Category Archives: evolution

On the way home: discussion with Dawkins

I’m cooling my heels at R*agan Airport in DC, which I’d prefer to call National Airport, its old name. I’ll be home about noon Chicago time. You may remember the first bit of this post’s title as a Beatles song; if you also remember the album it was on, you get extra credit. The event […]

Is creationism on the wane in America?

Every year or two since 1982, the Gallup Poll has surveyed Americans for their attitudes toward human evolution. (Note: it’s not evolution in general that’s surveyed by the question below, but human evolution. It’s entirely possible that more Americans would accept evolution in general if it’s construed as applying to all species except humans—in fact, that’s […]

Free article on the Scopes Trial

Scientific American recently made its January, 1959 issue available free to the public, but you have to go through a complex procedure of registering, ordering it for $ 0.00, and then downloading it when your order is accepted. Reader Barry has done the work for us and sent me a pdf of the issue. The […]

An evolutionary biologist misrepresents sexual selection in The New York Times

Friday’s New York Times contained an article on sexual selection in birds (link and title in the picture below) by Richard O. Prum, the William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History. Prum has a new book out, The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate […]

Bats use sonar to locate cactus flowers

Many cacti bloom at night, and that’s when the bats and moths are available for pollination. But since most bats locate prey by echolocation via sonar, how do they find the flowers? This is particularly crucial when those flowers stick out of cacti, for the bats approach the flower fast and hover before it while lapping nectar; […]

Why do cave fish evolve to become blind?

As you almost certainly know, animals from many groups have colonized caves, and more often than not they evolve to lose or reduce their eyes in the Stygian environment. But why? It’s hard to tell, for losing eyes takes thousands of generations, and we’re not around long enough to do experiments. I seem to recall an […]

The birds of paradise, David Attenborough, and science education

Last night I was in the airport hotel in Auckland, and was excited to see, among the many dire offerings on my room television, a one-hour BBC show on the birds of paradise featuring the wonderful David Attenborough. The photography was fantastic (see clips below), and of course Attenborough, who first documented these birds on […]

The peppered moth – a video

by Matthew Cobb The peppered moth story is one of the best examples of evolution in action. In this brief video, my final year student Tom Parry, tells the whole story, from 19th to 21st centuries. It includes interviews with my colleague Professor Laurence Cook, who carried out some of the recent research confirming how […]

CNN science completely botches natural selection in the headline, and is confusing in the text

I have little time to post this morning, but I call your attention to a really dreadful piece of science journalism at CNN. It refers to a new paper in PLoS Genetics by Arslan Zaidi et al. (reference below, free access) describing how natural selection based on climate (temperature and humidity) may have molded the nose shape […]

Defining species: a new but problematic species concept

A few days ago I was interviewed by Eva Botkin-Kowacki, a science writer for the Christian Science Monitor. She wanted to discuss a new paper on speciation in birds, a commentary published in The Auk by Geoffrey E. Hill of Auburn University: “The mitonuclear compatibility species concept” (free download, reference at bottom). She also interviewed several other […]