Welcome to the 26th edition of the Carnival of Evolution!
To begin, consider the adaptive rhymes of evolution from the Digital Cuttlefish.
There was a LOT of evolutionary blogging this month, so let’s just jump right in to the rest, shall we?
Let’s start with animals (This is the Thoughtful Animal blog, after all.)
Zen Faulkes at Neurodojo starts us out with a sweet tale of a lizard in a life-boat. He asks, “How old would you expect the Bermuda skink lineage to be? ‘Well, the island’s only two million years old, so it’s got to be younger than that.’ ” The answer may surprise you. And, continuing with the reptile theme, Zen also discusses snake eyes and the differences between circular and vertical pupils. A third post from Neurodojo explores the differences in lip size among Midas cichlids in Nicaragua.
You may have heard that a zedonk was born in Georgia last week – a hybrid zebra and donkey. But what do you get, DeLene Beeland asks, when you cross a coyote with a wolf? Coywolves, obviously.
Over at Why Evolution is True, learn about the relationship between modern baleen whales and their toothed ancestors. Jerry Coyne calls baleen whales a “lovely transitional form.”
At Deep Sea News, Dr. M ponders, “Straight men let’s face it. We will do anything if we think females will find it attractive. No matter how ludicrous, expensive, or time-consuming it may be, we will do it. The rise of mullets and Camaros in the 80’s can be blamed on women. So is true in nature.” And, apparently, female Mexican mollies prefer their boy fishes with 70s-style mustaches.
Continuing with female sexual preferences, Kevin Zelnio claims that female urochordates have few, if any inhibitions. “Yep, that’s right. They get it on with any male gamete that passes their way. They just don’t give a [rhymes with duck]. Boom chaka-laka-boom. These loose lizzies are all about increasing genetic diversity if you know what I mean.”
Anteaters and their prey, ants and termites, are in an evolutionary arms race of sorts. What defenses have ants and termites evolved to effectively deal with predation from anteaters? And how do anteaters decide which species of ants and termites to prey upon? Find out, right here at The Thoughtful Animal.
Any regular reader of this blog knows that I think that cats are evil. Even still, I found this post from the Fins to Feet blog fascinating: Evolution of the Cat Family.
Oystercatching is serious business, according to Greg Laden. If a baby oystercatcher messes up, even once, it could spell disaster. So how do baby oystercatchers learn the proper method of oystercatching? This, says Greg, is an example of “one of those really cool and useful ‘evolution stories’ [getting] verified and illuminated by actual research.” Oystercatchers are an example of evolution NOT solving a complex behavioral problem by pre-programming neural circuits at a fine level of detail.
“Yuccas and yucca moths have one of the most peculiar pollination relationships known to science,” according to Jeremy Yoder of Denim and Tweed. So what happened before there were yucca moths?
Why does skin color vary among human populations? Might it have something to do with variation in ultraviolet radiation or visible light? Jerry Coyne discusses the possibility at Why Evolution is True.
Plants evolve, too
Luigi of the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog discusses the evolution of the cassava plant, and R. Ford Denison of “This Week in Evolution” discusses a case of “reverse evolution,” crops that transitioned into weeds. Particularly interested was that “many cases involved reversal of evolutionary changes that had occurred during domestication.”
Brain and Behavior
Is there a relationship between race, biology and athletic ability? Andrew Bernardin of 360 Degree Skeptic says, “Well, yes and no.”
Could optimism have served some sort of adaptive function? What about pessimism? Warren Davies discusses the evolution of both.
Eric Michael Johnson brought his Primate Diaries in Exile Tour to David Dobbs’s Neuron Culture, where he examined a recent study of play behavior in gorillas. And while we’re on the topic of primates, I should mention a four-part series on the human primate at Scientific American by the one and only Frans de Waal.
Education and Outreach
Thinking of trying for a tenure-track job in ecology or evolutionary biology? Bjørn Østman describes a peer-reviewed study that might make you think twice. But don’t take my word for it; he says, “these data do scare me.”
Grrlscientist (new blog) explains a recent paper discussing a new method for encouraging classroom discussion and engaging with the scientific literature. (But what does it all have to do with parrots? You’ll have to read it to find out!)
Creationism and Intelligent Design
From the Teenage Atheist blog, a refutation to a common creationist argument. Unintelligent Design: The Eye. Also from the Teenage Atheist, a response to the challenge “What’s the point of being moral without God?”
Bjørn Østman describes a paper in which “creation science” validates evolution. Really? You’ll have to read it to see what he means.
Evolutionary History and History of Evolution
The Fins to Feet blog covers two billion years of evolutionary history, and yet, “multicellular life still eludes us. To put this into perspective, the whole extent of Human evolution, from the earliest Australopithecines to modern Homo Sapiens, occurred within a span of approcimately 3.5 million years – just 0.14% of the time it took to evolve multicellular life.” If you want some really good evolutionary history with lots of biochemistry, this is the post for you.
There are many reasons why mathematicians should care about evolution. But the It Takes 30 blog offers another: geometry. “How long have we been studying Darwin’s finches? About 170 years. In all that time, nobody has noticed that the shapes of beaks of the different species are related by simple geometric transformations.”
Odds and Ends
Bjørn Østman is likely to anger a few creationists with his post “More junk DNA shown to have function.” Bjørn also asks, What’s so great about modeling? “For those who thought this was about fashion: it ain’t.”
Lab Rat entertains us with stories of the evolution of bacterial resistance.
Did Darwin recant his eponymous theory on his deathbed? Michael D. Barton of The Dispersal of Darwin explains. (The answer is no.)
That’s all for this month! And good thing, because there’s enough to read here to last you until the next edition of CoE comes out, hosted by 360 Degree Skeptic. You can start submitting TODAY!