Genetics

Pharyngula

Category archives for Genetics

Good news! The gorilla genome sequence was published in Nature last week, and adds to our body of knowledge about primate evolution. Here’s the abstract: Gorillas are humans’ closest living relatives after chimpanzees, and are of comparable importance for the study of human origins and evolution. Here we present the assembly and analysis of a…

I was going to talk about a cool recent paper that described the evolution of novelties by way of modifying modular gene networks, but I started scribbling it up and realized that I was constantly backtracking to explain some fundamental concepts, so I stopped. I was concerned because one of the most common sources of…

I’ve been guilty of teaching bean-bag genetics this semester. Bean-bag genetics treats individuals as a bag of irrelevant shape containing a collection of alleles (the “beans”) that are sorted and disseminated by the rules of Mendel, and at its worst, assigns one trait to one allele; it’s highly unrealistic. In my defense, it was necessary…

A little cis story

I found a recent paper in Nature fascinating, but why is hard to describe — you need to understand a fair amount of general molecular biology and development to see what’s interesting about it. So those of you who already do may be a little bored with this explanation, because I’ve got to build it…

Inbreeding is bad. It increases the frequency of homozygosity for deleterious traits. There’s this little thing called pleiotropy. Selection is a powerful tool, but traits can have multiple effects, and extreme selection for peculiarities can have unpleasant side effects — you may think a pug’s curly tail is adorable, but it comes with all kinds…

Osama bin Laden disproves Darwin!

Oh, yeah…didn’t you know it was a crack team of Darwinist commandos who took out bin Laden, all to protect our secrets? David Klinghoffer doesn’t go quite that far, but he does demonstrate just how insane the gang at the Discovery Institute have gotten. After all, he does claim that Obama delayed the raid on…

I’ve been giving talks at scientific meetings on educational outreach — I’ve been telling the attendees that they ought to start blogs or in other ways make more of an effort to educate the public. I mentioned one successful result the other day, but we need more. I give multiple reasons for scientists to do…

Optogenetics!

The journal Nature has selected optogenetics as its “Method of the Year”, and it certainly is cool. But what really impressed me is this video, which explains the technique. It doesn’t talk down to the viewer, it doesn’t overhype, it doesn’t rely on telling you how it will cure cancer (it doesn’t), it just explains…

How to afford a big sloppy genome

My direct experience with prokaryotes is sadly limited — while our entire lives and environment are profoundly shaped by the activity of bacteria, we rarely actually see the little guys. The closest I’ve come was some years ago, when I was doing work on grasshopper embryos, and sterile technique was a pressing concern. The work…

The Irish Genome

What a curious paper — it’s fine research, and it’s a useful dollop of data, but it’s simultaneously so 21st century and on the edge of being completely trivial. It’s like a tiny shard of the future whipping by on its way to quaintness. Researchers have for the first time sequenced the genome of an…