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Archive for the ‘Evolution’ Category

Recent carnivals it’s more than time to highlight:

April Berry Go Round

March Berry Go Round

May BGR is coming soon!

The Game of Evolution (CoE #170).

Have a good read!

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Go read it there.

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CoE

Carnival of evolution is at Evolving Thoughts: The Day of the Doctor of Evolution: CoE #66.

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In August, I presented a poster at ESEB 14th (biannual meeting of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology), that took place in Lisboa, Portugal. (ESEB was not especially commented upon by bloggers, maybe coverage was greater with other social media though… Anyway, you may find a few posts, there, there or there).

ESEB was apparently already known for its poster sessions… Just so you know.

Poster sessions this year were huge… I was breathing out with the latest genetics experiment (it was already 6 months old, but that’s still young to go to a science symposium). Maybe I was experiencing “poster solitude“. Indeed, people were’nt really staying that long. Maybe this is not a year to work on local dispersal, or maybe pathogenic fungi are just boring study models…

So, I always left readers stay, say, 10 seconds before I would show up and ask if there was any question. Safe bet, for 10 seconds is about the time needed to evaluate self interest in a random poster. Then, I got one attendee that stood up my own treshold. (I might even write swamped, because the time I went by it was probably already worth 20 seconds reading). “If you have any question…”, I enquired softly. But all I got back was a “Oh, I was just pretending!”. And she moved away.

This is the weirdest comment I ever had about a poster. Did it already happen to you?

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Carnival of Evolution can be found there.

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The quote this week:

Just as the alchemist yearned for a formula that would turn lead into gold, so the modern biologist longs for a conceptual framework that will make any data set coruscate with revelations. The framework described here falls considerably short of such expectations, but then, modern chemistry has not fulfilled the alchemists’ most ardent dreams.
S. J. Arnold (1983, p. 357).

From the following paper:

J. G. Kingsolver and R. B. Huey (2003). Introduction: The Evolution of Morphology, Performance, and Fitness. Integr. Comp. Biol. 43 (3): 361-366. doi: 10.1093/icb/43.3.361

is also the introduction from a special issue covering many interesting aspects of measuring natural selection. Seems like it is mostly open access, so I can link for you to go & pick on these various examples.

Then we can discuss the relevance of introducing path analyses to the study of natural selection in the wild: was it gold? I’d tend to think it was.

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Carnival of Evolution, March 2013.

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It is there. World travel edition.

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I’ll not only try to revive a weekly tradition of good words, but go fishing quotes, biological quotes, from wherever, whatever. This is the first shoot (however).

Natural selection will tend to render the organisation of each being more specialised and perfect, and in this sense higher. Darwin, 1859

I like this one. Context certainly matters, and this tells us a lot about history. Higher and Lesser organisms and features are concepts that were heavily in use in biology, until disgrace but still occasionally revived though in much less vaporised heat. Indeed, there’s this idea that one can judge between basic features and more elaborate ones. For a long time, natural scientists were enclined to think organisms could fit on a scale with lower and higher at both ends. Darwin and his work probably shifted the scale where it did not merely expressed a rank in creation anymore but a direction in evolution. Probably that’s where scientists started using the earlier scale within the new framework, higher and lesser reflecting primitive and evolved features (historian of sciences would confirm this, I’m not a specialist in science history). Quite interesting here is that Darwin is issuing a way of understanding that long lived notion of a scale between organisms: natural selection can result into such a ladder. Whatever he thought about the ladder worldview that was generally accepted at this time is not expressed here, all he was doing is pointing to evolution by natural selection resulting into differences from less fit to fitter.

Of course, there are two things that are today known as misconceptions: first, natural selection doesn’t necessarily work toward increased specialisation (it could also undo things way out whenever undoing is going to be fitter solutions to specific life issues –as long as things may be “undone” but this is another debate). Second, natural selection (adaptive evolution) cannot produce perfection, merely things that are better, among the available alternatives. Which translates most of the time as improved characteristics, but almost never as perfect ones. Save for the spandrel debates…

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I take this graph out of the SA loose rants draft listing, which I almost never go in to look at, and I see this. Oh my, I don’t remember putting this in here nor where I found it, it comes from weeks or months! But anyway, it’s here and it’s interesting. It’s a prediction for 2013, a change that probably most media will leave unnoticed. But that’s not completely devoid of consequences, it’s an important move. Whatever happens, whether it indeed happens this year or next, and of course this is just gross bean counting, one cannot dismiss the shift. And in a decade probably, the world science leading country will have changed.

This basically means that creationists can take over the USA, it won’t matter anymore to the world. It won’t matter if science education in the USA get rotten to the bone anymore. Startling perspective? Well, this would not be the first example of Golden Age past.

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