Category Archives: evolution

Comics and convergent evolution in trees

Here’s a recent xkcd strip called “Magic tree”, which has an evolutionary twist: When you “mouse over” the strip, you see this: In other words, artist Randall Munroe is giving a humorous example of “convergent evolution,” in which those trees that most closely resemble cellphone towers are those that leave their genes. This form of evolution […]

Friday afternoon evolution cartoon

Someone should make a book out of these “fish evolving out of the water” cartoons. There must be hundreds of them by now (add a link to your favorite below). This one is by Dan Piraro from Bizarro!

Matthew Cobb answers questions about evolution and animal sniffers

Manchester Life Sciences has posted a new YouTube video in its “Ask a Scientist” series, and the scientist to ask happens to be our own Matthew Cobb. In this 15-minute video he takes on six questions about evolution and about his own speciality: olfaction. It’s very interesting: click on either screenshot below to go to the video: Our hero! […]

Holocaust trauma: is it epigenetically inherited?

TRIGGER WARNING: Long and detailed discussion of a genetics paper. There are now several examples of modifications of an individual’s appearance and behavior by the environment, and of those modifications affecting the individual’s genes, usually by attaching methyl bases to specific nucleotides in the DNA sequence. This is a form of environmentally induced epigenetic modification. Usually, though, modification […]

The cartoon that has it all

As reader Ben Goren said when sending me this Non Sequitur strip by Wiley Miller, it has it all: evolution, faith, and cats!   But it also shows one of Americans’ most common misconceptions about evolution: that what evolves are individuals over their lifetimes, not populations over long periods of time. This is a common misunderstanding […]

Why sex? Experiments on fruit flies suggest it evolved to resist infection

Of course there’s a proximate reason, at least in our species, to the question above: “Why sex?” That answer is fatuous but true: “Because it feels good.” Of course it feels good—because pleasurable orgasms and the desire to copulate are the evolutionary cues prompting us to leave our genes via mating. But why mate with another individual in […]

Ontario schools require teaching evolution—except human evolution

A Canadian reader sent me an item from his/her website, Darwinquixote. The post is called “Be careful, evolution is behind you.” The topic is the teaching of evolution in Ontario: apparently provincial standards mandate that while evolution be taught in public secondary schools, they don’t require the teaching of human evolution. Human exceptionalism when it […]

WTF, transitional forms?

How dare he??? Source: many places

Why do animal species vary so much in the shape of pupils in their eyes?

Here’s a picture of some animal pupils from National Public Radio. The website showed them because they’re the subject of a new paper by M. S. Banks et al. in Sciences Advances (reference below; free download). The paper asks an interesting question: why do the pupils of vertebrate species vary so widely in shape? (Supplementary material, […]

Frogs use highly venomous head spines as weapons against predators

Well, my headline might be a bit misleading, as we’re not sure whether the unusual spines of these frogs are used as (or evolved to be) deterrents to predators, but it’s highly likely. A researcher who grabbed one of the frogs I’m about to describe reports this sensation: One of us (C.J.) was injured on the hand by […]

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