10 posts · 5,566 views
I'm an evolutionary biologist with a lifelong interest in natural history. Here are my thoughts and observations on all things science and nature, especially evolution, ecology, conservation, ornithology, museums, and genomics. I'll add links and citations on each topic to facilitate further reading and of course I'll add original photography as often as possible. Of course all the opinions in this blog are my own and may or may not reflect those of my employer, Cincinnati Museum Center.
Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) at the the Cincinnati ZooOK, let’s face it giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) are just plain cool. Tall and lanky Manute Bols of the animal world covered in spots. In addition to being high on the list of must-see animals on an African safari, giraffes have served as poster children for evolution. Long before Darwin, that other evolutionist, the French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, speculated that the long-necked giraffe was descended from shorter-necked........ Read more »
Simmons, R., & Altwegg, R. (2010) Necks-for-sex or competing browsers? A critique of ideas on the evolution of giraffe. Journal of Zoology, 282(1), 6-12. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.2010.00711.x
Temeles, E. (2000) Evidence for Ecological Causation of Sexual Dimorphism in a Hummingbird. Science, 289(5478), 441-443. DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5478.441
Brown, D., Brenneman, R., Koepfli, K., Pollinger, J., Milá, B., Georgiadis, N., Louis, E., Grether, G., Jacobs, D., & Wayne, R. (2007) Extensive population genetic structure in the giraffe. BMC Biology, 5(1), 57. DOI: 10.1186/1741-7007-5-57
The short of it...
Creationists often put physicians on a pedestal as the scientists doing the real work in biology, useful work of improving human health and well-being as opposed to the pontificating, abstract work of the evolutionists. But, can we really understand human aliments outside of the light of evolution? Well worn examples of antibiotic resistance vividly illustrate the folly of ignoring evolutionary processes in medicine. Cancer however is another example of evolution in action. T........ Read more »
Domazet-Lošo, T., & Tautz, D. (2010) Phylostratigraphic tracking of cancer genes suggests a link to the emergence of multicellularity in metazoa. BMC Biology, 8(1), 66. DOI: 10.1186/1741-7007-8-66
Queller, D. (2003) Single-Gene Greenbeard Effects in the Social Amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. Science, 299(5603), 105-106. DOI: 10.1126/science.1077742
Velicer, G., Kroos, L., & Lenski, R. (2000) Developmental cheating in the social bacterium Myxococcus xanthus. Nature, 404(6778), 598-601. DOI: 10.1038/35007066
Transitionals are a hot topic in evolutionary biology because they provide clear evidence of common ancestry. In linking two seemingly unrelated groups in a shared genetic heritage one looks for evidence of organisms that display a moasic of characteristics, some characters defining one group and some another. Transitional forms are those organisms that display this mix of traits from two seemingly desperate groups. Contrary to denials of creationists transitionals are indeed found throughout th........ Read more »
Gingerich, P., Haq, M., Zalmout, I. S., Khan, I. H., & Malkani, M. S. (2001) Origin of Whales from Early Artiodactyls: Hands and Feet of Eocene Protocetidae from Pakistan. Science, 293(5538), 2239-2242. DOI: 10.1126/science.1063902
Gingerich, P., ul-Haq, M., von Koenigswald, W., Sanders, W., Smith, B., & Zalmout, I. (2009) New Protocetid Whale from the Middle Eocene of Pakistan: Birth on Land, Precocial Development, and Sexual Dimorphism. PLoS ONE, 4(2). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004366
Human populations vary genetically, however, much of this variation is not divided into discrete groups but rather is distributed as a cline, or gradually, with one population smoothly transitioning into another. Genetic isolation in most human populations is therefore primarily dictated by distance. Also, the human propensity for roaming and spreading into new environments means that humans spread their genes widely and tend to genetically homogenize populations. However, there are some excepti........ Read more »
