Friday coffee break: Potato blight, phylogenetics 101, and venemous FAQs

2010.03.24 - Breakfast

From Amy: Analysis of DNA from museum specimens has identified the pathogen responsible for the Irish Potato Famine of 1845.

…the strain that changed history is different from modern day epidemics, and is probably now extinct.

From Sarah: Digital visualizations may be making it easier to teach students how to understand evolutionary trees. As in, for instance, this visualization of the phylogeny of birds.

Taxa appear as dots whose relative spatial distances are determined by phylogenetic relatedness. When reading a cladogram, the intuitive impulse to infer relatedness from spatial distance between branch tips inevitably leads to error. The DEM works with this intuition, rather than against it.

From Jeremy: Hard as it may be to believe, this FAQ about dealing with the bites of venemous snakes just keeps getting better as you go down.