11 posts · 5,252 views
Biology, particularly evolution and taxonomy. Occasional thoughts on its interaction with culture (Helicon being the home of the Muses in Greek mythology), conservation, and education.
Fossilized amber famously can preserve insects trapped in it. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to get a glimpse of a bug’s life from these specimens. One such fossil, found in a mine in the Dominican Republic, preserves a tiny springtail piggybacking on a larger fishfly (or mayfly, if you like). Springtails (subclass Collembola – close relatives [...]... Read more »
Gerald Grellet-Tinner, Xabier Murelaga, Juan C. Larrasoaña, Luis F. Silveira, Maitane Olivares, Luis A. Ortega, Patrick W. Trimby, Ana Pascual. (2012) The First Occurrence in the Fossil Record of an Aquatic Avian Twig-Nest with Phoenicopteriformes Eggs: Evolutionary Implications. PLoS ONE, 7(10). info:/10.1371/journal.pone.0046972
David Penney, Andrew McNeil, David I. Green, Robert S. Bradley, James E. Jepson, Philip J. Withers, Richard F. Preziosi. (2012) Ancient Ephemeroptera–Collembola Symbiosis Fossilized in Amber Predicts Contemporary Phoretic Associations. PLoS ONE, 7(10). info:/10.1371/journal.pone.0047651
Meet Bolbometopon muricatum—the bumphead parrotfish to its friends. It’s not a Pokemon but the world’s largest parrotfish—a fish that chews up coral with a birdlike beak and poops out sand. It can reach 1.5 metres in length and weigh 75 kilos, and it lives in all those places that make fantastic postcards—the reefs along coastlines [...]... Read more »
Muñoz, R., Zgliczynski, B., Laughlin, J., & Teer, B. (2012) Extraordinary Aggressive Behavior from the Giant Coral Reef Fish, Bolbometopon muricatum, in a Remote Marine Reserve. PLoS ONE, 7(6). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0038120
For those of you who never had a childhood dinosaur obsession, or a dinosaur-obsessed child, Pachycephalosaurus was a “dome-headed” dinosaur: it and its relatives had extremely thick (like, ten inches) skulls, often dome-shaped and fringed with an array of spikes and other protrusions. It is thought—but the idea is controversial—that these dinosaurs engaged in head-butting [...]... Read more »
Peterson, J., & Vittore, C. (2012) Cranial Pathologies in a Specimen of Pachycephalosaurus. PLoS ONE, 7(4). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036227
I’m confused. Am I supposed to wear red to attract a mate, or not? These seemingly contraditory findings (which, as I’ll explain in a moment, aren’t actually contradictory) were amusingly published in the same journal within less than two weeks of each other, so I can’t resist a discussion. It’s an old canard of pop [...]... Read more »
Elliot, A., & Pazda, A. (2012) Dressed for Sex: Red as a Female Sexual Signal in Humans. PLoS ONE, 7(4). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034607
There’s a tired pop evolutionary psych idea that gets repeated by scientist and nonscientists alike—I think I heard it most recently in the movie “Hanna”—that red lipstick is meant to be a symbol of engorged female genitalia, and thus that lipstick is meant to signal sexual receptivity and possibly fertility. This idea apparently dates back [...]... Read more »
Johns, S., Hargrave, L., & Newton-Fisher, N. (2012) Red Is Not a Proxy Signal for Female Genitalia in Humans. PLoS ONE, 7(4). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034669
From the annals of adorable research: You know how yawning is contagious? That’s not just a human thing. Chimpanzees, several other primates, and possibly dogs can “catch” yawns from others of their own species. This strange effect might be a byproduct of empathy—not the complex empathy that involves understanding and sharing someone else’s suffering, but [...]... Read more »
Campbell, M., & de Waal, F. (2011) Ingroup-Outgroup Bias in Contagious Yawning by Chimpanzees Supports Link to Empathy. PLoS ONE, 6(4). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018283
That’s the price tag, in US dollars, a new study puts on describing all the world’s animal species. The authors used data on salaries for Brazilian taxonomists and the average number of species described by them to estimate how much it would cost to describe the 5,426,075 unknown animal species thought to inhabit our planet. [...]... Read more »
The study of speciation—the formation of new species—has had a long history in evolutionary biology, but the past few decades have seen leaps in how we think about the process that creates biodiversity. We now know that natural selection is almost always heavily involved in the process, and that new species can form even when [...]... Read more »
Rova, E., & Björklund, M. (2011) Can Preference for Oviposition Sites Initiate Reproductive Isolation in Callosobruchus maculatus?. PLoS ONE, 6(1). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0014628
The title of this post is a reference to this paper (only the first page is available for free, but only the first two paragraphs are relevent) and to a Stephen Jay Gould essay. Both address the question of whether the group of animals corresponding to a colloquial name is actually an evolutionary entity, a [...]... Read more »
Horn, S., Durka, W., Wolf, R., Ermala, A., Stubbe, A., Stubbe, M., & Hofreiter, M. (2011) Mitochondrial Genomes Reveal Slow Rates of Molecular Evolution and the Timing of Speciation in Beavers (Castor), One of the Largest Rodent Species. PLoS ONE, 6(1). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0014622
Elementary school students—even high school students—learn some fairly trite truisms about the scientific method that often aren’t clearly linked to the experimental results that are presented in textbooks as The Truth. A new paper in PLoS Biology makes a link between the codebreaking game Mastermind and teaching scientific reasoning skills to young students, in a [...]... Read more »
Strom, A., & Barolo, S. (2011) Using the Game of Mastermind to Teach, Practice, and Discuss Scientific Reasoning Skills. PLoS Biology, 9(1). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000578
And now for some more research blogging! Here’s a paper comparing the roles of geography and ecology in the early stages of speciation. I’m incredibly excited about this study because it begins to get around some of the major difficulties inherent in studying reinforcement and ecological speciation. But first let me back up and explain [...]... Read more »
Schwartz, A., Weese, D., Bentzen, P., Kinnison, M., & Hendry, A. (2010) Both Geography and Ecology Contribute to Mating Isolation in Guppies. PLoS ONE, 5(12). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015659
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