Category Archives: Adaptations

How the tapir got his spots II

by Greg Mayer I promised baby tapirs, so here are baby tapirs! (From Zooborns.) Adult Malay tapirs, as you’ll recall, are particolored: The three other species of tapir, all from the Americas, also have spotted/striped young. Here’s a lowland tapir, found throughout much of cis-Andean tropical South America; the others are very similar in appearance. […]

How the tapir got his spots

by Greg Mayer A while back Jerry posted a video of lion cubs at the Tulsa Zoo, and noted that they have spots, remarking Many species of cats show this pattern in the cubs, even if the pattern disappears with growth.  It almost certainly reflects (as discussed in WEIT), an atavistic trait: the persistence in […]

New stuff in Science

Science isn’t really known for publishing a lot of work on organismal or evolutionary biology (Nature is much better at that), but there are two nice papers in the latest issue: “Tiger Moth Jams Bat Sonar”. This is the punchiest title of a scientific paper I’ve seen in years: not a word longer than five […]

Are Komodo dragons venomous?

by Greg Mayer Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) are the world’s largest living lizards, reaching 10 feet in length, and are restricted to the islands of Komodo, Rintja, Padar, and Flores in Indonesia. In a soon to be published paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (abstract), Brian Fry of the University of […]

How the giraffe got its long neck II

by Greg Mayer In a previous post on how giraffes got their long necks, I noted that this was a venerable question in biology. The contrast between a Lamarckian and Darwinian explanation of how giraffes got their long necks has long been a popular example in introductory textbooks. My high school textbook (Biological Sciences Curriculum […]

How the giraffe got its long neck

by Greg Mayer Matthew Cobb has kindly called my attention to this piece from the BBC about this soon to be published paper (pdf) in the Journal of Zoology by Graham Mitchell, S.J. van Sittert, and John Skinner on the neck of the giraffe. How giraffes got their long necks is a venerable question in […]

Happy Easter — Aussie style

I’m back, with lots to say, but lots of catching up to do on the day job. Let me first thank Matthew Cobb for a terrific job of filling in. His students get the benefit of his omnivorous readings in the form of a Z (zoology)-letter he sends out weekly, detailing all sorts of interesting […]

Happy Birthday, Lungless Frog!

by Matthew Cobb A year ago, a brief paper appeared in Current Biology, written by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and from Indonesia, describing the Bornean flat-headed frog, Barbourula kalimantanensis. The frog was first described in 1978, and on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List it is described as […]

Recent natural selection in human populations

A bunch of high-powered genomics people have just come out with a paper in Genome Research surveying the human genome for recent signs of natural selection (which you can assess by looking at the patterns of DNA variation around various genes).  You can get the original paper (reference and abstract below) here as a pdf […]

The wonders of camouflage

by Matthew Cobb Hello everyone, Jerry has kindly (or foolishly) handed over the reins of the WEIT blog to me for the next 10 days or so. See if you can spot the difference! Some of the most spectacular signs of evolutionary  adaptation are the many examples of camouflage shown by animals. Although many examples […]