New research from evolutionary scientist Bruce Lahn suggests that humans and the now extinct
Neanderthal species mixed, and humans snatched up a valuable brain gene in the process. (The gene, MCPH1, and Lahn, discussed last year
on MeFi) This comes on the tails of yet another new study providing morphological evidence
that there was nontrivial interbreeding between humans and Neanderthals in Eurasia, despite the fact that Neanderthals may have been genetically closer to chimps
than humans. Contrary to popular imagination, though, the Neanderthal species had bigger brains and sophisticated intellects
, at least roughly on par with that of human beings. The gene regulates brain size during development, but its exact utility to humans is still unknown (and controversial
). The origin of this gene and the question of Neanderthal mixing will soon be answered more definitively by the, just launched, 2 year project to map the Neanderthal genome
, headed by Svante Pääbo (profiled in recent Smithsonian
articles). Pääbo calls
Lahn’s study "the most compelling case to date for a genetic contribution of Neandertals to modern humans."
posted by Jason Malloy
on Nov 8, 2006 -
"Pandas are endangered because they are utterly incompetent... Pandas are badly designed, undersexed, overpaid and overprotected. They went up an evolutionary cul-de-sac and it is too late to reverse."
posted by kliuless
on Jul 2, 2006 -
Sexual ornaments grow out of all proportion
It seems that men will be men throughout the animal kindom, not just our little lonely corner of of it.
Most body parts grow proportionally with the rest of the body as individuals of a species become larger, although scientists have long known that visual cues of reproductive prowess are a special case.
But is this the case with everyone
posted by pezdacanuck
on May 23, 2006 -
the origin of fun bags.
The age old question of where breasts came from may
have finally been answered!
[boobs] first evolved as an immunoprotective gland that produced bacteriocidal secretions to protect the skin and secondarily eggs and infants, and that lactation is a highly derived kind of inflammation response. [...] Milk is actually a kind of anti-microbial snot mixed in with a lot of fat and sugar.
All vertebrates have an innate immune system consisting of molecules which are hostile to microbes. It appears that the nutritional content of the milk is a product of mutation and repurposing of these immunological molecules! Xanthine oxidoreductase, which produces natural preservatives and disinfectants is also responsible for the essential role of encapsulating fat droplets which promotes suspension in water. Lactose (sugar) "requires a specific synthetic complex consisting of β-1,4 galactosyltransferase and α-lactalbumin for its production." As it turns out, α-lactalbumin is a modified (mutated) version of an awesome little molecule that literally skins bacteria alive - lysozyme!
posted by Tryptophan-5ht
on May 20, 2006 -
just won't go away. New evidence suggests the development of the human embryo
mirrors our species' course of evolution. This guy
seems to be stirring up all kinds of trouble these days. It makes me wonder: does this new information help determine the quality of being human
? From the link: "Another supposed vagary produced by the abortion issue is the question as to when the embryo or fetus becomes human. Rivers Singleton, Jr. states in his article in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, that, for some, conception defines the point of being human, whereas, for others, various periods of development suffice to 'distinguish human from non-humans
posted by narwhal
on May 19, 2006 -
evolution of cooperation
apparently the evolution of cooperative behavior has been something of a rough spot for evolution researchers. Some guys (Mikhail Burtsev & Peter Turchin
) developed a computer simulation that helps to explain how the essential selfishness of survival is not mutually exclusive to altruism and cooperation as well as how these behaviors can arise naturally. (further reading from google: ###
posted by Tryptophan-5ht
on May 8, 2006 -
- an interesting read on artificial life
and evolutionary computation
, from the game of life
), through core wars
and on to genetic programming
. This approach has recently borne fruit to genetic programming pioneer
and inventor of the scratchcard
, John Koza
, who last year patented his invention machine
, actually a 1000 machine beowulf cluster
running his software, which has itself created several inventions
which have been granted patents.
