Category Archives: evolution

A genomic and evolutionary analysis of an extinct saber-toothed cat

A recent article in Current Biology, which you should be able get for free by clicking on the screenshot below, describes sequencing the entire genome of an extinct saber-toothed cat, thereby gaining some insight into its evolutionary history. (You can get the pdf here, and the full reference is at the bottom. If you can’t […]

Revisiting an old paper, but a good one

I have to brag a bit in the title because if you say a paper is an “oldie,” you have to also say “it’s a goodie”. But I think this one is—it’s the first of two papers I wrote with my then-grad-student Allen Orr on the time course of speciation in Drosophila.  And it’s one […]

Pre-Darwin “Darwinians”: a post by Andrew Berry

JAC:  When I wrote my post two days ago about supposed Arab precursors to Darwin, I had some email and phone exchanges with my friend Andrew Berry, an instructor and advisor at Harvard who knows a ton about the history of evolutionary biology.  After a recent exchange in which he sent me an informative email, […]

Covid 19 may hijack pain receptors, reducing pain and increasing the spread of the virus: a possible result of natural selection

The paper below, which has just been published (click on screenshot to go to page, then click the “download” button to the left to get the pdf), has a unique twist that may say something about evolution in pathogens, but the evolutionary angle hasn’t been mentioned. It’s a complex and technical paper, using rat models […]

Did Arabs come up with Darwinism before Darwin?

Several people sent me the link to a VICE article (below) arguing that Arab scholars—it’s not clear that all of them were Muslims—essentially hit on the essentials of Darwin’s theory centuries before Darwin, and that their contributions have been neglected. I have neither the time nor will to give this piece a proper critique, but […]

More “evolutionary theory overturned” hype, but, as usual, it’s overrated

Once again the magazines are hyping Big New Changes in Evolutionary Theory. This time, though, it’s the respected The Economist, which has a policy of not showing the authors’ names. They should have, for some authors should be given an education about their subject, or at least be held accountable for errors. I am surprised that […]

The intellectual vacuity of New Scientist’s evolution issue: 4. The supposed importance of genetic drift in evolution

Genetic drift is the random change in frequencies of alleles (forms of a gene, like the A, B, and O alleles of the Landsteiner blood-group gene) due to random assortment of genes during meiosis and the fact that populations are limited in size. It is one of only a handful of evolutionary “forces” that can […]

The intellectual vacuity of New Scientist’s evolution issue: 3. The supposed importance of epigenetics in evolution

I’ll continue on with New Scientist‘s 13-section claim that the modern theory of evolution needs a reboot (see previous posts here and here), though I don’t know how much longer I can stand their uninformed palaver written by incurious journalists. Today we’l take up section 4: “There is more to inheritance than just genes”, which […]

The intellectual vacuity of New Scientist’s evolution issue: 2. The supposed nonexistence of species

Yesterday I began “deconstructing” (as the cool kids say) the claims in the new issue of New Scientist, below, stating that evolutionary theory needs a reboot.  I don’t intend to go through all 13 “novelties” that supposedly call for an “Extended Evolutionary Synthesis”, but I’ll tackle just a few this week, for “unpacking” (as the […]

Why your eyes can rotate: an evolutionary explanation

Reader Bryan sent me a link to this video by Steve Mould discussing how our ability to rotate our eyes may be an exaptation (and a vestigial remnant) from ancestors who had eyes on the sides of their head. It’s a fascinating idea, and may well be true. Or, to quote the YouTube notes: Torsional […]