Evolution

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Category archives for Evolution

Punks and anarchists unite!

I’m a bit shell-shocked today — man, that was a long drive yesterday — and I stumbled into work today thinking this might be a really good day to bag it early and take a nap. And then I found something in my mailbox that perked me right up. As a little background, I’ll summarize…

How an embryo is like a meatball sub

I’ve only just noticed that I have a fondness for food metaphors when talking about development — gastrulation is a peculiar way to make a jelly sandwich, neurulation is like rolling up a burrito, and somite formation is a meatball sub. They sort of illustrate the arrangement of the tissues involved, but of course they…

A transitional turtle, Pappochelys

Turtles are nifty animals, with a remarkable adaptation: they’ve taken their ribs and shifted them outside their appendicular skeleton, flattened and expanded them, and turned them into a shell. It’s a clever twist, and it doesn’t require any magic — just a shift in timing during development, with a little extra signaling. The molecular biology…

The wisdom of worms

In my previous post about Paul Nelson’s weirdly ignorant view of nematode evolution, Kevin Anthoney made a prescient comment: Remember that Nelson’s got this bizarre linear view of evolution which starts with a single cell creature, which evolves into a creature with a few cells, which evolves into one with a few more cells, and…

The latest fatuous obsession by Paul Nelson, Philosopher of Biology at the Discovery Institute, is a real corker. He has decided that nematodes could not possibly have evolved, because scientists (real ones, not creationist pseudoscientists) have produced an extremely detailed literature documenting their development; because Brenner, Horvitz, and Sulston (no creationists among them) won the…

Beautiful and terrible

This is one of the loveliest fossils I’ve ever seen. They are the bones of a Neanderthal, found in a cave in southern Italy, and although they’ve been calcified by mineral-rich water trickling through the cave where they were found, it’s an almost complete skeleton, with the bones all intact. That’s the grisly part of…

A defense of ENCODE?

Dan Graur has snarled at the authors of a paper defending ENCODE. How could I then resist? I read the offending paper, and I have to say something that will weaken my own reputation as a snarling attack dog myself: it does make a few good points. But it’s mostly using some valid criticisms to…

Aegirocassis benmoulae

Anomalocaris has always been one of my favorite Cambrian animals — it was so weird, and it was also the top predator of the age, making it the equivalent of T. rex. The anomalocarids were also a diverse and successful group, so wouldn’t you know it…it also had a distant filter-feeding cousin in the Ordovician.…

Junk DNA must be…fractal ballast!

I’ve now read two novel attempts to explain the existence of junk DNA. To a lot of people, the very idea of junk DNA is offensive: whatever process built us, whether divine fiat or the razor-sharp honing of natural selection, must be powerful, omnipotent or nearly so, and incapable of tolerating any noise or sloppiness,…

Death to Dollo’s Law!

Hint for science journalists: if the hook to get readers to pay attention to your story is to warn them to sit down because a 19th century “law” of evolution has been shown to be wrong, you’re going to irritate scientists, who will then write rude blog posts sneering at your writing. That’s the case…