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Carnival of Evolution #21: The Superstar Edition

March 2, 2010

For 17 days, we had the likes of Apolo Ohno, Kim Yu-Na, Shaun White and Bode Miller in our living rooms. We cheered. We stressed. We oohed and ahhed and stayed up past our bed times. Now what?

Now, we bring you a carnival of evolution posts by some of the best science bloggers. This edition is stacked! Eight of the bloggers are finalists for Research Blogging Awards and one is an award-winning journalist. (Science bloggers may not be as glamorous as Olympic athletes, but they can grace your living room too—just pick up your laptop and carry it in there.)


We begin with the biggest superstar of all: Charles Darwin. Kevin Zelnio from Deep Sea News (a finalist for the Research Blogging Award for Funniest Blog) tells us that Darwin was intoxicate[d] with crustaceous ecstasy.” In other words, he was obsessed with barnacles, so much so that his son once asked another child, “where does your father do his barnacles?”

At The Atavism (a finalist for the Research Blogging Award for Best Lay-level Blog), David Winter reveals some of Darwin’s deepest thoughts—about marriage. Under the “Marry” column, Darwin included gems like “Object to be beloved & played with —better than a dog anyhow.” Under “Not Marry,” he wrote, “Perhaps my wife wont like London; then the sentence is banishment & degradation into indolent, idle fool.”

In honor of the 150th anniversary of Origin, T. Ryan Gregory of Genomicron, shares some caricatures of Darwin from the popular media in the 1800s.

Darwin Caricatures: The Hornet, 22 Mar 1871--In response to The Descent of Man


Zinjanthropus explores optimal foraging theory in potato-eating monkeys at A Primate of Modern Aspect (a finalist for the Research Blogging Award for Best Blog in Social Sciences or Anthropology).

Another superstar, DeLene of Wild Muse (a finalist for the Research Blogging Award for Best New Blog) writes about coywolves. What’s a coywolf? It’s a cross between a wolf and a coyote and it’s definitely worth a read.

Are humans the only species that shares? Nope. Eric Michael Johnson, author of The Primate Diaries (Finalist for the Research Blogging Awards for Blog of the Year and Blog post of the Year) writes about bonobos who share with other bonobos. Peter, my co-blogger here at Mauka to Makai writes about altruism—actually altruism-on-demand—in chimps. (Sure, we’ll toot our own horn. Mauka to Makai is a finalist for the Research Blogging Awards for Best Lay-Level Blog, Funniest Blog and Best Blog in Biology.)

Finally, we address that question that’s always been niggling in the back of your mind: how the hell did human fingers evolve?

Fish, Birds and Bacteria

What makes one species of pufferfish puff up in response to a startling stimuli while another pufferfish species flees in response to the same stimuli? Zen Faulkes, author of NeuroDojo (a finalist for the Research Blogging Award for Best Blog in Neuroscience) explores the issue.

How do you discuss your wife’s family and one of the coolest/ugliest/weirdest fish in the same post? Ask Dr. M., who does just that in his post on anglerfish evolution at Deep Sea News.

In Giants Lurking in the Drawer, Carl Zimmer (award-winning journalist and author of seven books) examines the evolution of filter-feeding fish. Were there filter-feeders before today’s sharks and whales? Of course, you’ll have to read it to find out.

The moa was a large flightless bird in New Zealand. (It’s now extinct.) Large. And flightless. Yet, David Winter tells us that new evidence suggests that the moa’s ancestors flew to New Zealand.

Crows are smart—freakishly smart—but is there a limit to their intelligence? John from A DC Birding Blog tells us about a study that suggests that crows rely on visual feedback and experience to solve problems, errr, to get a chunk of meat hanging on a string.

S.E. Gould explains how photosynthetic bacteria evolved in Carbon carbon everywhere…at Lab Rat and Bjorn celebrates the 22nd anniversary of Rich Lenski’s long-term evolution experiment with E. coli at Pleiotropy.


