Category Archives: genetics

A highly polydactylous cat (name it!)

Reader Taskin has a friend with a new kitten, one that has extra toes. There are 24, to be exact—six more than the normal number of 18 (five on each front paw, four on the rear). The cat, located in Canada, was obtained from the Humane Society, as it had been abandoned in an apartment […]

A gynandromorph moth comes to the light – and tells a story about science

by Matthew Cobb This tw**t popped up in my feed the other night, from “wildlife illustrator and invertebrate enthusiast” Richard Lewington [Richard has a website showing his art here]. Richard was running a moth trap in the night when he found this beauty: Very weird moth last night, bilateral gynandromorph Turnip. Male left, female right […]

Deep into that darkness peering: an all-black chicken (with all-black meat)

by Grania Boing Boing ran an article a couple of weeks ago on the Ayam Cemani chicken, mostly because it is all black but also because it makes for a really expensive dish if you want to eat one. Chicks retail at $199 each and Wikipedia observes that an individual bird can go for $2500. Here’s a hen: And […]

Holocaust trauma: is it epigenetically inherited?

TRIGGER WARNING: Long and detailed discussion of a genetics paper. There are now several examples of modifications of an individual’s appearance and behavior by the environment, and of those modifications affecting the individual’s genes, usually by attaching methyl bases to specific nucleotides in the DNA sequence. This is a form of environmentally induced epigenetic modification. Usually, though, modification […]

Adam Rutherford’s article on epigenetics invokes profusion of angry tw**ts from Deepak Chopra and his minions

Since I started this website, I’ve written many posts on epigenetics, a term that now refers to modification of the nucleotide base composition of DNA by the environment or by other genes. Such modification—usually involving attachment of methyl groups to two of the four bases that make up DNA—may have significant effects on the organism, ranging from changed behavior to […]

The secrets of life – two videos

by Matthew Cobb In June, the Royal Institution in London hosted two talks about the origins of life, one by myself, the other by Nick Lane of UCL. The talks were partly a way of publicising our books (my Life’s Greatest Secret: The Race to Crack the Genetic Code, and Nick’s The Vital Question: Why […]

NYT quotes my post on the Bogotá twins—without permission

I suppose the “fair use” policy allows magazines and newspapers to quote this website without permission, but it would have been nice had the New York Times asked me before quoting part of my post about Susan Dominus’s wonderful NYT Sunday Magazine piece on the mixed-up twins of Bogotá. (Do read her piece if you get a chance; […]

An amazing tale of identical twins (two pairs!) swapped and raised apart

Reader Dorsa Amir called my attention to a story by Susan Dominus in today’s New York Times magazine, “The mixed-up brothers of Bogotá.” It tells a bizarre tale of swapped twins that gives clues about the genetic basis of human behavior. It turns out that two pair of identical twins were born in Colombia at the same time, […]

Inbreeding depression in man

by Greg Mayer In a paper soon to appear in Nature, Peter K. Joshi and a cast of thousands show that inbreeding can make you shorter, ‘dumber’, and less likely to succeed in school, but not a blowhard. In a study of hundreds of thousands of people from dozens of populations from all over the […]

A miracle? Sawfish born of a virgin mother

It’s been known for a while that many species, including some vertebrates, can reproduce without sexual reproduction. But of course to observe this, one usually needs to keep animals in the lab and then see them produce offspring without ever having mated. But a new article in Current Biology by Andrew Fields et al. (reference below, abstract […]


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