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Animals Got Rhythm; Scientists Don’t

Here’s a biological puzzle with plenty of room for young researchers to solve: the workings of biological rhythms.  All animals respond to rhythms in periods of hours, days, weeks, months, and years, but as George E. Bentley (UC Berkeley) wrote in Current Biology,1 how they do it is only partially understood.  “Sometimes the questions are […]

Flightlessness Evolved Four Times

An article on Science Daily claims that the famous flightless birds – African ostriches, Australian cassowaries and emus, New Zealand kiwis and South American rheas – are unrelated.  There was no flightless common ancestor.  They lost their ability to fly independently, scientists say, because of “parallel evolution.”     This would also mean that emus […]

Plant Perfume Manipulates Pollinator Behavior

You’re a plant, stuck in the ground.  Around you are organisms with wings flitting freely about.  You need to get them to land on your flowers, but not linger too long.  How do you do it?  Attract them with sweet smells, but send them away with a bitter aftertaste.  That’s how the tobacco plant manipulates […]

Feather Fossil Fallacy?

Imprints of melanocytes have been found in fossil feathers.  What does this mean?  The popular science news reports, like Science Daily, Live Science, PhysOrg and the BBC News seem convinced it can tell us something about how birds evolved from dinosaurs.  Understanding what was discovered requires sifting through claims that go far beyond the evidence. […]

Birds of Different Feathers Evolve Together

Are pigeons like parrots?  Are hummingbirds like hawks?  And are falcons unlike eagles?  Scientists are all a-flutter after results of a massive genetic comparison of birds has put some members in unlikely pigeonholes.  “The largest ever study of bird genetics has not only shaken up but completely redrawn the avian evolutionary tree,” said Science Daily.  […]

An Evaluation of Evolution as an Explanatory Device

It is very common for scientists to claim this or that phenomenon “evolved.”  How well do such statements qualify as scientific explanations?  How much scientific heavy lifting is done by merely stating that things are the way they are because they evolved that way?  The following recent examples can be considered representative of the evolutionary […]

Animals Outsmart Scientists

In science, long-standing beliefs are often challenged by new evidence.  Several recent findings not only show animals to be more remarkable than thought, they pose some new questions for evolutionists. Slothlessness:  Sleeping almost all day, the sloth is the epitome of laziness in the animal kingdom.  Or is it?  The BBC News now tells us […]

Itemized Deductions

Here are some free deductions to take the edge off Income Tax Day…. as long as one deduces correctly. Israel is picking a national bird.  So what feathered friend will represent the Holy Land?  “The nine finalists include the hoopoe, the owl, the spur-winged plover, and the griffin vulture, but no doves.”  Source: Science, Random […]

Peacocks Don’t Dress for Success

The male peacock’s fancy feather show: an icon of Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, right?  Then why did Japanese scientists tell Discovery News that the females pay them little attention?     The article claims that the male’s appearance fails to interest, much less excite, the females, who seem to pay more attention to his […]

Darwin for the Birds

Here’s a flock of bird stories that have Charles Darwin on stage or in the wings, so to speak. Was Darwin wrong?  Yes!  Contra National Geographic (10/24/2004), the science news outlets are all saying today that Darwin was wrong – but only about the origin of chickens (see EurekAlert #1, EurekAlert #2 and Science Daily).  […]

Migrating Birds Measure Longitude

Migrating birds are able to get back on course, even when released 1000 km east of their normal migration path.  This shows that long-distance migrating birds are capable of true bicoordinate navigation: the ability to make course corrections both in latitude and longitude.  The results of experiments, published in Current Biology,1 left the researchers baffled: […]

Did Birds Evolve Aeronautical Engineering?

Two news stories on birds may not seem to flock together.  One is about their supreme aeronautical engineering.  The other ponders when they evolved.     A story on EurekAlert and Science Daily describes how engineers are eyeing birds, bats and insects for design ideas.  The appeal is clear from the following comparisons: A Blackbird […]

Do Chicks Tell Dinosaur Tales?

For years, evolutionary biologists have battled over the origin of flight.  Did dinosaurs run along the ground and take off, or did they jump from trees?  The first idea is called the cursorial hypothesis; the latter, the arboreal hypothesis.  In 2003, Ken Dial [U Montana] had an idea: maybe watching partridge chicks could inform the […]

Dinosaur Fossil Shows Exquisite Skin Detail

More imaginary feathers on a dinosaur have been discovered.  A BBC News article shows a cartoon of a dinosaur with feathers on its arms.  This is strange, because the paper it refers to makes no claim about feathers – only that certain structures had been interpreted as feathers by some.     The original paper […]

Birdsong Olympic Training

The singing of a bird is a complex skill that takes rigorous training like that of a top athlete or musician.  Young male birds learn by imitation from their fathers, then hone their skill over months, till their song becomes crystallized in adulthood.  A paper in Nature by two scientists at UC San Francisco reported […]
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