Via Joe Hansen: the Royal Institute is celebrating the season with an online Advent calendar in which they “unwrap” the biology of one human chromosome, and the mitochondrion, each day until Christmas. Here’s today’s entry on chromosome 2, which tackles the genetic differences between humans and chimps:
We don’t know about you, but we’re sleeping off the aftereffects of too much pumpkin pie, and then we need to strategize some holiday shopping. See you next week!
Here’s what we’ll be talking about while we wait in line for a latte.
From Sarah: Is is possible that Archaeopteryx was actually losing its ability to fly? Pink fairy armadillos are way cuter than the “regular” kind.
From CJ: Slowing cricket calls down to the frequency range of human voices makes for some trippy tones. And it looks like a virus that has been killing hundreds of dolphins off the U.S. east coast may be striking whales, too.
From Amy: DNA from the body of a boy who died during the last ice age includes markers linked to modern European and American Indian populations.
From Jeremy, a whole raft of stuff this week about antibiotic use and abuse: U.S. states with higher rates of antibiotic prescription have more obesity. The evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria could dramatically restrict modern medicine. Here’s what working physicians are doing to prevent that.
Here’s what we’ll be talking about while we’re waiting in line for a latte. And maybe some pie?
From Jeremy: Is it time for science communicators to find a model besides Carl Sagan? And is human (adaptive) evolution to blame for allergies?
From CJ: Honeybee colonies may be collapsing because of chronic exposure to fungicides as well as insecticides.
And finally, via Robert Krulwich, here’s why there’s always a ring around your glass of wine.
Here’s what we’ll be talking about while we’re waiting in line for a latte:
From Sarah: The National Zoo is taking a vote on what to call its new panda cub.
From CJ: How many ways are bats cool? Lots. How appropriately is the fuzzy bunny moth’s name? very. And, sadly, it looks like the western black rhino is extinct.
From Amy: Want to feel less bad about that experiment that just exploded? Wash you hands of that failure.
And from Jeremy: Behavior doesn’t fossilize, except when it does: The oldest-known fossils of insects in copula have just been unveiled.
Evolution by natural selection is not usually considered very peaceful—the “survival of the fittest” is usually assumed to come at the expense of competitors for food or shelter or other resources. But the “fittest” can also be those who recruit assistance from other individuals, or other species—and who provide assistance in return.
This was the perspective of Peter Kropotkin, a Russian prince and political anarchist who studied the wildlife of Siberia while working as an agent of the Czar’s government. In the harsh conditions of the Siberian winter, Kropotkin reported finding not a bitter struggle over scarce resources, but what he called “Mutual Aid” among species, as well as in the human settlements that managed to eke out a living.
Something like what Kropotkin described is documented in a new paper by Elizabeth Pringle and colleagues. Examining a protection mutualism between ants and the tropical Central American tree Cordia alliodora, Pringle et al. found that drier, more stressful environments supported more investment in the mutualism.
From Sarah: Grad School Barbie is probably not this year’s hot toy. And your lack of confidence with mathematics is probably not due to your genes.
From Jeremy: Dolphins and penguins and otters are actually not all that cute to each other. And a new review considers how human food waste distorts natural population dynamics.
For National Cat Day (which was Tuesday), CJ reminds us all that outdoor-living cats are really bad for outdoor-living wildlife.
Carlia longipes, looking right at home on a rock. Photo by berniedup.
Whether the weather be cold, or whether the weather be hot
we’ll be adapted whatever the weather, whether you like it or not.
Life is risky for a newly hatched lizard. You have to make your way in a habitat you’ve never seen before, full of all sorts of larger animals that think you’d make a decent snack, if maybe not a full meal. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could’ve been preparing for the conditions you’ll meet out there even before you crack through that shell?
Well, for one species of skinks, it looks like this may be exactly what happens. A recent paper in The American Naturalist makes the case that rainbow skinks (Carlia longipes) develop in their eggs to match the habitat conditions around their nest—based on the temperature of the nest.
Two years ago today, Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! launched with a welcome from me and a post about coevolutionary medicine from CJ. Since then, we’ve written about everything from mammoth extinction events to diet fads, from the rationality of science denialism to the selective effects of agriculture—and we’ve had a lot of fun doing it.
So what’s ahead for this fine blog? Well, the National Network for Child Care “Ages and Stages” resource has this to say about two-year-old
science blogs children:
Two-year-olds like to be independent! Favorite words are “Mine” and “No” and “I do it!” Emotions take on a roller coaster-like quality as 2-year-olds can go from excitement to anger to laughter within a few moments. A great deal of time is spent exploring, pushing, pulling, filling, dumping, and touching.
Here’s hoping our “terrible twos” are full of lots more exploring, and possibly also dumping. Also, we would like to apologize in advance if the Twitter feed gets a bit cranky when we run out of juice.
One of your future colleagues in the Smith Lab, hard at work in the field.
Friend of the blog—and longtime collaborator of mine—Chris Smith recently landed an NSF CAREER grant for new research on the causes of evolutionary divergence within the Joshua tree-yucca moth mutualism—and he’s looking for a postdoc to help with it!
The proposed work will take advantage of new genomic resources for the genus Yucca—Joshua tree population genetics is about to get a lot more powerful than the 10 microsatellite loci I used for my dissertation research. And it will involve fieldwork in the Mojave Desert, which is objectively one of the most beautiful empty spaces on the map of North America. Chris is on the faculty of Willamette University, which is an undergraduate institution, so the postdoc position is also a unique opportunity to do basic research in close coordination with an undergraduate teaching program.
Moreover, I can personally recommend Chris as a mentor and collaborator—to the extent that I’ve turned out to be a pretty decent scientist, he’s one of the principal reasons why. (And to the extent that I haven’t, well, that’s a reflection on me, not him.)
The complete job description, and instructions on how to apply, are after the jump.