Category Archives: evolution

The new family tree of birds (spot the nightjar!)

Last December 12, the journal Science included a paper by Erich Jarvis et al. (reference and free download below) that undertook an ambitious revision of the family tree of birds. Although I read it when it came out, I didn’t post about it as I simply didn’t have the time (it takes about 4 hours to read […]

A new and bizarre shape-shifting frog

Instead of going to church today, we can have our special Alain de Botton-Approved Religion Substitute by worshiping at the church of Our Lady of Natural History. There is in fact a wonderful new discovery about frogs, one described in a new paper in the Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society by Juan Guayasamin et al. […]

My review of “Evolving Ourselves” in WaPo

A while back I wrote a review of a new book by Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans: Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation Are Changing Life on Earth. That review has just appeared in the Washington Post (free online at the link). For reasons that escape me, it’s in the “opinion” section, though perhaps the Post doesn’t have a […]

New paper shows that Nowak et al. were wrong: kin selection remains a valuable concept in evolutionary biology

In 2010 three authors—Martin Nowak, Corina Tarnita, and E. O. Wilson—published a paper in Nature (reference and link below) purporting to explain the evolution of eusociality in insects: the phenomenon whereby a colony contains different “castes” that perform different tasks, and at least one caste is sterile.  In bees, for example, there is usually a single fertile […]

Teaching evolution in Kentucky—with accommodationism

When I first gave a talk at the University of Kentucky in 2010 (could it really have been five years ago?), I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Krupa, a biologist and natural historian with wide interests, and with a reputation as an excellent teacher (see here for my visit to his lab). Krupa has now written […]

Britain: a marvelous mongrel mix of migrants

JAC: I asked Matthew—actually, I twisted his arm—to tell us a bit about the new paper in Nature dissecting the genetic composition of inhabitants of the UK, which showed lovely genetic clusters reflecting history and ancestry. Of course, as the “race critics” would assure us, those clusters are only social constructs! by Matthew Cobb One of the key issues in […]

Bill Nye revises his anti-GMO views

Since I’ve criticized Bill Nye for his scientifically unjustified warnings about GMOs (genetically modified organisms; see here and here for my earlier posts), I thought it only fair to add that he now seems to have modified those views. According to Dan Arel, Nye’s walked back his unwarranted fears, which of course could have been influential given his […]

Adam Gopnik: Why we should quiz politicians about their views of evolution

In honor of Darwin Day, writer Adam Gopnik penned a piece at the Nov. 19 Daily Comment site at the New Yorker: “The evolution catechism.” It’s about why politicians should be asked what they think about evolution: that is, whether they accept it or not. Some writers have argued that that question should be off limits, for who cares if […]

Cultural commentator Philomena Cunk discusses evolution

by Matthew Cobb We can all learn something from this video: [JAC: After some puzzlement and quizzing of Dr. Cobb, I found out that this is a spoof of Brian Cox’s television series “Wonders of Life,” and the presenter is the comedian Diane Morgan, who uses the name Philomena Cunk. It was created by satirist Charlie Brooker. […]

A tail of moths and bats: a novel anti-predator trait

The Saturniidae is a large family of moths (ca. 2300 species), and is also a family of large moths, including some of the world’s biggest and most beautiful. Here’s one of them: the luna moth (Actias luna); this one’s a female. Notice two features of this insect: the long “tails” on the rear wing, and the eyespots on […]


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