F Rosa Rubicondior: February 2018

Wednesday 28 February 2018

Chimpanzee Gestures Confound Creationists

Bonobo and chimpanzee gestures overlap extensively in meaning

The thing about evolutionary biology is that researchers can't help providing evidence for it. It's not intentional; it's not as though there is any doubt, it's just that the reality is that species evolved from common ancestors. So, inevitably, reality shows the evidence.

Take, for example, this piece of research published yesterday on the subject of bonobo (Pan paniscus) and chimpanzee (P. troglodytes) and their use of non-verbal communications or gestures which both use extensively to communicate with others of their species.

It turns out that there is an approximate 90% overlap between the two species. This is far more than chance alone could account for. The research was conducted by scientists based at the Department of Psychology, University of York, York, United Kingdom and the School of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, United Kingdom.

Since there is almost zero probability that the two species could interact and learn from one another, there has to be another explanation.

The overlap in gesture meanings between bonobos and chimpanzees is quite substantial and may indicate that the gestures are biologically inherited.

Dr Kirsty Graham, Lead author
Research Associate, Department of Psychology University of York

Monday 19 February 2018

All-female Fish Makes Creationism Look Stupid

Amazon molly (Poecilia formosa)
Photo credit: Manfred Schartl
Universität Würzburg: No sex for all-female fish species

No wonder American creationists all seem to be uncritical fawns of Donald Trump, hoping he'll build a wall to shut Mexico out. Right on the Mexican border with Texas, that centre of Christian fundamentalism and creationism, is a little fish that could cause the whole thing to come down - creationism that is, not the wall which hasn't even been started yet, the truculent Mexicans not agreeing to pay for a Trump foible.

The little fish, the Amazon molly, Poecilia formosa, like the newly emerged new species of crayfish I wrote about earlier, is all-female and reproduces asexually. The daughters are all clones of their mother.

Thursday 8 February 2018

An Intermediate Spider-Scorpion!

Chimerarachne yingi, preserved in amber in exquisite detail.

Photo: Bo Wang
Part spider, part scorpion creature captured in amber | Science | AAAS

Continuing with what has turned out to be another dreadful week for creationism, we now have two papers about a 100 million year-old species, beautifully preserved in exquisite detail in amber, which has characteristics of both spiders and scorpions.

Spiders, a group of arachnids are characterised by modified body appendages called spinnerets which extrude silk, and, in males, a pair of pedipalps which are used to insert sperm into females. All but the most primitive spiders also have smooth, non-segmented abdomens. Scorpions, on the other hand have segmented abdomens and lack spinneretes and pedipalps. They also have the characteristic tail.

Wednesday 7 February 2018

Yet Another Newly Evolved Species

Marbled crayfish, Procambarus virginalis
By Chucholl C. (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0],
via Wikimedia Commons
An aquarium accident may have given this crayfish the DNA to take over the world | Science | AAAS

Like most weeks, it's been a pretty dreadful one for creationists so far as scientific research is concerned. Another week and still not one iota of support for creationism or its lab-coated mock-science version, intelligent (sic) design. Instead we have the usual plethora of papers which quite incidentally, and with no effort or intent on the part of the authors, refutes creationism and confirms evolution.

I've already written about two - bacteria evolving to digest plastic and the extraordinary evolutionary history of the house dust mite. Now we have this observed evolution of a new species of crayfish which fills all the criteria for what creationists call 'macro-evolution', which they claim is impossible. Later, I'll be writing about a beautiful example of a fossil of an intermediate ancestor of both spiders and scorpions - again, something creationists tell their dupes don't exist. That one 'impossible' thing and one 'nonexistent' thing in the same week!

Tuesday 6 February 2018

Mites Evolving All Around Us

A scanning electron microscope image of an American house dust mite, Dermatophagoides farinae.
Image credit: Ellen Foot Perkowski
House dust mites evolved a new way to protect their genome | University of Michigan News

Unless you have a microscope or exceptionally good eyesight you are never likely to see one but you are living now with millions of them in your carpets, furniture and beds. They are of course the ubiquitous house dust mites, and they have an interesting and unusual evolutionary history.

This history in turn is probably responsible for a unique solution to a common problem faced by all organisms - how to cope with those pieces of non-coding DNA called transposons, part of the junk DNA, that can randomly relocate themselves within a genome, causing mutations and diseases. Transposons behave a little like independent strands of DNA with evolutionary pressures to survive despite evolutionary pressure on their 'hosts' to control them.

Bacteria Evolved to Eat Plastic

Feeding on plastic | Science

One of the more subtle aspects of evolution, and one that creationists are either unable or unwilling to understand, is the difference between genetic information and the meaning of that information. A paper published in March 2016 by a Japanese team, illustrates that principle very well. It is about the discovery of a strain of bacteria that has evolved the ability to digest the man-made plastic, poly(ethylene teraphthalate) (PET).

Currently, the world-wide production of PET is over 50 million tons and none of it was biodegradable - until now!
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