Tag Archives: Charles Darwin

The Voyage of the Beagle

Of his time on the Beagle (1832 – 1836), Darwin wrote, “The voyage of the Beagle has been by far the most important event in my life and has determined my whole career.” Of the manuscript describing that voyage, he wrote, “The success of this my first literary child always tickles my vanity more than that of any of my other books.”

Taking a cue from these reflections, I’d like to spend some time with this book, in celebration of Darwin’s 200th birthday, coming up in just a few days.
Continue reading The Voyage of the Beagle

Neanderthal Genome Will Be Released

The complete genome of a Neanderthal dating to about 38,000 years ago has been sequenced by the team lead by Svante Paabo. The genome will be announced on Darwin’s Birthay, Feb 12.

“We are working like crazy at the moment,” says Pääbo, adding that his Max Planck colleague, computational biologist Richard Green, is coordinating the analysis of the genome’s 3 billion base pairs.

Comparisons with the human genome may uncover evidence of interbreeding between Neanderthals and humans, the genomes of which overlap by more than 99%. They certainly had enough time for fraternization — Homo sapiens emerged as a separate species by about 400,000 years ago, and Neanderthals became extinct just 30,000 years ago. Their last common ancestor lived about 660,000 years ago, give or take 140,000 years.


Despite the remarks made in the Nature coverage about interbreeding, Svante has indicated in previous discussions about this genome that there is nothing to indicate this in the present analysis.

Stay Tuned ….

Two or three items of interest that are scheduled and that you may want to know about.

In order:

1) This evening, at 8:00 Eastern Time (US), the embargo lifts on an amazing new find. Tune in to your favorite science blog to read all about it. It is very cool if you are into science.

2) Friday, at an as yet undisclosed time, will be the unveiling of a new Internetial (pronounced: Internet-shul) project that many of you may find interesting. Watch for announcements here and on Almost Diamonds and TUIBG.

3) Friday evening, as I’ve indicated before, I’ll do a live radio interview with Q. Transmissions, in Edmonton, Canada, about Darwin and stuff. Details.

4) Sunday Morning, I’ll be on Atheist Talk Radio with Lynne Fellmann and others (The exact line up fluctuates) to discuss Charles Darwin and stuff.

5) Darwin’s Birthday is Feb 12, and this will be the opening of a museum exhibit at the Bell in Minneapolis. PZ Myers, myself, and others (fluctuating) will perform at the opening. And I do mean perform. Be there or be square. Details:

LIFE: A Journey Through Time

North American Premiere /Darwin Day Opening Event
Thursday, February 12, 2009, 7 to 9 p.m.
Bell Museum Auditorium
$10/ free to museum members and University students

Celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birthday with a special preview of LIFE: A Journey Through Time. The event will feature top University biologists using Lanting’s photographs as a springboard to deliver a rapid-fire presentations relating their research on evolution to the images. From the big bang to the human genome, hear the newest theories on how life evolved and enjoy the North American premiere of one the world’s most celebrated photography exhibits. Think speed-dating – Darwin-style!

Blogging the Origin: New Sb Blog

A new blog called Blogging the Origin launched Monday. It’s a Seedmagazine.com-sponsored blog, written by London-based freelance science writer John Whitfield, who has the particular qualification–for this project, at least–of having never read Darwin’s The Origin of Species. As he now begins to read it for the first time, he will cover each of the 15 chapters (including the introduction) in detail, sharing his thoughts and soliciting those of readers. By the time Darwin Day rolls around on February 12, John hopes to be an Origins expert. Follow his progress here.

Teachers Be Warned

And Public School Administrators, too.

There is a message being sent out, by the Discovery Institute (a non profit creationist ‘think’ tank) encouraging creationist students and teachers to “Suit Up, Sign Up, Show UP, Act Up and Start Up” (whatever that all means) on February 12, which of course, is Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday.

Continue reading Teachers Be Warned

Pink Iguanas and Disappearing Islands

It turns out that a recently discovered population of land iguanas on the Galapagos is probably a new species that represents the basal (original) form of Galapagos land iguana. Moreover, this iguana is found in an unexpected place, according to a paper just coming out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

And it’s pink.
Continue reading Pink Iguanas and Disappearing Islands

Linnaeus’ Legacy No. 15: Sorting it all out

This is my favorite web carnival, and this is the best version of it yet, owing to the outstanding submission we have this month!

i-bc0d46e81351a3a74cabd227fd2d5fa5-darwintree2.gifWelcome to the 15th Monthly edition of the blog carnival Linnaeus’ Legacy. I thought about being cute and fancy for this edition of the carnival, but instead, I decided to be very systematic.