[See also: BBC Biotopia artificial life experiment
, another odd BBC evolution game
, Artificial Life Possibilities: A Star Trek Perspective
posted by MetaMonkey
on May 3, 2006 -
(Embedded .swf). This animated story of life since about 13,700,000,000 shows everything from the big bang to the formation of the earth and the development of bacteria and other organisms to the ascent of man and humans effect on the earth. Other work discussed one year ago yesterday, what an evolution! (The animation is pretty large, you may have to scroll your screen, or just open the .swf directly)
posted by pithy comment
on Apr 18, 2006 -
The night's event
featured speakers Daniel C. Dennett, Matt Ridley, Sir John Krebs, Ian McEwan, and -- the man himself -- Richard Dawkins. It was, as you might suspect (based on the title), an event celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of Dawkins' seminal work
If you didn't get a chance to attend, you can still read the full transcript or stream/download the audio of it in MP3 format (many thanks to Helena Cronin, founder/director of Darwin@LSE
, for hosting the file).
Thanks to 3QD
for the link.
posted by Moody834
on Mar 26, 2006 -
"I am under censure for mentioning numbers...." "I am instructed NOT to use hard numbers when telling kids how old rocks are. I am supposed to say that these rocks are VERY VERY OLD... but I am NOT to say that these Ordovician rocks are thought to be about 300 million years old."
Essentially, they are not allowing Bob to teach a certain set of scientific data in order to protect their ability to provide students the good science curriculum they do teach. The directors... have heard from them more than enough times that teaching evolution would be "political suicide".
In Arkansas, even supporters of teaching evolution
feel they must hide, obfuscate, and water-down evolution.
posted by orthogonality
on Mar 23, 2006 -
A monstrous discovery
suggests that viruses, long regarded as lowly evolutionary latecomers, may have been the precursors of all life on Earth.
"We haven't even begun to scratch the surface. The numbers are mind-boggling. If you put every virus particle on Earth together in a row, they would form a line 10 million light-years long. People, even most biologists, don't have a clue. The general public thinks genetic diversity is us and birds and plants and animals and that viruses are just HIV and the flu. But most of the genetic material on this planet is viruses. No question about it. They and their ability to interact with organisms and move genetic material around are the major players in driving speciation, in determining how organisms even become what they are."
posted by five fresh fish
on Feb 17, 2006 -
Before the class, Crocker had told me that she was going to teach "the strengths and weaknesses of evolution." Afterward, I asked her whether she was going to discuss the evidence for evolution in another class. She said no.
A "Biology 101" class turns into a gripe session for creationists
at a state school, the Northern Virginia Community College. The lecturer then whines about being discriminated against when she fails to teach the subject she's hired to teach.
posted by orthogonality
on Feb 5, 2006 -
BBC News: British unconvinced on evolution
"More than half the British population does not accept the theory of evolution, according to a survey.
Furthermore, more than 40% of those questioned believe that creationism or intelligent design should be taught in school science lessons."
Nice to know that the maxim for the UK being five years behind the US still holds true, more or less.
posted by badlydubbedboy
on Jan 26, 2006 -
The Clergy Letter Project
has completed acquiring 10,000 signatures from clergy around the country. Their stated goal: For too long, the misperception that science and religion are inevitably in conflict has created unnecessary division and confusion, especially concerning the teaching of evolution. I wanted to let the public know that numerous clergy from most denominations have tremendous respect for evolutionary theory and have embraced it as a core component of human knowledge, fully harmonious with religious faith.
They've declared February 12, 2006 as Evolution Sunday
, a day when "hundreds of Christian churches from all portions of the country and a host of denominations will come together to discuss the compatibility of religion and science."
posted by thanotopsis
on Jan 25, 2006 -
The Cute Factor:
"Cute cues are those that indicate extreme youth, vulnerability, harmlessness and need, scientists say..." (NY Times registration req'd)
posted by shivohum
on Jan 7, 2006 -
is San Francisco's newest museum. The Museum of the African Diaspora is the latest addition to the SOMA neighborhood's expanding cultural riches, and promises to be fascinating (and, as far as I can tell, unique in the world). [more inside]
posted by trip and a half
on Nov 30, 2005 -
“Once we realize that Deep Time
can never support narratives of evolution, we are forced to accept that virtually everything we thought we knew about evolution is wrong.”
It’s not the latest salvo from the proponents of intelligent design... [more inside]
posted by nanojath
on Nov 25, 2005 -