February 21, 2022 • 9:00 am

I’ll be going to Antarctica and the Falklands next Sunday, and will be gone a bit more than four weeks. I suspect I’ll be busier with lecturing this time than I was two years ago, so I wanted to warn people in advance not to expect much posting during my absence. Last time I was there, it took forever to post, as internet in that area is—as you’ll understand—slow and dicey. To post photos, for example, I had to downsize each one to about 250kb, and it was time-consuming.

All I can say is that I’ll do my best to keep readers informed and also to send photos when I can.  Because of the email situation, I ask that you keep communications with me to a bare minimum, i.e., no wildlife photos. If you have important articles, send them, but please combine them into one email every week or so. As always, I’ll do my best.

This week’s postings will also be sparse as I have a gazillion things to do to prepare, for I’m doing another lecturing trip—this time to the Mediterranean—two weeks after I return. More on that later.

I wanted to put just one photo up of my last trip, but I got obsessed. Here’s why I wanted to go back so badly. (Click photos to enlarge.)

One of the world’s only three species of flightless duck!

On the way soon!

Notes to readers

February 8, 2022 • 10:15 am

I have several items to impart today:

First, many people have asked how to send me photographs. I’m preparing a “page” that will live in the left sidebar telling you how to do this. In the meantime, please send photos to my email that you can get by clicking “research interests” at the upper right of the main page. Please follow the format that most people use: 12-15 pics at most, give a brief narrative along with species IDs, and don’t forget the Latin binomials! I of course encourage submission of photos, but please see that they’re roughly of the quality that I post daily.  (High!) Thanks.

Second, I keep bringing this up, and many people keep ignoring it.  The issue is of people over-commenting in threads, with the result that often a substantial fraction of the comments in a thread are made by one or a few people. In one thread the other day, for example, 7 out of 28 comments, or more than 25%, were made by a single person.

As I guideline, I refer you to this item (#9) in Da Roolz:

Try not to dominate threads, particularly in a one-on-one argument. I’ve found that those are rarely informative, and the participants never reach agreement. A good guideline is that if your comments constitute over 10% of the comments on a thread, you’re posting too much.

I’ll raise this to about 15% (one in 7 comments or so), but please try to be concise and try not to put up comments that don’t add anything to the discussion.

Also, please do not email me too often, as I often get several hundred emails per day, and it’s very time-consuming. And when there are so many, I can miss some, including important ones.  If you see an error in a post or have an urgent question, of course you may email me right away. Otherwise, try to combine your comments or links into one email sent every two or three days.

Finally, let me emphasize again that I always call for civility. Try to treat other people as if you were speaking to them personally (yes, I know, I sometimes slip up too). If you are addressing me, pretend you’re doing so in my living room. After all, that’s sort of what you’re doing. Lately, it seems, incivility has increased and I attribute this to the pandemic and people getting antsy and peeved. If you are heated up, I’d urge you to take a bit of time to ponder before you post something strong.

Thank you,



Upcoming post at 6 p.m.

January 21, 2022 • 1:30 pm

Because evening posts are often missed, I wanted to call your attention to a post I’ll be making at 6:01 (per agreement with a newspaper) involving YET ANOTHER multiply-signed letter defending a good biologist who’s been unfairly defamed. I can say no more, but do check the site or your email around 6 pm Chicago time this evening

In the meantime, this will be the last post until then as I have lectures to write for Antarctica. They’re now asking me to do some 5-minute “mini-talks” on evolution, a task I find very difficult.  I need to convey the idea of evolution in five-minute bits, and four of them.

Here’s what I’ve chosen (not in order), but the fourth one will be nearly impossible.

1.) What is the “theory of evolution”?

2.) What are the biggest misconceptions about evolution?

3.) How could you disprove evolution?

4.) What is the evidence for evolution?

I can do the other three in about 7-8 min. each, I think, but I have a 100-minute (two-session) lecture on the evidence for evolution that I used to give to my students.

If anybody can suggest other interesting 5-minute topics about evolution, put them below. One might be “why people oppose evolution”, but the answer is largely “religious belief,” and that doesn’t go down well to an audience on a cruise, who are not in the mood for any religion-bashing. Remember, these are for laypersons who don’t know much evolution,

The three things that, when I post about them, draw the most critical emails

January 18, 2022 • 6:06 pm

1.) Ivermectin (the world is full of pro-Ivermectin nuts, and believe me, I hear from them. I don’t allow most of them to comment as I consider them dangerous).

2.) The unfairness of allowing trans-women to compete with biological women in women’s sports.

3.)  Calling out what I see as anti-Semitism.

I can’t see any commonality among these topics except that there are Woke perspectives on all of them, and that (particularly for #1 and #2) motivates nearly all the criticism.


For newbies: read Da Roolz

January 9, 2022 • 8:45 am

Just a reminder: if you’re new here and haven’t yet read the posting rules (called, Chicago style, “Da Roolz“), please read them by clicking on the words in the left sidebar or going here.  If you’re new please read them before making your first post.  There are all too many newbies who think they can come barging in full of venom or anger.  They will be relegated to commenting perdition.

