Category Archives: evolution

Good news about the teaching of evolution in American public schools

A new report from the journal Evolution: Education and Outreach gives some pretty good news about the state of evolution teaching in American high schools. In particular, in two surveys of teaching methods published 12 years apart (2007 vs. 2019), the number of hours that teachers devote to the subject of evolution has become greater, […]

The number of species on islands

by Greg Mayer [The following is a trivial, and speculative, discussion about a small part of an important paper in the history of ecology and evolutionary biology.] There are fewer species of any given group of plants or animals on an island than on an equivalent area of the mainland; and the larger the island, […]

Two species produce viable hybrids even though they diverged 150 million years ago

Here’s an amazing paper—though the striking part isn’t sufficiently emphasized—reporting artificial hybridization between two long-diverged species, and the resulting appearance of viable hybrids despite what must be substantial genetic divergence between the components of a hybrid genome. Here are the two species involved, the Russian sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii), a source of meat and caviar, and a […]

Decolonizing evolution (and Darwin) was inevitable

When I said that “Darwin was next” in the line of statue-removal, renaming, and accusations of racism, I wasn’t kidding. Darwin was an abolitionist, but he did evince some white superiority in his writings and letters, calling blacks “savages” and “barbarians” (I lecture on this). It’s only a matter of time before that bigoted paternalism, […]

Five misconceptions about evolution: one is dubious, another wrong

Prowling around at The Conversation, I came across a 2016 article by Paula Kover on common misunderstandings about evolution.  It’s important for those of us who teach evolution to know these, for we need to dispel them implicitly—or, better, explicitly—when we teach evolutionary biology. I keep a list on my computer, and you can see […]

Peter Holland lectures on the diversity of animals

So far I’ve watched only about 30 minutes of this brand-new (virtual) lecture on the diversity of animals by Professor Peter Holland of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, but it looks to be good. Not long ago I read his The Animal Kingdom: A Very Short Introduction, one of Oxford’s lovely small paperbacks to introduce […]

An atavistic claw in a duckling?

The other day I took a picture of this juvenile mallard—one of Honey’s babies—and a friend noticed it had what appeared to be an atavistic claw on its wing. At least I think it’s on its wing; it could be on a  foot tucked behind the bird. But I doubt it. Here I’ve circled it: And enlarged […]

Recent data on how the “ant zombie” fungus works

When I first read the publicity about this recent (2017) paper in Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., I thought that the authors had come up with a new solution to how the fungus Ophiocoryceps unilateralis, a parasite on carpenter ants, turns the ant into a zombie, behaving in a way that facilitates the dispersal of the […]

Today: Rosemary Grant gives an online talk on speciation

Rosemary Grant, along with her partner Peter Grant at Princeton, have done pathbreaking work on speciation, particularly in the finches of the Galápagos islands. (They’re a close team, and even share one Wikipedia page). Their work, for example, has revealed unexpected levels of hybridization between what were considered “good” species, and of course the duo, […]

Thomas Friedman uses a bad biology analogy

In today’s New York Times, economist Thomas Friedman debates the issue of whether Sweden’s more open approach to attaining herd immunity (if that’s possible with this virus) is preferable (or even feasible) compared to other strategies.  The answer to his title question is “we don’t know”. To wit: Here’s the stone-cold truth: There are only […]