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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Carnival of Evolution #5

There was an astonishing amount of entries to this edition of the Carnival of Evolution. I can tell this one is here to stay. The fifth edition promises to continue the high quality of submissions we have seen thus far. A real potpourri of evolution from paleobiology to development, education to speculation.

Evolution Education
My friend, Peter Buckland, a graduate student in educational theory at Penn State studying the controversy of evolution in the classroom recently gave what was likely a superb talk to a crowd of nearly 100 people. Unfortunately, he couldn't have given his talk 2 months ago while I was still in residency in the Happy Valley. He writes a 2-part post based on his talk's content called “Thou Shall Not Inhibit Academic Freedom: The Evolution of Anti-Evolutionism.” Part 1 deals with some background while part 2 is a nice reflection on some of the finer concerns of evolution education in the US.
"Now, we can talk about controversies on the tree of life. How closely related are we to Neanderthals? That’s a great question in science. The question is not “Are we related to Neanderthals?” Biologists, paleontologists, and anthropologists have skirmishes over portions of the tree of life. None of them argue that they are on it.

But that’s not what Explore Evolution would have us believe. They want to foist a particular notion, the “Orchard of Life” on high school students. No one in biology talks about the orchard of life..."
Drinking deep from the literature, Aydin of the Snail's Tales discusses a quote from a 1915 text:
"Had the biologists indeed abandoned the evolutionary theory at the turn of the 20th century, evolutionary explanations of biological phenomena would by now be an almost-forgotten chapter in the annals of biology."
Human Evolution at a Stand-Still, or Not
Steve Jones had a little something to say about human evolution this month. Apparently, selection no longer acts upon us. Several bloggers had a few things to say about Jones' data and conclusions. For instance, Ben from the group blog Grown Ass People notes that
"these arguments may seem convincing to anyone who hasn't taken intro biology, but any undergrad worth their auto-pipette should be able to see right through Professor Jones' nonsense."
Transitioning to a Species Near You
Glen at the Behe Fails Weblog exclaims "There's a reason why all vertebrate wings are modified legs of their terretrial ancestor"!
"Yet we are to believe that a “designer” capable of creating extremely complex systems–of the kind that humans cannot presently create–went back again and again to legs in order to design vertebrate wings. Which is just as evolution predicts, in the tetrapod context. Would anybody ever expect that of an alien?"
Grrl Scientist discusses new research on everyone's favorite evolutionary transition fossil, Tiktaalik!
"The new study reminds us that the gradual transition from aquatic to terrestrial lifestyles required much more than the evolution of limbs"
Evolution and Development
Alvaro at Sharp Brains has an extensive interview with Dr. Michael Posner on his research on the evolution and development of self-regulation.
"What is exciting these days is that progress in neuroimaging and in genetics make it possible to think about self-regulation in terms of specific brain-based networks."
Nagraj, one of the Hoxful Monsters, discusses new research on the origin and evolution of microRNA's in animals.
"Micro RNAs present in plants and algae have a different gene structure, biogenesis and targeting properties from those of animals, and these miRNAs are not found in fungi. Based on the above facts it's generally considered that miRNAs in plants and animals had independent origin."
Who Needs so much O2 Anyways?
Irradiatus from Biochemical Soul discusses an awesome new paper from the awesome Open Access Journal PLoS ONE where researchers evolved low O2 tolerance in the lab.
"Personally, I think one of the most amazing aspects of this study was just how quickly these flies evolved to survive and develop perpetually in severely low oxygen conditions. In only 32 generations the flies were able to live in oxygen conditions completely lethal to normal flies."
Semantics in Evolution
The Urban Scientist posts on the uses of the words heritable, inherited and genetic in teaching and the press:
"Heritability deals with the likelihood or probability of traits running in families. But here is the catch: something can be heritable due to genetics or environment. In this case the environment includes culture or habits and behaviors that you experience and accept as a normal and everyday. Everything that shared among related individuals isn’t necessarily because they share the same genes."
The Future of Evolution is Fun!
What got you really interested in evolution? One of the more interesting questions is how can you predict phenotypes. What will creatures look like in the future? Blog n00b Christie Lynn's submission from Observations of a Nerd is the ultimate in geeky barroom debate. Make sure you add her to your RSS feeds!
"The fun of evolution isn't in looking back - it's in looking forward. So let's take just one moment to release a barrel of monkeys into evolution and the future we're so upset about. Instead of the glass being half-empty, it's merely awaiting the next set of species to fill it."

And check out the 100+ Incredible Open Courseware Resources for Science Geeks which has some software available for teaching and modeling evolution. That is all for this edition be sure to keep posted the mother ship for information about upcoming carnivals! The 6th edition will be held at Life Before Death on November 15th. Make sure you get your submissions in soon!


  1. I can't wait to read through these articles later today. An excellent carnival yet again, Kevin. I'll link to it later this afternoon.

  2. So many great posts to read, so little time to read them in! Ack! I only have read two of those already... two eyes, two monitors... double the procrastination!!

  3. Good stuff all around! Thanks for including me.


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