Genetics

Category archives for Genetics

When Kissing Cousins get to Third Base

It has long been known that incest is not as bad as you think. Anti-cousin marriage laws are like prohibition laws and blue laws. They arise from a Christian conservative movement that swept Western Civilization from the late 18th century through the 19th century, up to about the time of the repeal of Prohibition. Sure,…

The copying of DNA’s master instructions into messenger molecules of RNA, a process known as DNA transcription, has always been thought to be a unidirectional process whereby a copying machine starts and moves in one direction. But in work that represents a fundamental shift in scientists’ understanding of the phenomenon, MIT researchers have found evidence…

Allen’s Rule. One of those things you learn in graduate school along with Bergmann’s Rule and Cope’s Rule. It is all about body size. Cope’s Rule … which is a rule of thumb and not an absolute … says that over time the species in a given lineage tend to be larger and larger. Bergmann’s…

Markita Landry, a half-Bolivian, half-French Canadian physics Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, … used a tango to convey her thesis, “Single Molecule Measurements of Protelomerase TelK-DNA Complexes.” She is trying to understand how a protein called TelK bends DNA into hairpin loops. The mechanism makes for beautiful dance, with Landry bending like…

The paper I’m about to discuss is a minefield of potential misconceptions that arise from the way we often use language do describe natural phenomena. This is a situation where it would be easier to start with a disclaimer … a big giant obvious quotation mark … and then use the usual misleading, often anthropomorphic…

Cute baby lion kittens. When they grow up, they will want to eat you. I’ll never forget the first wild lion I ever saw. It was a pitch black night, on the savanna in the Western Rift Valley. I had climbed on top of the hood of the Land Rover, engine off, but headlights on.…

There is a new paper, just coming out in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that explores the idea that humans have undergone an increased rate of evolution over the last several tens of thousands of years. By an increased rate of evolution, the authors mean an increased rate of adaptive change in the…

A very good day of grunting worms. Credit: Ken Catania So-called Gene-Culture Co-Evolution can be very obvious and direct or it can be very subtle and complex. In almost all cases, the details defy the usual presumptions people make about the utility of culture, the nature of human-managed knowledge, race, and technology. I would like…

An article just out in PLOS Biology explores one of the most important, but also difficult to observe, phenomena related to DNA regulation. Figure 1 from the paper: “Atomic Force Microscopy of Lac Repressor-DNA Complexes (A) Schematic structures of biotin (bio)- and digoxigenin (dig)-labeled DNA constructs with one (O-539 and O-349) or two (O-153-O and…

Human societies tend to be at least a little polygynous. This finding, recently reported in PLoS genetics, does not surprise us but is nonetheless important. This important in two ways: 1) This study uncovers numerical details of human genetic variation that are necessary to understand change across populations and over time; and 2) the variation…