After a species goes extinct, in some cases its "ghost"
may linger in the ecosystem it leaves behind in the form of evolutionary anachronisms. [more inside]
posted by brundlefly
on Dec 18, 2013 -
"The majority of fossil discoveries worth publishing about can either strengthen previous studies or dish out little parcels of new data. These allow us to slowly piece together the history of life on Earth, but do not significantly rock the boat. But every now and then you are confronted with a jaw-dropping specimen, a fossil that says, “forget the textbooks, THIS is how it happened…” Momentous discoveries like Lucy the Australopithecus and the first batch of Chinese feathered dinosaurs that unleashed a tsunami of new information, bringing sudden clarity to our view of the distant past, and forcing us to rethink what we thought we knew about evolution. Now joining their ranks is a little armoured fish called Entelognathus
, described in Nature
by an international team of researchers led by Prof. Zhu Min at IVPP, Beijing." [more inside]
posted by Akhu
on Sep 26, 2013 -
What, really, is a wolf-dog??
Wolf-dogs already blur the line between dog and wolf - BUT things get really muddy if dogs are proven to have evolved themselves
: "The evolutionarily correct way to state all this is that human beings, with their campfires and garbage heaps and hunting practices, but above all with their social interactions, represented an ecological niche ripe for exploitation by wolves."
posted by huckhound
on Aug 18, 2013 -
Selfish traits not favoured by evolution, study shows
"Evolution does not favour selfish people, according to new research.
This challenges a previous theory which suggested it was preferable to put yourself first.
Instead, it pays to be co-operative, shown in a model of "the prisoner's dilemma", a scenario of game theory - the study of strategic decision-making.
Published in Nature Communications, the team says their work shows that exhibiting only selfish traits would have made us become extinct. "
posted by marienbad
on Aug 2, 2013 -
The results of the Cambrian explosion are well documented in the fossil record
, but its cause -- why and when it happened, and perhaps why nothing similar has happened since -- has been a mystery. Now a recent paper
in Nature (abstract
) suggests that the answer may lie in a second geological curiosity -- a dramatic boundary, known as the Great Unconformity
, between ancient igneous and metamorphic rocks and younger sediments.
posted by Long Way To Go
on Jun 23, 2013 -
"For nearly two centuries, biologists have been struck by a mystery of geography and biodiversity peculiar to Europe. As Edward Forbes pointed out as far back as 1846, there are a number of life forms (including the Kerry slug, a particular species of strawberry tree and the Pyrenean glass snail) that are found in two specific distant places—Ireland and the Iberian Peninsula—but few areas in between." -- How did a specific snail species from the Pyrenees end up in Ireland but nowhere else
posted by MartinWisse
on Jun 23, 2013 -
Is it time to put natural selection in its place?
Jello Biafra once famously wrote that "If evolution is outlawed, only outlaws will evolve.
" But while it likely comes as no surprise to specialists working in the field or to those who've been following developments in evolutionary biology closely, there's an emerging view among experts that Darwin's view of natural selection as the primary driver of speciation and evolutionary change may be incorrect or at least drastically overstated. It's long been understood that non-adaptive evolutionary mechanisms like "genetic drift
" and random mutation also play non-trivial roles in evolutionary processes, but a recent study
(link to abstract with full-text PDF available) casts new doubts on the primary role of natural selection, finding that "Neutral models, in which genetic change arises through random variation without fitness differences have proven remarkably successful in describing observed patterns of biodiversity." [more inside]
posted by saulgoodman
on Mar 28, 2013 -
Evolution of Mom Dancing [SLYT]
In honor of the First Lady's "Let's Move" campaign, and to encourage parents everywhere to get up and get moving with their kids, Jimmy Fallon and Michelle Obama present the "Evolution of Mom Dancing."
posted by Fizz
on Feb 23, 2013 -
Even though you've heard of Darwin, it's quite possible that you're not familiar with Alfred Russel Wallace
), co-discoverer of the theory of evolution (a shame; in many respects he's the more interesting of the two!). Fortunately you can now learn more about the man through transcripts and scans of his letters with family and colleagues, which the UK Natural History Museum have just published online
. [more inside]
posted by barnacles
on Jan 29, 2013 -
Group selection, which was once widely rejected as a significant evolutionary force, is now accepted by all who seriously study the subject. There is still widespread confusion about group selection, however, not only among students and the general public, but among professional evolutionists who do not directly study the subject. We list eight criticisms that are frequently invoked against group selection, which can be permanently laid to rest based upon current knowledge. Experts will always find something to critique about group selection, as for any important subject, but these eight criticisms are not among them. Laying them to rest will enable authors to openly use the term group selection without being handicapped during the review process. [HTML]
posted by Blasdelb
on Jan 15, 2013 -
The Norovirus: A Study in Puked Perfection
, "Each norovirus carries just nine protein-coding genes (you have about 20,000). Even with that skimpy genetic toolkit, noroviruses can break the locks on our cells, slip in, and hack our own DNA to make new noroviruses. The details of this invasion are sketchy, alas, because scientists haven’t figured out a good way to rear noroviruses in human cells in their labs. It’s not even clear exactly which type of cell they invade once they reach the gut. Regardless of the type, they clearly know how to exploit their hosts. Noroviruses come roaring out of the infected cells in vast numbers. And then they come roaring out of the body. Within a day of infection, noroviruses have rewired our digestive system so that stuff comes flying out from both ends." [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb
on Jan 3, 2013 -
It is common behavior for humans to develop an avatar to present a larger-than-life version of themselves on the web, often as a defense mechanism. For the first time, this activity has been observed in another species
posted by oulipian
on Dec 19, 2012 -