Category Archives: evolution

The 12 days of evolution. #7: Why do males have nipples?

The seventh video in the 12-episode series produced by PBS/It’s Okay to be Smart (I’m putting them up in order) is about a question that always excited my undergraduate students: why do male mammals have nipples? One undergraduate whom I taught about two decades ago told me recently that he’d forgotten almost everything I taught in introductory […]

The 12 days of evolution. #6: The imperfection of evolution

Today’s video, part of the PBS/It’s Okay to Be Smart collaboration, highlights the “dumbness” of evolution: the fact that it has no foresight, and therefore devises solutions—I’m speaking metaphorically here—that are less perfect than an engineer could come up with de novo. One of the most famous jerry-rigged and imperfect “adaptations” is the mammalian recurrent […]

Special journal issue on women in evolutionary biology

The latest issue of Evolutionary Applications, a journal that’s new to me, has devoted its latest issue to “Women’s contributions to basic and applied evolutionary biology.” And it’s all open access, that is, FREE. It’s not really about women in evolutionary biology; rather, it highlights the research contributions of women in the field; so the articles, […]

12 days of evolution. #5: Have we seen new species arise?

This is a video after my own heart, since it’s about speciation: the splitting of a single lineage into two or more lineages unable to exchange genes. The question at hand, since this series—put together by PBS and “It’s Okay to be Smart”—is a long refutation of common creationist arguments, is this one: “Can we […]

Twelve days of evolution. #4: Can evolution really make an eye?

Here’s the fourth video in the “Twelve days of evolution” series produced by PBS and “It’s okay to be smart”. It’s about the evolution of the eye: This is a pretty good explication of how to refute the creationist claim that eyes couldn’t have evolved by natural selection, and were therefore created de novo. That […]

Twelve days of evolution. #3: Have we seen evolution in real time?

This short video, about evolution in real time, is the best yet in the sequence of the “Twelve Days of Evolution” videos, produced by PBS and “It’s Okay to be Smart. ” I’ll be presenting, reviewing, and annotating these over the holidays: The creationist canard dispelled here is the idea that if we can’t see evolution in […]

Monday mites: the evolution of human hair mites (you have them!)

There are two species of “face mites,” Demodex, that live on humans. One, D. folliculorum, lives mostly on the hair follicles, and mostly on the face. It’s small (0.1-0.4 mm), has a transparent body with four pair of anterior legs (remember, mites are arachnids), and nearly all of us harbor them. They’re harmless, although in large numbers they […]

Twelve days of evolution. #2: Is evolution random?

We continue with the PBS/”It’s ok to be smart” collaboration that’s produced twelve videos on evolution for the holiday season. Here’s #2: “Is evolution random?” It’s better than yesterday’s video on what evolution is, but of course the petulant PCC(E) has two beefs—though they’re trivial. First, the DNA sequence of an organism isn’t really like […]

Twelve Days of Evolution: #1: What’s evolution?

I’ve just noticed that this is post #12,002 since we began nearly six years ago. That’s a lot of posts! “It’s okay to be smart” and PBS are producing a series of short videos, “Twelve days of evolution.” I’ll put up one a day, which should ultimately take us close to the end of Coynezaa. This first one explains what […]

The irony of natural selection

Although most mutations in the DNA that affect fitness are harmful, without mutations there would be no evolution. Evolution depends on the genetic variation created by mutation, and although there are other ways to change DNA beyond conventional mutations (horizontal gene transfer is one, though in effect it acts like a big mutation), in general evolution would […]


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