The Carnival of Evolution #30

Dec 02 2010 Published by under Biology, Blogosphere, Education, Evolution

There I was, wondering why I hadn't heard anything about this month's Carnival of Evolution, when I discovered that (a) I was meant to be writing it, and (b) it was already late. So, without further ado,


Carnival of Evolution


Let's start with some "real biology". With real organisms and all. GrrlScientist introduces us to a wee Cuban frog, and the man who is researching to to find out about which evolved first - toxicity or a habit of sitting around where you might be eaten. Meanwhile, Jeremy Yoder writes about some work supervised by Santa look-alike Mike Singer which show that Edith's checkerspot (a butterfly) is becoming specialised to alternative hosts. But there's apparently no reduction in gene flow yet, so we'll have to wait a bit for speciation (it'll need some assortative mating too). And Ann Buchanan presents The Wonders of Nature #782: The Potter Wasp. She uses this beasty to point out one of the Big Questions in science - how do inate behaviours evolve? It's one I'd love to see answers to, but we'll have to wait a few years.

Bjørn Østman is also thinking about natural history and has come up with an interesting theory - that the peacock's tail might be partly an anti-predator device. He even provides a video which show why cats are not good collaborators in research of this type:

"Huh? Why look that way? You're much more interesting to watch."

The Beast would approve, if he could be bothered.

Getting more absract, Steve Matheson introduces us to fitness landscapes, leading up to some future posts about three papers - all written by groups based in Seattle - on the topic. Meanwhile, I recently wrote about the original Red Queen's hypothesis, a theory that has had a big effect even if it's almost impossible to find the paper.

Over at Princeton they're looking at evolvability: Becky Ward writes about their paper which showed that most amino acid sites in a protein changed its function when mutated, but didn't destroy function What's also interesting is that 40% of the sites changed the expression of the protein when mutated. Neat stuff, and perhaps suggests that the nearly neutral theory of evolution is more important than the neutral theory. I'd write more, but I have to get on to the next post....

Which is Christie Wilcox observing nerdishly that evolution is a game of chance, and this could explain the observations Lucas reports on how a toxin can evolve before its biochemical target. It's possible that the cyanobacteria that produce it don't use it as a poison, and toxicity is a side-effect. Little blighters.

Greg Mayer and Matthew Cobb both know Why Evolution Is True. Greg also knows that the rate of evolution of the human brain isn't exceptional, so it may not be Alu that makes us unique. Master Cobb is more interested in a new mystery. Well, two really. What did Anomalocaris suck on, and what ate the trilobites? Not Anomalocaris?

And it's not just human's brains which evolve. Zen Faulkes entertains and educates about what makes lemurs (and poor put upon lorises) have big brains. Apparently, it's all so they can sit around wondering why nothing ever changes. Which is odd - he also finds that migrating bats make the environment change, but still have small brains. Must be expensive to drag those things around.

Whilst we're on the subject of expensive, got some spare cash? Want a BIG book about dinosaurs and stuff? From a historical perspective? Then get Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective, the book. But first read about it at Tet. Zoo. from one of the editors, Darren Naish.

And for those who don't have $180 to spend, Bjørn Østman reviews Why Evolution Is True, whilst Michael Barton, of The Dispersal of Darwin goes to hear, appropriately enough, Chrisopher Wills talk about his book The Darwinian Tourist.

Someone didn't get the memo. Viruses are meant to be small, but Iddo Friedberg introduces us to a virus with over 500 genes. Not exactly byte-sized.

Jason Goldman is a friendly soul, as well as a thoughtful animal. So if you want to know what dolphins tell us about the evolution of friendship, or whether tortoises follow each others' gaze, he's the man.

Moving away from evolutionary science, Murr Brewster Murrmurrs quite a bit. This time she takes on the evolution-creationism debate:

[T]his is an argument between those who believe in God, and those who believe in God but do not believe he has any imagination.

Andrew Bernardin finds that religion is not always anti-evoltution: ironically it can even cause evolution.

For those actively discussing with the anti-evolution crowd, Naon Tiotami gives some suggestions for how to deal with intelligent design proponents. I think he makes a distinction between ID and creationism which is important rhetorically: officially ID doesn't do God.

And if you want to help, Mario Pineda-Krch asks us to give money to Baba Brinkman (of "The Rap Guide to Evolution" fame) so he get funding for an educational video, putting the rap guide onto the small screen so that lots of little kids can be indoctrinatededucated about evolution.

Finally, hematophage has a rant about how giant fictional arthropods shouldn't be allowed to roam the Earth?. There's more to come, too. More rants, not 60m wide dragonflies, I hope.

Phew. Am I done? Not quite yet. Bjørn Østman, who does the hard work organising this carnival, has announced a logo competition, to design a logo to identify posts as CoE posts. My artistic skills are even worse than his, so I'll leave it to one of you to help out.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of evolution using the carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the blog carnival index page. Looking there, I see that the next edition will be hosted at The Dispersal of Darwin on January 1st. I can see that edition being a day or two late as well.

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