If Homo sapiens evolved in Africa, wouldn’t it make sense to follow the human genome to Africa? Yes. And to really “get” the human genome, wouldn’t it make sense to get as much genetic diversity as possible? Yes. Know where there’s tons of genetic diversity? Africa. Those are just some of the reasons Carl Zimmer gives for the importance of the recent work that sequenced the genomes of a Khoisan man and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (a Bantu).

Did the last ancestor we shared with worms really have a sophisticated brain? And can microRNA tell us? Bjorn’s got a beef with some over-simplified science reporting.

Is junk DNA a defensive line against mutagens? T. Ryan Gregory isn’t so sure…

Could a newly-developed “drought-resistant” wheat really be better than wheat that has evolved naturally? Jeremy from Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog won’t give us the answer, but he does tempt us into reading the full post.

In Gene Networks and Natural Selection, Michael White writes about yeast. Within a single species of yeast, there are two different states of entire gene network, something that can only be explained by balancing selection.

Talking ‘bout Evolution

In My proboscid is bigger than your proboscid, John from Kind of Curious tells us about a theory that really pissed Thomas Jefferson off. The Theory of American Degeneracy said that the animals in the New World were weaker and smaller than those in the Old World because the New World was colder and more humid.

At The EEB & Flow (a finalist for the Research Blogging Award for Best Blog in Biology), Marc Cadotte writes about the importance of bringing evolutionary biologists to the table when making conservation decisions.

Here’s the problem: teachers don’t need to learn about evolution to teach. Eric Michael Johnson has a brilliant idea: a course in evolutionary history.

Iddo Friedberg of Byte Size Biology uses sponges and Albert Einstein to explain the proper use of the phrase highly evolved.”

At Deep Thoughts and Silliness, Bob O’Hara has some things to say to Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini. He doesn’t like their new book, What Darwin Got Wrong, and thinks they really need to learn a thing or two about evolution (or at the very least learn where wings would go on a pig, geesh).

That’s it for this carnival. The next edition of Carnival of Evolution will be at Beetles in the Bush on April 1. It’s not too early to submit your posts (just use this handy submission form). For more about Carnival of Evolution, to read past editions or to volunteer to host an upcoming edition, go to CarnivalofEvolution.

One more thing: Scientia Pro Publica 22—another awesomely amazing carnival—is out today and, “like a barnacle’s penis, this edition of Scientia Pro Publica is long and strange and packed with seeds—for thought.”

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. March 2, 2010 5:01 pm

    That’s definitely an all-star line you’ve put together (myself notwithstanding). Lot’s of clear thinking to revive my thesis-writing addled brain during the day!

  2. March 3, 2010 4:35 am

    Nice round-up, and thanks for including us. Just one thing: how I hate those pop-up previews of linked sited, especially on a post as packed with links as this one, they really get in the way.

    Does anyone actually like them? Look at the pop-up and say, “Nah, I don’t think I’ll bother”?

    • Kelsey permalink*
      March 3, 2010 7:05 am

      David- You certainly fall into the all-star category as a Research Blogging Awards finalist with two awesome posts in this carnival!

      Jeremy- Thanks for the comment. The pop-up previews don’t show up for me (I probably turned them off at some point). I’ll try to figure out how to get rid of them.

  3. Jason F Cannon permalink
    March 3, 2010 6:34 pm

    I agree with Jeremy on the pop up thing…. However, GREAT READ with GREAT LINKS.
    Thank you!

  4. March 4, 2010 12:41 am

    Great roundup by some heavy hitters.

    Regarding site previews, these are called mShots, and visitors who don’t like them can disable them themselves by clicking on Turn Site Previews Off in the bottom right corner of a preview. This way, the feature remains available for others who do like it.

  5. July 21, 2010 8:21 pm

    it was a long read but i enjoyed it nice blog keep it up ! 🙂


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