Evolution news

Survival of the Fittest

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/10051010533.htm from a paper in Nature May 9th ... researchers used entire islands in the Bahamas to test the theory, survival of the fittest. Competition among lizards was found to be more important than predation by birds and snakes when it came to survival. They covered several small islands with bird-proof netting while others were left open, and on some islands snakes were added to expose the lizards to a greater degree of predation.

Roger thorpe

At www.physorg.com/print192453015.html ... research by evolutionary biologist Professor Roger Thorpe of Bangor University is contributing to a change in the way we think about evolution. A paper published in the online journal PLoS Genetics (April 29th) has been reported in Science and Nature (see doi:10.1371/journal.pages.10000929 (PLoS Genet 6 (4) ie10000929)

Mathematical Bio-Diversity

At www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/10042153931.htm April 25th ... a mathematical modle has been developed to unravel a key evolutionary riddle - what factors underlie the generation of biological diversity both within and between species. The emergence of rare traits in a population can spawn diversity - and some of these traits will prosper.

Mammoths on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean

At http://news.yahoo.com March 30th (science and archaeology section) ... reports on a paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B on what might have caused the extinction of wooly mammoths across Eurasia and North America - without firm conclusions. The paper instead addresses the survival of mammoths on Wrangel Island off the Siberian coast, and raises some very interesting points. However, it does not address the main one - why did mammoths live on an Arctic Ocean island during the Ice Age?

Rapid evolution?

Science Daily March 22nd ... www.sciencedaily.com/release/2010/03/100322083654.htm ... evolution can apparently proceed much more rapidly than has been thought. This is shown by Magnus Karlsson of Linnaes University. It is generally accepted that measurable evolutionary changes occur slowly, often taking 100s of generations.

Ape Folk

The Guardian and The Observer, soulmates in green politics, have a simlar choice of story regarding evolution of humanity. See online version at www.guardian.co.uk 21st February ... basically, it concerns the discovery 6 years ago of a small human species on an Indonesian island and this has caused all kinds of new ideas to promulgate. It is seriously being suggested that Hobbits preceded Homo Erectus in the journey Out of Africa - and went on to colonise other parts of the world.

Darwin

New Scientist (online version) January 26th ... an article speculates that Darwin's ideas were only a part of the story of evolution. Darwin's explanation may apply only to recent history of life on earth whereas in the deep history of the earth evolution may have differed in some respects. At the root of the idea is overwhelming evidence for horizontal gene transfer - in which organisms aquire genetic material horizontally from other organisms around them rather than vertically from their parents or ancestors.

Plant mutations

www.physorg.com January 4th ... the speed of mutations in plants has been monitored for the first time and findings shed light on the evolutionary process. It happens much quicker than imagined and therefore this raises some questions about the uniformitarian model - does it require such a long time to produce the evolutionary changes observed. If plants and animals can mutate quickly this means that punctuated evolution is a real possibility - long periods with no change interrupted by short bursts of mutation.

Big Heads

http://discovermagazine.com December 28th 2009 ... the cranial capacity of Boskop skulls found in South Africa in the early 20th century are the subject of this article (see archives). The brains of these people was apparently more than a quarter the size of modern brains. In addition, it was found Boskop people had small childlike faces - somewhat like ET (and the popular image of aliens). This is known as pedomorphosis, the retention of juvenile features into adulthood, a phenomenon usually associated with rapid evolutionary change.

Evolutionary Enigmas

Rancho La Brea tar pits ... these are found in the heart of Los Angeles and are a rich source of fossils - over 565 species were caught in the tar (asphalt) over tens of thousands of years and fossilised. However, the uniformitarian explanation is not accepted by everyone - and why should it be? The official attitude is a bit like damage limitation - we know it is hard to believe but we simply will not accept this was a sudden and rapid event and fossilisation took place in a geological blink of an eye.