Category Archives: evolution

How many species of tropical trees are there?

I’m not going to get into the long-debated issue of why the tropics are so much richer in species than the temperate zones (theories include physical disturbance, coevolutionary pressures, higher temperature that accelerates evolution, and so on). There is no consensus, but let me just present some data showing the huge difference, data collected in […]

Cooperative hunting in groupers and moray eels

Here’s a short video from Nature that isn’t based on a single research paper, but on the continuing work of Redouan Bshary, a biologist in Switzerland who studies interspecific communication and behavior in fish.  The article itself, a summary of Bshary’s work written by Alison Abbott, is called “Animal behaviour: Inside the cunning, caring and greedy minds […]

Putative amphibian fossil shows “broken” bone; said to be first indication of terrestriality

Now this paper is way above my pay grade, as it involves all kinds of complicated scanning, computer, and mathematical analysis of a “fishapod” fossil. The conclusion, from a new paper in PLoS ONE by Peter Bishop et al., is that the fossil, Ossinodus sp., shows a callus on its radius (one of the two lower […]

Evolutionary convergence in swimming fins

In this video from the New York Time’s James Gorman, we see an evolutionary convergence: in unrelated creatures that swim with a single undulating fin, the length of the “wave” propagating along that fin is about 20 times longer than the side-to-side displacement of the fin. This ratio has evolved repeatedly. Why is that? Gorman […]

Articles: odds and ends

Professor Ceiling Cat is a bit low today for reasons I’ll describe in the next post. The upshot is that my brain hurts and I have nothing substantive to say, at least for a few hours. In light of that lacuna, let me call your attention to three articles that you may want to read. ******* […]

Google Doodle: Mother’s Day

When I first saw today’s Google Doodle, with the initial animation of a goose nurturing its young, I thought it must be Konrad Lorenz’s birthday.  But then the cheetahs and rabbits appeared, and I knew Lorenz didn’t study those. Then I had my “aha” moment: it’s Mother’s Day. What I like about the Doodle is […]

New fossils: the world’s earliest known bird

Here’s a short scientific report (yesterday’s didn’t inspire much enthusiasm)—short because much of the paleontology is beyond my expertise, as the paper consists largely of describing features I’m not familiar with. But this new paper in Nature by Min Wang et al. (link and reference below) is quite important, for it describes what appears to be the earliest […]

The kin selection argument continues, with those denying its importance holding firm. They’re wrong.

In 2010, Martin Nowak, Corina Tarnita, and E. O. Wilson wrote a paper in Nature (reference and link below) arguing that “kin selection,” selection based on relatedness (shared alleles among nestmates) was not—as had long been maintained—a key factor in the evolution of “eusocial” insects. (Those are species in which there are nonreproductive “castes” of workers, […]

More on the dino-bat Yi qi

Five days ago I wrote about the new Nature paper revealing the “dino-bat” fossil Yi qi, a bizarre species of theropod that had feathers but also membranous wings like a bat—and a special new bone, evolved from the wrist, that supported its wing. It isn’t clear whether this creature could fly, but it surely could […]

Simon Conway Morris’s new book once again claims that the evolution of human-like creatures was inevitable. He’s wrong.

Paleontologist Simon Conway Morris has a new book on science coming out, coincidentally, on the same day as mine, and I’m sure that his has religious overtones. The book is called Runes of Evolution: How the Universe Became Self Aware, and, predictably, is published by Templeton Press. Templeton simply laps up books like this. Here’s part of the publisher’s […]


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