VIEW HEADLINES ONLY

Classifying Eukaryotes Easier than Evolving Them

If you like stories with surprise endings, check out an otherwise boring paper by two Canadian evolutionary biologists, Alistair G. B. Simpson and Andrew A. Roger, in the Sept. 7 issue of Current Biology.1  Their subject is the real “kingdoms” of eukaryotes (that’s all creatures with nuclei, including plants, animals, and a host of single-celled […]

Natural Selection Demonstrated in European Heart-Disease Gene?

Stephen Wooding (U. of Utah) is elated.  He sees an “exciting trend” in genetic research that might, finally, demonstrate positive natural selection acting on a gene with a clear phenotypic effect (measurable outward benefit).  Writing in the Sept. 7 Current Biology,1 he mentions a few recent papers suggesting this connection, but focuses particularly on one […]

Genes Fail to Reveal Evolutionary Pattern in European Mammals

One would think an examination of DNA from fossils would track the animal’s geographical distribution as they evolved.  However, a study reported in PNAS1 failed to find any correlation in European mammals after the last glaciation.  Hofreiter et al. report: Here, we analyze mtDNA sequences from cave bears, brown bears, cave hyenas, and Neandertals in […]

Don’t Read Face of Molecular Clock at Face Value

A press release from PLoS Biology says the so-called “molecular clock” (the idea that genes mutate at a steady rate) is “not so dependable after all.”  Mutations tend to cluster around microsatellites in the genome, biasing the arrangement of genetic changes.  The claim is based on the work of Edward Vowles and William Amos, who […]

Can Natural Processes Create a Mind?

No problemo, says H. Clark Barrett (UCLA), getting a mind from mindless matter.  In a review of a book by developmental psychologist Gary Marcus published in Science June 11,1 Barrett was reassured by Marcus’ book that evolutionary theory working within natural law is up to the task: “The strengths of The Birth of the Mind […]

How Molecular Trucks Build Your Sensors

In the film Unlocking the Mystery of Life, biochemist Michael Behe, describing the intricacies of cells as we know them today, claimed that there are “little molecular trucks that carry supplies from one end of the cell to the other.”  If that seems an overstatement, you should look at the illustration in Cell June 11 […]

Worm Genes Show Non-Evolutionary Pattern

Biologists at New York University compared genes of roundworms to look for evidence of evolutionary ancestry.  What they found was not what they expected.  They found more genetic variation between outwardly-similar worms than between mice and men.  Their results were published online in PNAS June 7.1     The roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans is a model […]

DNA Folds With Molecular Velcro

Many have heard how the inventor of Velcro got the idea from plant seeds that stick to clothing, but now Carlos Bustamente and team of Howard Hughes Medical Institute have found a velcro-like principle operating at a scale millions of times smaller.  Small proteins called condensins are involved in the elaborate folding that DNA undergoes […]

The Evolution of Infidelity

The BBC News placed a sultry photo of a likely-undressed man and woman about to kiss alongside the headline of a story, “Genes may be to blame for infidelity.”  They report on the speculation by Tim Spector (Twin Research Unit, St. Thomas Hospital) that “if one of a pair of twins had a history of […]

Gene Regulation: When Nonsense Makes Perfect Sense

Nature June 31 reports on another use for “junk DNA.”  A portion of previously-considered “nonsense” genetic code, which does not produce a protein as does a gene, nevertheless has an important role: it regulates the expression of the neighboring gene.  This opens a whole new realm of function for portions of our genetic material that […]

DNA: The Mystery of the Ultraconserved Elements

As we proceed into the age of genomics, the DNA codes of more and more animals are coming into focus.  The genomes of humans, chimpanzees, mice, chickens, dogs, rats and pufferfish have been sequenced so far, and more are planned.  Evolutionists expected the ancestry of all living things to be traceable in the genetic code […]

Selfish Genes Turn Cooperative

Nature1 has reported evidence that transposons help to regulate gene expression.  Transposons are genetic material that insert themselves into the DNA of a host, and were thought to represent “selfish genes” that only had their own propagation in mind, “without regard for the consequences.”  Some new studies on the L1 retrotransposon, which makes up about […]

Mitochondrial Clock Untrustworthy

A major assumption of the “molecular clock” dating method has been called into question.  If so, Science Now describes the impact on current theories: “Mitochondrial Eve,” the hypothetical mother of all modern humans who lived about 150,000 years ago, might be lying about her age.  A key assumption in determining how long ago she lived—that […]

Fish Antifreeze Provided by “Pseudogene”

Freezing water forms crystals that can rip and tear at cells.  Yet there are fish in arctic waters that can survive even below the freezing point of sea water.  They accomplish this by means of special “antifreeze proteins” that interfere with the damaging effects of water crystals.     Scientists knew about AFP (anti-freeze protein) […]

Former “Junk DNA” Now Considered Essential

The term “junk DNA” seems to be fading with each new discovery.  Helen Pearson, reporting for Nature Science Update, leads with the line “‘Junk’ DNA reveals vital role: Inscrutable genetic sequences seem indispensable.”  They don’t know what it does yet, but the assumption is it must be important for evolution to hang onto it for […]
All Posts by Date