Category Archives: evolution

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 […]

Whence the beaver? They’re kangaroo rats, not squirrels!

Of course the title is clickbait, but it does express a new finding: that, among Rodentia (yes, beavers are rodents), whose phylogeny was till now a bit unclear, we now learn that beavers are more closely related to kangaroo rats than to squirrels. For a long time, beavers had been thought to be closely related to […]

Video series of WEIT (Chapter 1)

Treat Paine Metcalf of MassComprehension is producing a series of online videos using the words from Chapter 1 of Why Evolution is True. Part 3 has just come out, and two more videos remain. (No other chapters will be done). Here’s the latest, and you can find all three at this link. This is part […]

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 […]