234 posts · 317,093 views
Evolutionary Biology, Life Science, Science Education, Human Evolution, and Stuff.
It has long been known that incest is not as bad as you think. Anti-cousin marriage laws are like prohibition laws and blue laws. They arise from a Christian conservative movement that swept Western Civilization from the late 18th century through the 19th century, up to about the time of the repeal of Prohibition.
Sure, marrying, or just plain having sex with, your sibling is disgusting. I mean, think about it. No, wait, don't even think about it. But cousin marriage? That depends. Your ........ Read more »
Diane B. Paul, & Hamish G. Spencer. (2008) “It's Ok, We're Not Cousins by Blood”: The Cousin Marriage Controversy in Historical Perspective. PLoS Biology, 6(12). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060320
I first became acquainted with the Romanovs (as historical figures, not the actual Romanovs) reading in middle school about Russian History. Later, someone turned me on to Massie's Nicholas and Alexandra, which is quite a well known popular historical account of the last Czar of Russia and his family. Everyone knows the story of the end. The core of Czar's family -- the Czar Nicholas, his wife Alexandra, and his children -- had been arrested and all of them were transported to a remote locati........ Read more »
Coble MD, Loreille OM, Wadhams MJ, Edson SM, Maynard K, & et al. (2009) Mystery Solved: The Identification of the Two Missing Romanov Children Using DNA Analysis. PLoS ONE, 4(3). DOI: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0004838
... has been found. Inside the fish's skull, in fact. This is from a chimaeroid fish, which today are fairly rare but during the Carboniferoius were quite common and diverse. There are really two aspects of this find that are especially interesting. One is the 3D imagery that was obtained of the ancient fossilized brain, and the other is the analysis of the fish's ear canals. The brain is cool just because it is cool (and shows some interesting morphology). The ear canal study is interestin........ Read more »
A. Pradel, M. Langer, J. G. Maisey, D. Geffard-Kuriyama, P. Cloetens, P. Janvier, & P. Tafforeau. (2009) Skull and brain of a 300-million-year-old chimaeroid fish revealed by synchrotron holotomography. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0807047106
Dino spoor, that is. A recently reported finding in PLoS ONE clarifies a number of questions about how certain dinosaurs held their front limbs (zombie/Frankenstein-position palm-down vs. huggie-wuggie palms-facing-each-other). This research confirms ...
that early theropods, like later birds, held their palms facing medially, in contrast to ... prints previously attributed to theropods that have forward-pointing digits. Both the symmetrical resting posture and the medially-facing palms there........ Read more »
Andrew R. C. Milner, Jerald D. Harris, Martin G. Lockley, James I. Kirkland, & Neffra A. Matthews. (2009) Bird-Like Anatomy, Posture, and Behavior Revealed by an Early Jurassic Theropod Dinosaur Resting Trace. PLoS ONE, 4(3). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004591
Why is there "junk DNA"? What is Junk DNA? What is a Pseudogene? What is Gene Duplication?
Goodness, you certainly do have a lot of questions. And some of them can be answered, or at least addressed, on examination of a very interesting new paper recently published about a gene that became a useless "pseudogene" a very long time ago and has recently been revived by evolution to serve once again as an active member of the community we know of as the genome. In humans. Read the rest of ........ Read more »
I recently posted about the work by Pagel and colleagues regarding ancient lexicons. That work, recently revived in the press for whatever reasons such things happen, is the same project reported a while back in Nature. And, as I recall, I read that paper and promised to blog about it but did not get to it. Yet.
So here we go. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
Mark Pagel, Quentin D. Atkinson, & Andrew Meade. (2007) Frequency of word-use predicts rates of lexical evolution throughout Indo-European history. Nature, 449(7163), 717-720. DOI: 10.1038/nature06176
I'm starting to worry that the last few Friday Weird Science write-ups by Scicurious (who seems, these days, to be the primary blogger at Neurotopia) have been of papers that I happen to have read. Just so you know: Thousands of papers are published per week across the diverse sciences, and although Scicurious tends to deal with life science and I tend to read life science, the chances of this particular harmonic convergence across bloggers regarding papers published over the last decade is sta........ Read more »
Perhaps we are all subject to falling into the trap of what I call the Hydraulic Theory of Everything. If you eat more you will be bigger, if you eat less you will be smaller. Emotional states are the continuously varying outcome of different levels of a set of hormones, forming "happy" or "stressy" or "angry" cocktails. Your brain is a vessel into which life pours various elixirs. Too much of one thing, and there will not be enough room for something else. Even political arguments are hydra........ Read more »
Diatoms are algae with hard parts. They make up a major part of the plankton found in fresh and salt water environments. Usually, diatoms exist as single celled free floating organisms, but they can also be colonies of several single cells. Their tiny little 'shells' are made up of silica (these shells are called "fustules"). Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
Litchman, E., Klausmeier, C.A., & Yoshiyama, K. (2009) Contrasting size evolution in marine and freshwater diatoms . PNAS. DOI: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/02/06/0810891106.full.pdf html
Nature, the publishing group, not the Mother, has taken Darwin's 200th as an opportunity to play the race card (which always sells copy) and went ahead and published two opposing views on this question: "Should scientists study race and IQ?
The answers are Yes, argued by Stephen Cici and Wendy Williams of the Dept of Human Development at Cornell, and No, argued by Steven Rose, a neuroscientist at Open University.
I would like to weigh in.
Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments o........ Read more »
Steven Rose. (2009) Darwin 200: Should scientists study race and IQ? NO: Science and society do not benefit. Nature, 457(7231), 786-788. DOI: 10.1038/457786a
Stephen Ceci, & Wendy M. Williams. (2009) Darwin 200: Should scientists study race and IQ? YES: The scientific truth must be pursued. Nature, 457(7231), 788-789. DOI: 10.1038/457788a
For the last couple of decades, perhaps beginning around the time of the publication of Laurie Garret's excellent thesis (The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance) on disease and politics and continuting through Gina Kolata's "Flu: The Story Of The Great Influenza Pandemic" there has been increased attention on the 1918 flu virus and pandemic, as well as subsequent outbreaks. This interest has probably been fueled by increased knowledge of (or incidence of?) tragic a........ Read more »
C. R. Baskin, H. Bielefeldt-Ohmann, T. M. Tumpey, P. J. Sabourin, J. P. Long, A. Garcia-Sastre, A.-E. Tolnay, R. Albrecht, J. A. Pyles, P. H. Olson.... (2009) Early and sustained innate immune response defines pathology and death in nonhuman primates infected by highly pathogenic influenza virus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0813234106
Mark Pagel, evolutionary theorist extraordinaire, has published an Insight piece in Nature on Natural selection 150 years on. Pagel, well known for myriad projects in natural selecition theory and adaptation, and for developing with Harvey the widely used statistical phylogenetic method (and for being a reader of my thesis) wishes Charles Darwin a happy 200th birthday, and assesses this question:
How has Darwin's theory of Natural Selection fared over the last 150 years, and what needs to be........ Read more »
A quick note for those of you interested in mud volcanoes (and I know there are many of you). From an article titled "Earthquake Triggering of Mud Volcanoes" by Magna et al we learn that ...
Mud volcanoes sometimes erupt within days after nearby earthquakes. The number of such nearly coincident events is larger than would be expected by chance and the eruptions are thus assumed to be triggered by earthquakes. Here we compile observations of the response of mud volcanoes and other geologic syst........ Read more »
When word of this study gets around, you may start to hear that voluntary vaccination "works." This would not be an accurate statement. There is a new study just now out in PLoS Computational Biology that reveals that under certain conditions, which may actually be quite rare, voluntary vaccinations might lead to the eradication of a disease (contrary to 'popular wisdom'). However, you must realize that the study has some important limitations and the results do not suggest that most (if any)........ Read more »
Perisic A, Bauch CT. (2009) Social Contact Networks and Disease Eradicability under Voluntary Vaccination. PLoS Comput Biol , 5(2). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000280
I want to bring your attention to a somewhat dense and possibly inconclusive (but important) paper accompanied by a very informative overview in PLoS Biology, concerning mutations in the human genome.
Mutation rates and patterns of mutation are important for a number of reasons. For one thing, the genome itself is a data set that is both broad and deep. There is a lot of information in a given individual genome (a haploid set of genes from a person, for instance) but there is a wide range of ........ Read more »
Laurent Duret. (2009) Mutation Patterns in the Human Genome: More Variable Than Expected. PLoS Biology, 7(2). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000028
Or, more accurately, did these dinosaurs either engage in intraspecific combat (such as territorial or mating contests among males) or fight predators such as Tyrannosaurs, like in the movies?
Well, one thing we know for sure: If any folklore, belief, or 'fact' related to a fossil species sits around long enough, eventually someone will come along and study it. This usually involves reformulating the idea as one or more testable hypotheses, then attacking the hypotheses ... much like Tyrann........ Read more »
How much are we actually spending on the development of pharmaceutical tools to treat HIV/AIDS, TB, leichmaniasis, malaria and sleeping sickness?
Today, PLoS Medicine Policy Forum asks this question. According to a press release from PLoS:
The first comprehensive survey of global spending on neglected disease R&D, published in this week's PLoS Medicine, finds that just over $US 2.5 billion was invested into R&D of new products in 2007, with three diseases--HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria--receivi........ Read more »
Moran, Mary, Guzman, J., Ropars, A., McDonald, A., Jameson, N., Omune, B., Ryan, S., & Wu, L. (2009) Neglected Disease Research and Development: How Much Are We Really Spending? . PLoS Medicine Policy Forum. DOI: http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request
An article released moments ago in PLoS ONE, by Gingerich et al., describes one of the more interesting fossil discoveries ever.
To cut right to the conclusion: We now have reason to believe that the proto-whale Maiacetus inuus, a true transitional form, gave birth on land, not in the water.
Artist's conception of male Maiacetus inuus with opaque skeleton overlay. Credit: John Klausmeyer and Bonnie Miljour, University of Michigan Museums of Natural History
Read the rest of this post... ........ Read more »
Gingerich PD, ul-Haq M, von Koenigswald W, Sanders WJ, Smith BH, & et al. (2009) New Protocetid Whale from the Middle Eocene of Pakistan: Birth on Land, Precocial Development, and Sexual Dimorphism. PLoS ONE, 4(2). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004366
Well, the above statement, while true, is just a tiny bit beyond the peer reviewed paper I'm reporting to you today, but this paper supports the assertion and the results presented in the paper should not be a surprise to anyone.
Here's the basic idea: Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
Sophie Lebrecht, Lara J. Pierce, Michael J. Tarr, & James W. Tanaka. (2009) Perceptual Other-Race Training Reduces Implicit Racial Bias. PLoS ONE, 4(1). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004215
A paper coming out in the next issue of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases addresses the question of the link between vaccines and autism. This new review article examines three hypotheses linking vaccines to autism:
(1) the combination measles‐mumps‐rubella vaccine causes autism by damaging the intestinal lining, which allows the entrance of encephalopathic proteins;
(2) thimerosal, an ethylmercury‐containing preservative in some vaccines, is toxic to the central nervous system;........ Read more »
Jeffrey S. Gerber, & Paul A. Offit. (2009) Vaccines and Autism: A Tale of Shifting Hypotheses. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 48(4), 456-461. DOI: 10.1086/596476
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