Category: Nothing in Biology Makes Sense

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Why evolutionary biologists are stoked about pot

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Why evolutionary biologists are stoked about pot

Verde

Photo by Diego Charlón Sánchez.

This week at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense!, guest contributor Daniela Vergara explains how CGRI, the initiative to sequence the genome-wide genetic variation of Cannabis, will answer cool evolutionary questions.

At the CGRI, we would like to understand first, how much genetic variation there is in the numerous pure C. sativa, C. indica, and C. ruderalis accessions and heirloom varieties. This will lead us to understand the relationships among the major lineages within the genus, the spread of Cannabis throughout the globe, and rates of historical hybridization between the named species.

For Daniela’s detailed run-down of important evolutionary questions in Cannabis, go read the whole thing.◼
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Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Chipmunks have no respect for species boundaries

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Chipmunks have no respect for species boundaries

A yellow pine chipmunk, Tamias amoenus. Photo by Noah Reid, via Nothing in Biology Makes Sense.

At Nothing in Biology Makes Sens, Sarah Hird explains some of her own research, recently published at the journal Heredity, which documented just how “leaky” species boundaries can be in the chipmunks of western North America.

While doing a comparative phylogeography study, the Sullivan lab discovered that one particular subspecies, T. a. canicaudus, had a mitochondrial genome that was most closely related to the red-tailed chipmunk (T. ruficaudus), instead of the other yellow-pine subspecies. Additional data show that the T. a. canicaudus nuclear genome is in fact most similar to other yellow-pines – it’s just that the mitochondria is of red-tailed origin.

For all the sordid phylogenetic details, go read the whole post, and check out the original paper.◼
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Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Is a sloth’s best friend its moth-fur?

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Is a sloth’s best friend its moth-fur?

Three Toed Sloth

Is it easier, being green? Photo by Bas Bloemsaat.

This week at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! I’m discussing a new study that purports to demonstrate that three-toed sloths are in a nutritional mutualism with specialized moths, fueled by algae and poop:

Sloths’ coarse, shaggy fur accumulates its own little microcosm of living passengers. (If you move that slowly in a tropical forest canopy, you’re going to get some hop-ons.) Among these are an assortment of algae, and moths in the genus Cryptoses. It’s been known for a long time that Cryptoses moths lay their eggs in sloth dung, and that their larvae eat it.

To find out why it isn’t completely crazy to think that these poop-eating moths might be helpful to sloths, go read the whole thing.◼
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Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Brood parasites with benefits

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Brood parasites with benefits

Photo via Nothing in Biology Makes Sense.

Over at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense!, Amy Dapper discusses a new study of brood parasites, birds that lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species, letting those adoptive hosts take on the costs of raising the brood parasites’ chicks. This sounds like a bad deal for the host species, but in at least one case, it turns out that a brood parasite chick can be a boon to its adoptive nest-mates:

Canestrari et al. (2014) focused on the great spotted cuckoo (Clamator glandarius) and their host, carrion crows (Corvus corone corone). They studied the success rate of nests with and without brood parasitism and found that carrion crow nests that contained parasitic cuckoo nestlings were actually more likely to be successful (i.e. fledge at least one crow nestling). How could this be?

To learn why a carrion crow might want to raise a baby cuckoo, go read the whole thing.◼
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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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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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