Paul Verdu, Frederic Austerlitz, Arnaud Estoup, Renaud Vitalis, Myriam Georges, Sylvain Théry, Alain Froment, Sylvie Le Bomin, Antoine Gessain, & Jean-Marie Hombert. (2009) Origins and Genetic Diversity of Pygmy Hunter-Gatherers from Western Central Africa. Current Biology, 19(4), 312-318. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.12.049
In the December 12 issue of the journal Science Ros Clubb of the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals and colleagues, including well known elephant researcher Cynthia Moss, report that captive elephants do not live as long as their free-living counterparts, or even as long as working elephants in Burmese timber camps.Collecting data from over 4,500 elephants from European Zoos, wild populations in Amboseli National Park in Kenya and working elephants in Burmese logging camps, the authors ........ Read more »
Critics of evolution often point to a perceived lack of transitional forms in the fossil record as evidence that some forms of life don't share a common genetic heritage but rather arose independently. Creationists have been using this line of argument for over a hundred years. But, they do so in spite of the evidence. Intermediate forms are those organisms that have a mosaic of characteristics linking two seemingly unrelated groups or an organism that exhibits a character state in between ........ Read more »
This weekend was the Cincinnati Museum Center's annual BugFest. Together with my son Cameron we had a great time showing visitors a sampling of butterflies from the zoology department's entomology collection (see photo left). Public presentations of museum collections should introduce the role of museum collections in scientific research. Museum collections and other collections-based field work can have uses that will come as a surprise to many. Focusing on butterflies Cameron and I c........ Read more »
Radislav Potyrailo, Helen Ghiradella, Alexei Vertiatchikh, Katharine Dovidenko, James R Cournoyer, & Eric Olson. (2007) Morpho butterfly wing scales demonstrate highly selective vapour response. Nature Photonics, 1(2), 123-128. DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2007.2
Some birds can! A group of shorebirds called phalaropes have a curious way of feeding. They feed on the surface of lakes, tidal wetlands and other bodies of water by swimming around in a tight circle on the surface furiously kicking their legs. This creates a vortex in which tiny aquatic invertebrates like shrimp, aquatic insects and copepods are pulled to the surface. Once food items are trapped in the swirling water phalaropes gobble them up with their long thin bills. But, while the phalarope........ Read more »
M Prakash, D Quere, & J Bush. (2008) Surface Tension Transport of Prey by Feeding Shorebirds: The Capillary Ratchet. Science, 320(5878), 931-934. DOI: 10.1126/science.1156023
Modern comparative biology has truly entered a new age. The list of species for which researchers have completely sequenced their genomes continues to rapidly grow. Fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), chickens (Gallus gallus), sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus), pufferfish (Fugu rubripes), Short-tailed Opossum (Monodelphis domestica), mosquitos (Anopheles gambiae), Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta), several plants such as rice (Oryza sativa) and cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa), numerou........ Read more »
Wesley Warren, LaDeana W Hillier, Jennifer A Marshall Graves, Ewan Birney, Chris P Ponting, Frank Grützner, Katherine Belov, Webb Miller, Laura Clarke, Asif T Chinwalla.... (2008) Genome analysis of the platypus reveals unique signatures of evolution. Nature, 453(7192), 175-183. DOI: 10.1038/nature06936
The Southeastern United States is a center for biodiversity in North America. This is particularly true for freshwater mussels. The Ohio Valley is home to numerous species of freshwater mussels (family: Unionidae; class: Bivalvia) and the upper Coosa River basin in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama was once home to over 40 species of freshwater mussels making it among the most biologically diverse freshwater habitats on Earth. Unfortunately, however, human activity in the great watersheds of the So........ Read more »
DAVID CAMPBELL, PAUL D JOHNSON, JAMES D WILLIAMS, ANDREW K RINDSBERG, JEANNE M SERB, KORY K SMALL, & CHARLES LYDEARD. (2008) Identification of ‘extinct’ freshwater mussel species using DNA barcoding. Molecular Ecology Resources, 2147483647. DOI: 10.1111/j.1755-0998.2008.02108.x
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