(de – dum – dum)

So we will work our way from foundations to theory to taxonomy, and within the taxonomic sphere we will sort out all the organisms by type and deal with them as such appropriately. And then, we will have one little item related to extinction. The place where diversification ends.

On with the show:
Continue reading Linnaeus’ Legacy No. 15: Sorting it all out

Nature’s Evolutionary Gems

The following announcement is from Nature.

About a year ago, an Editorial in these pages urged scientists and their institutions to ‘spread the word’ and highlight reasons why scientists can treat evolution by natural selection as, in effect, an established fact (see Nature 451, 108; 2008).

This week we are following our own prescription. Readers will find at http://www.nature.com/evolutiongems a freely accessible resource for biologists and others who wish to explain to students, friends or loved ones just what is the evidence for evolution by natural selection. Entitled ’15 evolutionary gems’, the document summarizes 15 lines of evidence from papers published in Nature over the past 10 years. The evidence is drawn from the fossil record, from studies of natural and artificial habitats, and from research on molecular biological processes.

In a year in which Darwin is being celebrated amid uncertainty and hostility about his ideas among citizens, being aware of the cumulatively incontrovertible evidence for those ideas is all the more important. We trust that this document will help.

Darwin’s Bulldog

On this day in 1895, T. H. Huxley died at the age of 70. Huxley was known as “Darwin’s Bulldog” because of his defense of Darwin’s important work in evolution. He debated Samuel Wilberforce in 1860, and people have been debating creationists since.Huxley invented the term “agnostic” and described himself as one.

Morning Sickness is an Adaptation, not a … Sickness

There is new information from an older idea (from about 2000) by Paul Sherman and colleagues. The idea underlying this research is simple: Symptoms of illnesses may be adaptive. Indeed, this may be true to the extent that we should not call certain things illnesses. Like “morning sickness.”ResearchBlogging.orgBroadly speaking, there are two different kinds of reasons that a woman may experience nausea in association with pregnancy. 1) This pregnancy thing is a complicated mess with all kinds of hormonal (and other) things going on, so you puke; or 2) a woman who is pregnant feels nauseous for good evolutionary reasons. Continue reading Morning Sickness is an Adaptation, not a … Sickness

The Perfect Bird Family Tree…

… is certainly still in the future. But we have seen a step in that direction in a new paper, coming out this week in Science. This research applies intensive and extensive genomic analysis to the avian phylogenetic tree. The results are interesting.ResearchBlogging.orgThis paper is summarized in a number of locations, most notably here on Living the Scientific Life. Here, I will summarize it only very briefly. However, there are two observations I would like to make about this paper and its apparent meaning. One has to do with the nature of science, and the other has to do with the nature of evolution in particular. I’ll argue that we can quantify (almost non-trivially) the number of times science is wrong. I’ll also argue that Stephen Jay Gould was wrong (not totally, but not trivially) about one of his most important assertions (other than his musings about the myth of vaginal orgasms … we’ll talk about that another time). Continue reading The Perfect Bird Family Tree…

Biology Never Was The Same: Mark Borrello

i-68efa548cdb44e33126c5936c96fe3ed-evolution_2008.jpgContinuing with our discussion of the Evolution 2008 conference, I’d like to relate at least the essence, as I saw it, of an excellent talk by Mark Borrello.I’ve seen Mark speak at least three times including yesterday, and soon after his talk we continued on the topic in a conversation over lunch and beers, so my comments here are less a summary of Mark’s talk at the Evolution 2008 conference than a more general reaction to what I believe to be his main points.i-283f125a753886df1095ced6cfeaf735-BorrelloMarkbw.jpgEveryone knows that history repeats itself. Or, at least, as per Samuel Clemens, if history does not repeat itself, at least it rhymes. But more importantly, if we engage in research, theoretical or empirical, we often find that similar work was done in the past. And this should lead us to wonder why we are still doing it. And, why we will do it again. And the answer is very simple: There are only a few questions. Very rarely does a new question emerge. And we ask the same questions again and again, with methods that vary (sometimes only a little) and answers that are sometimes novel and sometimes not.But why would we do that? Continue reading Biology Never Was The Same: Mark Borrello