Recent paucity of science posts

More than one reader has mentioned to me the absence of science posts on this site, and Malgorzata, who translates them into Polish for Listy, has also noted this.  The reason is not that they take work, which they do (about three or four times the time of a “normal” post), but because I haven’t found any papers worth posting about lately. I’ve read about six, and none of them have panned out into something interesting enough to call to your attention.

All this is by way of saying that if you’re a biologist who reads the evolution literature, or a layperson who sees some publicity for a recent piece of  cool research, please call it to my attention. I’m not sure whether the absence of work that excites me (and is suitable for the readers) is due to the pandemic, which may slow things down, or it’s just a statistical quirk. Anyway, let me know if you see something interesting (with the results not too arcane, but which might intrigue the diverse readership here).



  1. brigittenerlich
    Posted July 12, 2020 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    I know that I am totally not in your league (I am also not a biologist or anything), but I have just been thinking the same today. I normally blog about exciting things happening in science (things that I normally don’t understand, but who cares), but nothing excites me at the moment. I wondered whether that was just pandemic malaise or something else…. anyway… I feel a bit bereft…

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 12, 2020 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    I saw this one just this morning but have no idea if it is worth any discussion.

    • Posted July 12, 2020 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      That is interesting.

    • Posted July 12, 2020 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      That is wild. I suppose it is possible a tribe of hominins wandered north 6 million years ago, but that would upend human paleontology I’d think.

    • Posted July 12, 2020 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      It’s nearly three years old and the title promises something more controversial than the article delivered.

      I was expecting it to argue that Homo sapiens evolved outside Africa, but it’s actually about an animal that existed soon after the slit with chimpanzees.

  3. Posted July 12, 2020 at 9:29 am | Permalink


  4. Paul Britton
    Posted July 12, 2020 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    How about how viruses evolve and mutate, and jump across species?

  5. Posted July 12, 2020 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    What’s happening on Botany Pond these days? I haven’t seen a Duck Report in a while. Or did I just miss one? I check the webcam once in a while but there’s virtually nothing going on when I look.

    • Posted July 12, 2020 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      No, but I have a spate of photos and videos and I’ll do a duck post soon. Dorothy’s six little ones are still with us and growing fast, and about half of Honey’s brood (half of which was Dorothy’s) have flown away. We’re down to Honey, who’s molting, and about nine hens, as well as a few itinerant hens which I feed.

      Stay tuned.

  6. Posted July 12, 2020 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    I get my general science fix from Science News ( and Science Daily (

    Did you know that fish eggs can still hatch after being eaten and pooped out by ducks?

    • Posted July 12, 2020 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      If plant seeds are any clue, then I’d expect some fish eggs to be able to hatch only after being eaten and pooped out, and removal of birds from the ecosystem to result in local extinction of the fish species!

  7. Posted July 12, 2020 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    I found interesting this article from Quanta on how a levy walk (a type of random walk with occasional long stretches) might help animals hunt.

  8. Barry
    Posted July 12, 2020 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    I once had a book by Vincent Sarich (professor of anthropology, UC Berkeley, deceased 2012) that promoted the dog breeds/human races analogy. In this new peer reviewed article (Human races are not like dog breeds: refuting a racist analogy) a team of five anthropologists and geneticists, who attended Penn State together as grad students, claim to have “taken down” the wide spread analogy of Sarich, and many others. and
    Did they?

    • Posted July 12, 2020 at 12:03 pm | Permalink


      I’ve never heard of Sarich’s widespread analogy of dog breeds and human races. I’m a reasonably well-read evolutionary biologist, know of Sarich’s work in molecular systematics, and one of my particular interests is geographic variation (the distribution of variation within and among populations of a species’ range). I haven’t checked the links you give yet, but I presume the authors do think it is widespread. I’m curious to know if you first learned about the analogy from Sarich’s book, and if in your experience it’s adoption could be considered widespread?

      I’d also be interested for other readers to weigh in here on their exposure to this analogy.

      (The analogy, by the way, is not a good one at all, and it wouldn’t require any deep analysis to show this.)

      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted July 12, 2020 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        I’ve never heard of Sarich, but I’ve heard the analogy somewhere and didn’t think much of it.

        [Instead I adopted it for analogizing Africans vs Neanderthals vs Denisovans morphology. But that’s not a good fit after the genomics came in.]

        • Torbjörn Larsson
          Posted July 12, 2020 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

          Oops. Confused response – Denisovans come in as genome first. But it was somewhere there I grokked the fit was not good.

  9. C.
    Posted July 12, 2020 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Not having access to any journals, I don’t come across much new science except in the form of pop-sci online articles, many of which are poorly written, infested with lol-speak, and on sites I choose to avoid. It feels more and more like the adults have left the room and the kids are playing with the computer.

  10. dd
    Posted July 12, 2020 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    I was hoping you would discuss the issue of South Americans and Polynesians and what else is known about requisite technology to make the trip, etc, DNA, past investigations.

  11. Posted July 12, 2020 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    I was interested in this article about the potential use of far-ultraviolet-C light to kill off coronaviruses:

    I and my colleagues are already fed up with the widespread use of chemical disinfectants, we feel our airway mucosa is being successfully destroyed by them even without the help of an actual pathogen!

  12. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted July 12, 2020 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    That’s a coincidence, I saw a paper that seems to lie close to the interests here, though admittedly arcane and I also haven’t put in the leg work myself … But in case it is interesting:

    “Genomic regions influencing aggressive behavior in honey bees are defined by colony allele frequencies”, Avalos et al, PNAS, 2010, . “… We conclude that group genetics dominates individual genetics in determining the fatal decision of honey bees to sting.”

    TL;DR – and I haven’t read it thoroughly: They use GWAS to find a locus that seems to be under selection, but the best correlation is between colony aggression and specific alleles. They don’t seem to look at it as kin selection, but I was curious of other analyses.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted July 12, 2020 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      That was 2020 – May 18, 2020 in fact.

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