Category Archives: evolution

Ancestry. . . . or convergence?

In Experimental Parasitology, two scientists have proposed that “macrophages”—specialized white blood cells that, as part of the immune system, destroy invaders like microbes, are descended from an amoeba. This is based largely on the morphological resemblance of a macrophage and the amoeba, and on the fact that they both eat microorganisms. See the similarity? But this […]

The fallacy of the creationist distinction between micro- and macroevolution

I’ve belabored this issue before, but there’s always a new crop of readers who might need a lesson. I’m talking about a common creationist trope: the claim that microevolution can occur, usually defined as “evolution within a species” or “evolution within a kind” (whatever a “kind” is), but that macroevolution—seen as a transition from one “kind” […]

Why are giant pandas colored that way? Answer: It’s complicated

Admit it: you’ve wondered, because you’re interested in evolution, why giant pandas are colored that way: “parti-colored”, as they say in the trade. (Their Latin binomial, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, means “cat-foot, black and white”.) Here’s one, in the extremely unlikely case you’ve forgotten: No other bear looks anything like that. A new paper in Behavioral Ecology by Tim Caro […]

Michio Kaku gets human evolution all wrong on The Big Thunk

UPDATE: I forgot that I had an earlier post showing Kaku embarrassing himself about his own field, also on The Big Thunk. Go here to see the fun. ___________ When I saw this video on Larry Moran’s Sandwalk site, I remembered an old Jewish joke that goes something like this (“schnorrer,” by the way, is […]

A clever new hypothesis about insect mimicry

Over the years I’ve written here about several kinds of mimicry. The most common subjects have been Batesian mimicry, in which the evolutionary scenario involves three species: an easily identifiable and noxious or toxic model, a predator that learns (or has evolved) to avoid the model (signal receiver), and an edible mimic that evolves to resemble the model. You can […]

Spiffy Darwin “Origin” tee shirt

Reader Peter called my attention to this lovely Origin of Species tee shirt. I know I’ve put it up before, but here it is again, and it has 40,000 words of The Origin on it imprinted by dye sublimation. That’s not the whole book by any means: as my friend Andrew Berry just found out by […]

Niche construction: does it represent a “vastly neglected phenomenon” in evolutionary thought?

“Niche construction” is a new term in evolutionary biology—indeed, a buzzword—although the idea has been around under other rubrics for years. It is the idea that the niche of an organism is not something static, imposed by its environment, but that the organism, as it evolves in behavior, morphology, and physiology, can change its environment […]

A new Field Museum video on non-alternative fact

This new short video, including several of my colleagues at Chicago’s Field Museum, shows scientists at the Museum standing up for the facts about ecology and evolution. I like that, and I also like the absence of anything overtly political. But of course we all know why this was made: it is a political video made in reaction to the […]

Terrible science reporting at the Guardian: woolly mammoth “on verge of resurrection”? I doubt it, and Matthew corrects it

George Church, a well known geneticist at Harvard, is renowned for his contributions to methods of sequencing DNA as well as of “bioengineering” DNA by changing it using the CRISPR technique, which he helped develop. CRISPR gives us the ability to precisely edit DNA, inserting individual nucleotides, bits of genes, or whole genes and groups of […]

Tweets from Darwin Day

I thought I was through with Darwin Day, but I’ve got Chuck on the brain.  It may seem odd for biologists to hold him in such esteem (creationists often say, mistakenly, that we worship him and find no flaws in his work), but the fact remains that, more than any other scientist, he got things right […]