The Loom

Archives for June, 2005

Mice, Monkeys, and Muttering

This week a few more tantalizing clues about the origin of language popped up. I blogged here and here about a fierce debate over the evolution of language. No other species communicates quite the way humans do, with a system of sounds, words, and grammar that allows us to convey an infinite number of ideas.…

Lucky Octopi

Last year I went to a fascinating symposium in honor of the great evolutionary biologist George Williams. The March issue of the Quarterly Review of Biology ran a series of papers written by the speakers at the meeting that offered much more detail on how Williams had influenced them in their various fields. Randolph Nesse…

Evidence and exasperation

In the comments, Doug gets exasperated with some recent posts of mine: ďIsn’t it amazing how everything seems to provide evidence for evolution? The brain shrinks in some form of pygmy homo erectus. Thats evolution! Ancient genes survive millions of years unchanged. That’s evolution?! Women have orgasms. That’s evolution! Although not all women have orgasms…

Light from Dark

Back in 1986 a biologist named Cindy Lee Van Doverwas poking around the innards of shrimp from the bottom of the sea. They came from a hydrothermal vent in the Atlantic, where boiling, mineral-rich water came spewing up from cracks in the Earthís crust and supported rich ecosystems of tube-worms, microbes, crabs, and other creatures.…

Surprises in Jelly

Iíve got an article in todayís New York Times about jellyfish and their kinóknown as cnidarians. Cnidarians look pretty simple, which helped earn them a reputation as simple and primitive compared to vertebrates like us, as well as insects, squid, and other creatures with heads and tails, eyes, and so on (known as bilaterians). But…

In October 2004 Australian and Indonesian announced they had discovered a three-foot tall species of hominid, Homo floresiensis, that was still alive no earlier than18,000 years ago. As Iíve detailed in previous posts, this claim has inspired a lot of debate, much which revolves around whether the fossils, found on the Indonesian island of Flores…

Return to Hobbit Limbo

So letís recap: Itís been almost eight months now since scientists announced the discovery of Homo floresiensis, the diminutive people that some claim belong to a new branch of hominid evolution and skeptics claim were just small humans. We seem to have entered a lull in the flow of new scientific information about Homo floresiensis.…

O is for…

I’ve been meaning to get around to writing about female orgasms. Philosopher of science Elizabeth Lloyd just published a new book in which she rejects the idea that they are an adapation. Then a paper was just published tying variation in the experience of orgasms to genes. Unfortunately, I’ve been hideously overworked this week. Fortunately,…

Itís strange enough that beetles grow horns. But itís especially strange that beetles grow so many kinds of horns. This picture, which was published in the latest issue of the journal Evolution, shows a tiny sampling of this diversity. The species shown here all belong to the genus Onthophagus, a group of dung beetles. The…