Things that have cropped up lately, and won’t be tolerated, are overly long posts (600 words suggested maximum), and, as always, incivility. Do not harangue other readers, insult them, or say anything you wouldn’t say to them in my living room.

One other item: if you’re someone I don’t know, PLEASE do not write me and ask me to assess your new theory or to give you a take on a paper that puzzles you.  I simply don’t have time. If you want to call a paper to my attention because it might be of interest to me or the readers, that’s fine—and encouraged. But, in general, please limit your emails to me because the present volume means that they might go unanswered because they’ll get lost in the Devonian layer of my inbox.



Seeing my “sensitive content” on Twitter

October 17, 2021 • 2:15 pm

All the posts I make here go automatically to Twitter, and since those include the Jesus and Mo posts, which regularly get reported as “offensive” (those posts are also removed in Pakistan thanks to the cooperation of WordPress), many of my completely apolitical and  innocuous posts get a “trigger warning”, like this one from yesterday. Below is how I see it:

But some people, like reader Cate, see it (and many other of my tweets) as below: having “potentially sensitive content”. You have to click “View” to see the links and other things (in this case, a picture of a bird).

Cate went through the “change settings” procedure, which I replicated; this enables you to always see the full tweet with “sensitive content” without clicking “View”. I’ve added screenshots; her sequence of steps, which is easy, is indented.

Ok, here’s the maze they put you through:
On the lefthand side menu of Twitter, choose “More.”


From that menu, choose “Settings & Privacy”:


Then “Privacy & Safety”:


When you click the “Privacy and safety” arrow to the right, this is what you see:


Now click the arrow to the right “Content you can see” –and check the box next to “Display media that may contain sensitive content.”
Once it’s checked, as below, you’re (supposedly) home free:

So if you’re annoyed by these “sensitive content warnings,” do what’s above. There’s little to lose unless some content really disturbs you. Like pictures of birds.


Note to readers and commenters

August 31, 2021 • 8:30 am

The comments on this site have, on average, gotten more splenetic and insulting in the last year, though of course most readers are, as always, civil and polite. I attribute the rise in vitriol to peevishness induced by the pandemic, something that’s afflicted even me. But that is no excuse to call people names, and you won’t get a “pandemic pass” if you try to make comments like this, from one “Robert Ottley”:

In reply to GimmePaws. [JAC: GimmePaws was also rude, as you’ll see at the link]

Totally agree. At least as regards Covid, I am afraid the moron is Jerry Coyne. Why does he continue to display the spurious Covid ‘Cases’ dashboard. Why not contextualise it with all the other causes of daily death especially including those due to withheld or delayed healthcare.

Needless to say, this one didn’t appear, and Mr. Ottley, or whoever he is, won’t be commenting here again. This is only one example of several like these I’ve received in the last week or so.

It amazes me that people come over here and insult not just the host, but each other; and it’s getting worse. I urge you to do two things:

  1. Read the “Roolz”, or guidelines for commenting, on the left sidebar or here. Obey them.
  2. Reread your comment before you post it, ensuring that it is not insulting to the host or to other commenters.

This isn’t one of those sites where people delight in gutting each other. I can recommend other websites if you feel you need to take out your venom on others.

Editing function: is it wonky for you?

May 18, 2021 • 12:00 pm

You normally have 15 minutes after you make a comment to edit it. A few readers have reported that this isn’t working for them. I asked my webmaster to look into it, and here’s the report:

I did check into it, and the edit function seems to work for me with Chrome, Firefox, Safari under normal circumstances unless I enable Private/Incognito Mode — and I’m not sure there will be a fix for that.

It could also be affected by ad blockers and browser settings that prevent saving cookies, or if a comment is held for moderation it won’t show up right away and therefore likely won’t be editable.

I’ll do more research and see if there’s another solution, and I can reach out to the plugin developer as well. I’ll keep you posted.

If you’re still having problems, weigh in below. We aim to please!

A note to readers about civility

April 29, 2021 • 7:30 am

Perhaps it’s the pandemic making people peevish (I am one such victim), but I’ve noticed lately that some commenters are calling each other names, saying they’re ignorant, and generally making unconstructive comments that are meant to denigrate somebody else.

As you know, I don’t like that kind of discourse, so please don’t engage in it. If you think someone has made a dumb argument or weak or insupportable points, say so, but do it civilly, and explain why. I don’t like one-on-one altercations, especially when accompanied by personal insults, on my site.

I ask those of you who may have done this to please review the commenting rules (“Da Roolz”) on the left side of the screen, or go here.

I fully understand that someone’s comments may make you mad, but I urge you to resist the temptation to engage in insults, impugning someone’s knowledge, etc. Our purpose here is discussion, learning, enlightenment, and entertainment. And yes, also disagreement. Just do it civilly, please.

I will give warnings if I see it, and repeated violations will lead to you being kicked off and directed to websites where altercations and insults are the usual fare.