole genome and exome sequencing of monozygotic twins discordant for Crohn's diseaseSimple summary - they have sets of identical twins where one twin has Crohn's and the other does not.  They looked for somatic mutations that could like the ones with Crohn's and did not find any.  Sure - a negative result.  Could be anything.  But the next obvious thing to do […]
9:04 AM | A Biological Basis for Sexual Morality
What's the problem with promiscuity?
7:54 AM | John Dewey: The First Evolutionary Educational Philosopher
No summary available for this post.
6:35 AM | Modern YEC is Not An Aberration of Traditional Christianity, Part One
I will conclude my series on the World Open in the next day or two, but I would not readers to think that I have converted this into a chess blog. So let’s go back to our more traditional fare by pondering this pamphlet, by philosopher Mary Midgley. It is called, “Intelligent Design Theory and…
2:20 AM | Mrs. Phactor's gardens
A number of readers have requested that TPP feature Mrs. Phactor's gardens in some of his blogs. Well, they are completely right; he should and will. A number of the flowers have been featured on various Fridays, but not the garden as a whole, or even small portions thereof.  Mostly these gardens are intended to be viewed as a whole, a melange of flowers and colors and textures that change through the seasons. Right now there are some pretty vivid colors which are quite a change from early […]

July 09, 2014

8:14 PM | Forget Communication; Study Cognition
Leonard Talmy is an interesting fellow who has spent the past several decades exploring the way languages express thoughts. Can we have thoughts that we cannot express verbally? Many poets spend their lives trying to express the inexpressible. We know...
6:19 PM | Goodbye Florida; so long NOLA
A warming global climate will result in a sea level rise, period.  How much of a rise depends upon lots of variables.  But in many areas even a fraction of the potential rise will endanger really stupid shore-line development, and people just don't want to hear about it.  Unfortunately, the USA seems to have fewer and fewer politicians who are willing and able to take a longer view of any topic. When you have politicians claiming that scientific reports of global warming and sea […]
12:58 PM | The Kingdom of Rarities by Eric Dinerstein | review | @GrrlScientist
In this engaging and thought-provoking narrative, Eric Dinerstein shares his journeys to exotic and remote places, as he explores and explains the many nuanced reasons why some species rare and why rare species are important. Why are some species naturally rare whilst others are common? Do rare species make any difference in the larger scheme? These questions have puzzled biologists for centuries. Truth be told, even today, scientists have uncovered just a few pieces within this complex puzzle […]
12:00 PM | What’s So Repelling About Repellents?
Biology concepts – thermosensing, repellent, odor receptors, gustatory receptors, semiochemcialsScience explains our world, and then technology and engineering build a model of that for our use. The better we know how our universe works, the better we can make use of it. In the 1985 film Real Genius, this difference is stated when the scientist students ask what a 6 megawatt laser might be for, one student says, “Let the engineers figure out a use for it.” In this case, they […]

DeGennaro M, McBride CS, Seeholzer L, Nakagawa T, Dennis EJ, Goldman C, Jasinskiene N, James AA & Vosshall LB (2013). orco mutant mosquitoes lose strong preference for humans and are not repelled by volatile DEET., Nature, 498 (7455) 487-91. PMID:

Stanczyk NM, Brookfield JF, Field LM & Logan JG (2013). Aedes aegypti mosquitoes exhibit decreased repellency by DEET following previous exposure., PloS one, 8 (2) PMID:

Klun JA, Kramer M & Debboun M (2013). Four simple stimuli that induce host-seeking and blood-feeding behaviors in two mosquito species, with a clue to DEET's mode of action., Journal of vector ecology : journal of the Society for Vector Ecology, 38 (1) 143-53. PMID:

10:57 AM | We’re all away, at TetZooCon
Things here at Tet Zoo will be quiet for a while since I’m preparing for, or away at, TetZooCon, the first ever Tetrapod Zoology-themed convention. Booking is now closed, but you can read about... -- Read more on
3:33 AM | World Open, Part Two
As happy as I was to salvage the half point in my fourth round game, I was still pretty down about missing that fork. I decided a nice meal would cheer me up. So I hopped on the Metro and went into DC, to have dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Tono Sushi, conveniently…

July 08, 2014

7:22 PM | Urban Science Adventure: Appreciating Bees
Now is the time to get outdoors and experience what the world has to offer. One thing that you can keep in mind is that there are insects everywhere, including our back yards! A simple past time that... -- Read more on
3:26 PM | Chris Smith takes on that Troublesome book
Over at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense, Chris Smith has been writing a series of posts digging deep into the evolutionary claims made in Nicholas Wade’s book A Troublesome Inheritance. Last week, Chris debunked the claim that human population genetics … Continue reading →
3:00 PM | The latitudinal species richness gradient in New World woody angiosperms is consistent with the tropical conservatism hypothesis
Kerkhoff, Moriarty & Weiser  (2014) The latitudinal species richness gradient in New World woody angiosperms is consistent with the tropical conservatism hypothesis. PNAS 111:8125-8130 Yet another latitudinal diversity gradient/phylogenetic niche conservatism paper I hear you cry? Oh yes! I was deeply sceptical upon opening up this paper: more LDG/PNC, patchy datasets only including woody angiosperms, […]
1:00 PM | A guide to the science and pseudoscience of A Troublesome Inheritance, part II: Has natural selection favored violent behavior in some human populations?
This is the second in a series of guest posts in which Chris Smith will examine the evolutionary claims made in Nicholas Wade’s book A Troublesome Inheritance. You can read part I here. Chris is an Associate Professor of Evolutionary Ecology at Willamette University. He uses population genetic approaches to understand coevolution of plants and insects, and he teaches the […]
8:30 AM | World Open, Part One
Hello. I’m still here. Let me get you caught up on some things. In graduate school I was required to take a battery of four qualifying exams before I could be “advanced to candidacy.” These exams were conducted orally, meaning you had to stand in a room with two faculty members and answer questions for…
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