Posts

August 31, 2014

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3:47 PM | Homosexuality and evolution
I made the mistake of reading some of the comments on those last youtube videos. There were some good ones, but they were also laced with the usual grunting assholes complaining about gays and “trannies” and quoting the Bible and making racist remarks about Africans. Let us pass over those contemptible arguments; there’s no dealing…
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2:30 PM | A Few Moments With an Earthly Alien Close Cousin to You
In the comments of the following video on Youtube, a viewer asks, “Is that a real video ? Or Cgi ?” What you will see in this video is very much real, but I can see why someone might get... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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11:17 AM | New DNA study unravels the settlement history of the New World Arctic
A new DNA study unravels the settlement history of the New World Arctic. We know people have lived in the New World Arctic for about 5,000 years. Archaeological evidence clearly shows that a variety of cultures survived the harsh climate in Alaska, Canada and Greenland for thousands of years. Despite this, there are several unanswered …
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11:01 AM | Shared biology: Powerful commonalities in biological activity
Researchers analyzing human, fly, and worm genomes have found that these species have a number of key genomic processes in common, reflecting their shared ancestry. The findings offer insights into embryonic development, gene regulation and other biological processes vital to understanding human biology and disease. Launched in 2007, the goal of modENCODE is to create …
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10:58 AM | Evolution used similar molecular toolkits to shape flies, worms, and humans
Although separated by hundreds of millions of years of evolution, flies, worms, and humans share ancient patterns of gene expression, according to a massive analysis of genomic data. Two related studies tell a similar story: even though humans, worms, and flies bear little obvious similarity to each other, evolution used remarkably similar molecular toolkits to …
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9:46 AM | A week of links
Links this week: Daniel McFadden on how people make choices. Not that new but only spotted this week – Gerd Gigerenzer has a great rants on statistics. (HT: Noah Smith) Forty per cent of modern Chinese are patrilineal descendants of only three super-grandfathers from 6,000 years ago. (HT: Carl Zimmer) Anti-marijuana advocates funded by drug companies. […]
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4:57 AM | Possible origin of tuberculosis in the Americas
Paleogeneticist Dr. Johannes Krause (University of Tübingen, Germany) and colleagues were interested in the origin of tuberculosis (TB) in the Americas. Since strains of TB found in the Americas are related to strains found in Europe, prior theories held that Spaniards may have introduced it to the Americas while colonizing South America.  The problem with…

August 30, 2014

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10:35 PM | Morsels For The Mind – 29/08/2014
Every day we provide you with Six Incredible Things Before Breakfast to nibble away at. Here you can fill your brain with the most intellectually stimulating “amuse bouches” from the past week – a veritable smorgasbord for the cranium. They’re all here for you to load up your plate – this week’s “Morsels for the mind”. Enjoy! If you do nothing else, make sure to check out the “Reads / views / listens of the week”. **** Feather, fur […]
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10:35 PM | Morsels For The Mind – 29/08/2014
Every day we provide you with Six Incredible Things Before Breakfast to nibble away at. Here you can fill your brain with the most intellectually stimulating “amuse bouches” from the past week – a veritable smorgasbord for the cranium. They’re all here for you to load up your plate – this week’s “Morsels for the mind”. Enjoy! If you do nothing else, make sure to check out the “Reads / views / listens of the week”. **** Feather, fur […]
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12:06 AM | ScienceArt Exhibits Through September and Beyond
The inside scoop on the best science art exhibitions around the country: EXHIBITS: NORTHEAST REGION LIFE: Magnified June – November 2014 Gateway Gallery Between Concourse C and the AeroTrain... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

August 29, 2014

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7:24 PM | Common Octopus Proves Uncommonly Difficult to Define
The seemingly ubiquitous common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) is our platonic octopus ideal. Even if Plato didn’t write about it, Aristotle did. And since then, it has been the most widely studied... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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7:24 PM | Common Octopus Proves Uncommonly Difficult to Define
The seemingly ubiquitous common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) is our platonic octopus ideal. Even if Plato didn’t write about it, Aristotle did. And since then, it has been the most widely studied... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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4:39 PM | How Wild Rabbits Genetically Became Tame Ones
Why wild animals genetically changed into domesticated forms has long been a mystery, covered by the blanket artificial selection reasoning. A new paper in Science says that many genes controlling the development of the brain and the nervous system were particularly important for rabbit domestication. read more
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2:14 PM | 3 Papers Discuss The Molecular Toolkits We Share With Flies And Worms
Although separated by hundreds of millions of years of evolution, flies, worms, and humans share ancient patterns of gene expression and it's all in our genomic data. Three related studies in Nature, tell a similar story: even though humans, worms, and flies bear little obvious similarity to each other, evolution used remarkably similar molecular toolkits to shape them. There are dramatic differences between species in genomic regions populated by pseudogenes, molecular fossils of working […]
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1:13 PM | Interstellar Space Can Be Pebbly
We’re used to thinking of the space between the stars as void, bereft of all but the most sparsely distributed atoms and molecules, or the occasional microscopic grain of silicon or carbon... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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10:55 AM | Secrets of animal camouflage research | @GrrlScientist
This interesting video, courtesy of the BBSRC and Project Nightjar, reveals the secrets of animal camouflage research.Last night, I was contacted by Arran Frood, a digital content producer for the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), after hed read this piece I wrote about the evolution of camouflage in avian eggs. He invited me to share this interesting video that he produced. This video provides a visual context for animal camouflage research: Continue reading...
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10:38 AM | Fish with Lungs Gives Clues to the Origin of Tetrapods
Juvenile Polypterus senegalusAbout 400 million years ago, fish left the water and began to evolve into land-living creatures. But how did this transition happen? In a new and unusual study, researchers from the McGill University took a fish species known to be able to occasionally walk using its fins and raised it on land. The scientists found that when raised on land, this primitive strange fish with lungs, walks much better than its water-raised friends. The experiment could […]

