Month: July 2012

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Music, evolved?

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Music, evolved?

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SATB Choral Music Music. Photo by Andy Buscemi.

Over at the collaborative science blog Nothing in Biology Makes Sense!, guest contributor James Gaines writes about the evolutionary context of music-making.

Music is one of the few social constructs that truly permeates human culture, and reasons for this have fascinated scientists and philosophers for centuries. Even Darwin himself wrote on the subject, speculating about whether and how natural selection could explain it. Today, there seem to be three major ideas behind why music evolved.

For a breakdown of those three evolutionary hypotheses, go read the whole thing.◼


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Science online, disruptive lesbian astronauts edition

Science online, disruptive lesbian astronauts edition

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Sally Ride. Photo by WikiMedia Commons.
  • She defied gravity. Sally Ride, the first female U.S. astronaut—and only queer astronaut?—died this week. See also, also, and also.
  • Quiet, honey! Hungry bats zero in on the sound of flies mating.
  • I think yes. Do evidence-based teaching methods need to start addressing motivated reasoning?
  • Is anyone surprised? The geometry of herd responses to a predator suggests sheep are selfish.
  • Sure, why the hell not? Is open-access on the verge of “disrupting” academic publishing?
  • War on facts, round infinity. Government-funded research did, in fact, create the Internet.
  • Isn’t this like making Solo cups out of steel? Shark teeth are covered in fluoride, which may mean they never get cavities.
  • It’d be … kinda gross. If Spiderman’s anatomy more properly paralleled a real spider’s.
  • You’re doing it wrong. Pronouncing “Muller’s Ratchet”, that is.
  • Gooey suicide bombers. In one species of termites, aging workers end their careers as suicide bombers.


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One way to successfully invade a habitat: eat the competition

One way to successfully invade a habitat: eat the competition

 

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Harmonia axyridis, adulte The Harlequin ladybug, Harmonia axyridis. Photo by Ombrosoparacloucycle.

ResearchBlogging.orgThe Asian Harlequin ladybug, Harmonia axyridis, eats aphids like they’re Popplers, and it’s been repeatedly introduced into the U.S. and Europe to do exactly that. But since it was first introduced, H. axyridis has spread of its own accord, and displaced native ladybugs. This isn’t just because the Harlequin ladybug eats more aphids, or breeds faster, than the locals; it looks like part of the Harlequin’s success is due to the fact that it eats its native competition.

Although they’re known for eating aphids, most ladybugs are perfectly willing to engage in intraguild predation—that is, to eat other insects that are themselves primarily predators. Including other ladybugs. So a team at Wageningen University in the Netherlands set out to see whether H. axyridis might engage in a different kind of intraguild predation than its native competitors—do the Harlequins preferentially attack ladybugs of different species, and, when they do, are they more likely to win?

The team tested this in what they call a “semi-field” experiment, by creating encounters between ladybug larvae on individual leaves of small potted lime trees. They chose two other ladybug species, Coccinella septempunctata and Adalia bipunctata, for comparison to, and competition with, H. axyridis. Then, on the leaves of small potted lime trees, the researchers set up larval ladybug death matches.

Death matches for science, mind you.

Read more …

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Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Searching for Ronald Fisher

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Searching for Ronald Fisher

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Geneticist Ronald A. Fisher. Photo via WikiMedia Commons.

This week at the collaborative science blog Nothing in Biology Makes Sense!, my lab-mate John Stanton-Geddes writes about the current state of evolutionary genetics, as presented at the recent Evolution meetings in Ottawa:

One theme that emerged through the meeting was “The genetic basis for [insert trait here]. While this goal of mapping phenotype to genotype has been a primary goal of many evolutionary ecologists since the first QTL mapping studies, it has recently come under strong criticism, notably in a fantastic paper by Matthew Rockman in the journal Evolution last year, but also by Pritchard and Di Rienzo 2010 and in a forthcoming article by Ruth Shaw (full disclosure: Ruth was my PhD advisor) and Mike Travisano.

Readers of Denim and Tweed will recognize that John’s complaint about our ongoing fixation (ha!) on individual genes of large effect mirrors some of my own recent thinking. So naturally, I think you should go read the whole thing.◼


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Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Merch that makes sense!

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Merch that makes sense!

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Merchandising! Images from Denim and Tees.

If you enjoy the group science blog Nothing in Biology Makes Sense!—and I hope many of my readers here are also fans of NiB—you can now wear that appreciation on your sleeve. Or on your chest, anyway. NiB is officially launching its first merchandise, including tee shirts and coffee mugs bearing a selection of icons from the website header, and (with apologies to Theodosius Dobzhansky) a variation of the site’s slogan. All proceeds will go toward the costs of maintaining the site, so if you like the work we’ve been doing over there, go place an order.◼


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