VIEW HEADLINES ONLY

Polishing Darwin’s Icons

Finch beaks, peppered moths, transitional forms – the standard props for evolution have been scrutinized ad infinitum for decades.  Can anything new be said about them?  Find out in these recent articles. Peppered moths:  The peppered-moth story just about collapsed when investigators realized that the famous pictures that adorn textbooks were staged, because the moths […]

Lizard Hair and Other Fables

In some science reports, it’s hard to tell where the data stops and the speculation begins.  In any case, evolutionary theory usually arrives in time to take credit for whatever happened in the unobservable past (cf. 08/24/2007). Bad hair joke:  Live Science wants you to blame your bad hair days on lizards.  Why?  Because according […]

Snails Walk on Water

Why is that scientist staring at a snail?  He’s watching a miracle: walking on water.  This is not our exaggeration: Matt Kaplan on National Geographic News entitled his article, “How Snails Walk on Water Is a Small Miracle.”  If we can figure out the trick, we might be able to make little robots do it […]

Another Strange Chinese Fossil Found: Dinosaur or Bird?

Feathers and wings are among the most distinguishing characteristics of birds.  “Integumenary features” have been found on some dinosaur fossils, and true feathers have been found on some strange-looking extinct birds.  The news media often try to marry the two into a committed relationship using exaggerated artwork.  They have been found imagining feathers on fossils […]

Tooth Evolution Theory Lacks Bite

The hardest substance in your body is your teeth.  The varieties of teeth among vertebrates is astounding, from the tiny incisors in a mole to the bone-crushing scimitars on a T. rex.  Many fossils are known only from their teeth.  One would think teeth are the best-studied objects in evolutionary theory, but a recent paper […]

Birds Need Beaver

Things go better with Beav around.  Science Daily has a delightful entry about the ecological benefits that beaver ponds provide for migratory birds.  It says that beaver are not just beneficial for our feathered friends; they are vital.  Because of the rich streamside habitat that grows around beaver ponds, the formula is simple: the more […]

Deep Life Is Right at Home in Total Darkness

It seems every year scientists find organisms thriving in environments thought too inhospitable for life.  A new word was coined for these organisms: extremophiles – lovers of the extreme.  Two recent discoveries push the envelope of extreme environments almost to the deep limit. Pressurized fish:  The bottoms of the deep ocean trenches of the Pacific […]

A Turtle Missing Link: Are We Missing Something?

Everyone knows the iconic drawing of the parade of human evolution (see 09/23/2008 commentary); now, its turtle counterpart is making the rounds.  An article on New Scientist shows the march of progress from lizard to turtle.  The title says, “Fossil reveals how the turtle got its shell.”  Something is missing from the article, though: a […]

Living Better Bioelectrically

Electric eels are inspiring a new generation of fuel cells.  Science Daily reported that a remarkable fusion of engineering and biology may lead to tiny electronic devices that run on biology’s own energy currency, ATP.  “Engineers long have known that great ideas can be lifted from Mother Nature, but a new paper by researchers at […]

How the Evolution Story Became Like Jellyfish

“How the [blank] got its [blank]” is the template for story titles imitating Rudyard Kipling’s Just-So Stories: i.e., How the Camel Got His Hump and How the Leopard Got His Spots.  Kipling wrote these as silly stories to entertain children, not to be taken seriously by scientists.  Knowing that creationists often criticize Darwinian explanations as […]

Did This Dino Have Bird Breath?

Birds are the only vertebrates with a unique one-way, flow-through breathing system that includes hollow bones.  Their unique respiratory system is part of the set of features that allows flying with its need for rapid metabolism.  Science news outlets are clucking wildly about another putative missing link between dinosaurs and birds: “Meat-eating dinosaur from Argentina […]

Fastest Squirt Gun in the Fungi

A paper on PLoS One described the highest-speed flights in all nature: the spore discharge mechanisms in certain fungi.  A dozen scientists in Ohio worked to capture the action on ultra-high-speed cameras.  It took 250,000 frames per second to reveal how fast the projectiles accelerate.  The answer: from 20,000 to 180,000 g (where g = […]

Ant What it Used to Be

A new species of subterranean ant discovered in Brazil is so weird, biologists have classified it as the sole representative of a new subfamily.  The alien creature has been whimsically named Martialis heureka: “the ant from Mars.”  An article about it in Nature News said, “It adds a new branch to the ant family tree […]

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 […]
All Posts by Date