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How a Biotoxin Evolved

What do shrews and lizards have in common?  Not much, but two species developed the same toxin in their digestive enzymes, giving them both a poisonous bite.  Science Daily said a harmless digestive enzyme became overactive through three related changes.  “What had been a mild anticoagulant in the salivary glands of both species has become […]

Beethoven: It All Began With a Thump

Live Science in all seriousness, “When monkeys drum, they activate brain networks linked with communication, new findings that suggest a common origin of primate vocal and nonvocal communication systems and shed light on the origins of language and music.”     Choi reported on work at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics to determine […]

Fossil Said to Enlighten Evolution of the Ear

Did mammal ear bones evolve?  If so, it was not a straightforward Darwinian progression.  Authors of a paper in Science who announced a new Cretaceous mammal fossil from China had to invoke convoluted explanations to keep the evolution story intact. Science Daily shows an artist’s conception of Maotherium, a chipmunk-sized mammal said to have lived […]

Return of the Peppered Mice

Slight changes in the coat color of deer mice is the latest triumph of evolutionary theory, if we are to believe the BBC News and New Scientist.   The BBC announced, without apologies to Jonathan Wells, that “A tiny pale deer mouse living on a sand dune in Nebraska looks set to become an icon of […]

Does Evolution Produce Winners?

Referees at UCLA are calling the shots in an unusual sport: the evolution game.  Mammals, birds and fish swept the medals.  The losers?  crocodiles, alligators, and a “living fossil” reptile called the tuatara.  According to the judges, the more the biodiversity, the more a group wins points; the more their species go extinct or remain […]

Appendix to The Origin: “Darwin Was Wrong”

The appendix, that lowly dollop of tissue relegated to vestigial organ status by the Darwinians, is alive and well with new respect.  Science Daily announced results of the “first-ever study of the appendix through the ages.”  Conclusion: “Charles Darwin was wrong: The appendix is a whole lot more than an evolutionary remnant.  Not only does […]

Evolution of the Knuckle Head

An evolutionary anthropologist looked at the knuckles of chimpanzees.  Then she looked at the knuckles of gorillas.  Then she looked at her own knuckles.  Conclusion: humans evolved from tree climbers, not knuckle walkers.  Her theory can be read in Live Science, based on a paper in PNAS.1     Tracy Kivell and Daniel Schmitt from […]

A Rat Race to Build Whiskered Robots

Some scientists at Bristol Robotics Lab are pretty proud of themselves for building a robot with whiskers.  It can seek out and identify objects using its whiskers, just like rats do.  But they should still take their hats off to their living model, because the rat’s technology is far superior.  Science Daily mentioned several facts […]

How the Animals Learned to Count

Any evolutionary article that begins with “How…” should be checked for Kipling-style just-so storytelling.  Characteristics to watch for include (1) fanciful speculation without evidence: i.e., “made-up” tales that provide an answer to a childish question without appeal to rigorous proof, and (2) statements made with dogmatic authority, like a parent would explain to a child […]

Animals Are Not Malthusians

According to Malthus and Darwin, the struggle to survive favors those who have the most fitness to take advantage of limited resources.  A study by the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology in Vienna, reported by PhysOrg shows this is not the case: Charles Darwin and his contemporaries postulated that food consumption in birds and mammals […]

The Elephant Explosion

The title is not intended to suggest pieces of pachyderm flying all over the place, but rather one paleontologist’s theory about the rapid pace of elephant evolution 60 million years ago.  He bases his ideas on a small fossil he found in Morocco.  According to him, the primitive ancestor of all elephants (order Proboscidea) lived […]

Animals Become Tame with Minor Genetic Changes

“In what could be a breakthrough in animal breeding, a team of scientists from Germany, Russia and Sweden have discovered a set of genetic regions responsible for animal tameness,” began a report in Science Daily.  Groups of tame rats and aggressive rats were bred separately, then mated.  Scientists identified genetic regions responsible for the different […]

Tickle Me Darwin

Observation: orangutans seem to laugh when tickled.  Conclusion: humans evolved laughter from our ape past.  This is the story being promoted by the science news outlets.  “At least 10 million years ago, our ancestors may have been laughing it up over the latest stone-age prank or bout of tickling,” announced Live Science.     New […]

“Social Brain Hypothesis” Discredited

According to evolutionary theory, the extra processing required for living in social groups should make brains bigger.  Not so, found a couple of scientists who looked into the question.  There’s no general correlation.     According to Live Science, John Finarelli (University of Michigan) and John Flynn (American Museum of Natural History in New York) […]

Ho-Hum, Another Human Missing Link

Shoppers typically are wary of over-hyped ads, knowing that any claim sounding too good to be true probably is.  What would they think about media reports claiming a new fossil monkey is the “8th wonder of the world”?     The scientific paper in PLoS ONE1 had hardly been published before the press went ape, […]
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