Standen EM, Du TY & Larsson HC (2014). Developmental plasticity and the origin of tetrapods., Nature, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25162530

Citation
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1:00 AM | Science Book a Day Interviews Richard Robinson
Special thanks to Steve Jenkins for answering 5 questions about his recently featured book – My Manager and Other Animals Richard is best known for building and voicing puppets for various television series such as Spitting […]
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12:46 AM | Ohio lawmakers lack science education, want to be sure everyone else does too
Once again, nonscientists are dictating how to do science. They are mistaken. And they have an agenda. Ohio lawmakers want to limit the teaching of the scientific process. The bill, currently under consideration by the Ohio Assembly, is intended to revoke a previous approval of the Common Core educational standards, which target math and literacy.… Source: Doubtful News
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12:46 AM | Ohio lawmakers lack science education, want to be sure everyone else does too
Once again, nonscientists are dictating how to do science. They are mistaken. And they have an agenda. Ohio lawmakers want to limit the teaching of the scientific process. The bill, currently under consideration by the Ohio Assembly, is intended to revoke a previous approval of the Common Core educational standards, which target math and literacy.… Source: Doubtful News

August 28, 2014

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7:30 PM | Study: Ebola Virus Is Rapidly Evolving
Credit CDC PHIL   # 9015   One of the concerns we have when any zoonotic virus spills over into the human population is that over time, as it passes from one person to the next, it could pick up host adaptations – mutations – that could make the virus a greater threat over time.   In the laboratory, researchers will often conduct serial passage experiments (see Serial Passage Of H5N2 In Mice) to observe these evolutionary changes, and try to figure out what […]
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6:36 PM | Non-Adaptive Evolution In Cicada Gut: 2 Genomes Function As 1
Organisms in a symbiotic relationship will often shed genes as they come to rely on the other organism for crucial functions but researchers have uncovered an unusual event in which a bacterium that lives in a type of cicada split into two species - doubling the number of organisms required for the symbiosis to survive.read more
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4:12 PM | Poet and Paleontologist – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The German lawyer, author, poet, politician and artist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (born August 28, 1749-1832) was also a mining engineer and quite interested in geology and paleontology. In the year 1775, Goethe, already a highly regarded author, was invited to the court of Duke Carl August in the city of Weimar, where he will [...]
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4:12 PM | Poet and Paleontologist – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The German lawyer, author, poet, politician and artist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (born August 28, 1749-1832) was also a mining engineer and quite interested in geology and paleontology. In the year... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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4:06 PM | Developmental plasticity is not Lamarckism
Sometimes, people email me with good questions. Here’s one. When I was a kid, my own visualization of evolution was Lamarckism. But I didn’t know it. In reading Dawkins and others, I know it doesn’t exist. But it seems this article is claiming it does to some extent. Can you comment? I’m curious as to…
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2:01 PM | How Life on Earth Began Today’s pick is an animated...
How Life on Earth Began Today’s pick is an animated overview of the latest thinking on the biggest mystery in science. With paper cutouts. I love how this video wraps one concrete scientific question around a deeper, simpler, but more philosophical one: What is life, anyway? The notion that life on earth didn’t have a special “start” but probably cross-faded into existence as bags of inanimate reactive chemicals randomly mixed into more […]
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11:37 AM | Twin studies stand up to the critique, again
The history of twin studies is littered with attempts to discredit them – such as this bit of rubbish. Yet every challenge has been met, with a couple of newish studies knocking off another. The basic idea of twin studies is that by comparing the similarity of fraternal twins to the similarity of identical twins, you can […]
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7:01 AM | Dynasty of the Plastic Fishapods
[This is the original, unedited text of my shorter, tighter (and I think actually better) News & Views piece for Nature, on the paper described below) Ambitious experimental and morphological studies of a modern fish show how a flexible phenotype may have helped early “fishapods” to make the long transition from finned aquatic animals into […]
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6:50 AM | A beautiful photo of a Senegalese bichir (Polypterus senegalus)...
A beautiful photo of a Senegalese bichir (Polypterus senegalus) from Carl Zimmer’s latest blog post for National Geographic. Unfortunately, I think the post and the Nature paper both get totally confused about the term “fish” (there is no such thing) and our common ancestry with early transitional tetrapods and the bichirs. They also completely miss the point about why bichirs are such awesome creatures. I might write a short post about that soon.

August 27, 2014

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10:40 PM | Fish that 'Walks' Holds Clues to Animal Evolution
Unusual fish that walk and breathe air turn out quite differently when raised on land, rather than in water.
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