My International Readers

There is a post over at Pharyngula comparing international readership on liberal vs. conservative blogs . Here are my stats. I’m happy to note that 44% of my visitors came from overseas.

56 56.57% United States United States
7 7.07% United Kingdom United Kingdom
6 6.06% Denmark Denmark
6 6.06% Canada Canada
4 4.04% Ireland Ireland
4 4.04% Australia Australia
4 4.04% Netherlands Netherlands
4 4.04% Czech Republic Czech Republic
2 2.02% Taiwan Taiwan
2 2.02% India India
1 1.01% Sweden Sweden
1 1.01% Switzerland Switzerland
1 1.01% Puerto Rico Puerto Rico
1 1.01% Germany Germany

You Know You Have Been Reading Too Much Biology When…

You know you have been reading too much biology when everytime you get an idea for a post you discoverPZ Meyers has already written a post on the same topic! I started on mine yesterday, got lazy and decided to turn it into a two parter – that’s what I get for procrastination! The sad thing is, I have been reading a lot of anthropology lately (I’m currently reading L.S.B. Leakey’s “By the Evidence”)but for some reason I keep posting on biological topics. As soon as I get over being befuddled by it, I’ll finish that post becuase I’m actually going somewhere slightly different with it. In the meantime I think I’ll try to forget about biology by immersing myself in Walker and Leakey’s “The Nariokotome Homo Erectus Skeleton” I’d like to see a post on that over at Pharyngula!

Prehistoric Settlements Discovered in Greece

The above is a map of the area around Ptolemaida Greece. It’s about 330 miles northwest of Athens and is home to some interesting archaeological finds. According to a story on MSNBC two neolithic sites, dating to some 5,000-6,000 years ago, have been found. The two sites join approximately 25 others found in the area:

The first site, located on a plot earmarked for coal mining by Greece’s Public Power Corporation, yielded five human burials, as well as artifacts including clay figurines of humans and animals, sealstones, pottery and stone tools.

The second site dates to around the same time period and seems to be a stone tool workshop.

Intelligent Design and the Need for Jesus

Dembski says:

God, as understood by the world’s great monotheistic faiths, is an infinite personal transcendent creator. The designer responsible for biological complexity, by contrast, need only be a being capable of arranging finite material objects to display certain patterns. Accordingly, this designer need not even be infinite. Likewise, that designer need not be personal or transcendent (cf. the “designer” in Stoic philosophy).

That being the case, would that mean we are not created in gods image and that Jesus didn’t die for our sins? Wouldn’t that mean the bible was fallible. SHouldn’t we then worship the non-infinite, non-transcendent material arranger? I’d really like to see Dembski discuss the theological implications for christianity behind that statement!

Platynereis dumerlii, Acropora millepora and the Human Genome

Platynereis dumerliiPlatynereis

Acropora millepora

It all started several years ago. Scientist were trying to decide the relationships between vertebrates, arthropods and nematodes. There were two competing theories. The first is based on the fact that the nemetodes lack a true body cavity, rather they have a false coelom sandwiched between endoderm and mesoderm tissue layers.

Coelemates, on the other hand, have a true body cavity.
The Coelemates are divided into deuterostomes (which includes vertbrates) and protostomes (based on whether the blastophore develops into the anus or the mouth respectively).

The second, based on small subunit ribosomal RNA analysis, revamps this placing acoelemates (lacking a coelom) and pseudocoelomates (such as nematodes) in a clade with protostomes. More specifically, they placed nematodes in a clade with arthropods. This clade is defined based on the fact that they moult. Both phylogenies are pictured below.

Coelom vs Ecdsozoa Phylogeny

This is where things get really interesting. There have been a number of studies designed to settle the question. During the course of the research some interesting, and unexpected phenomena came to light. In the meantime, researchers studying primates discovered theat the rate of molecular evolution in humans and apes was slower than the rate of molecular evolution in monkeys….

Look for Part Two tomorrow (hopefully).

Frankenstein Has Tea

I had someone land at my site by doing a Google image search on “Karloff, Tea, Cigarette”. Since I had mentioned on my Halloween post that this was one of my favorite pics, here it is:

The picture was taken on the set of Frankenstein during a break in filming. Note Boris Karloff is holding a tea cup in his right hand and Colin Clive has a cigarette in his mouth and is in the process of striking a match. The juxiposition of the image of Frankenstein (brutal, mindless murderer – or at least he is often portrayed that way) with the tea cup is priceless.

Venom, Snakes and a Slapdown

As I mentioned in a previous post. Snake taxonomy has recently been completely revamped based on research on the evolution of snake venom. Zimmer has an interesting post on the subject. The Panda’s Thumb has a post as well. Note comments 60039, 60220, and 60221. Note also the very diplomatic, but total, slapdown of those comments in 60050, 60089, and 60247. Classic! The moral of the exchange is that one should do ones research before trying to criticize.
There is also a thread on the same subject here. One intersting note concerning fossil snakes. This and this provide some interesting info on snake evolution.

Movie Meme

Tony at Milkriverblog has a movie meme he would like everyone to participate in. Tony explains:

Now they can name as many as they would like, but i’m asking for only one. They name it in a post, and i’ll check all the blogs and collect the nominees and compile a master list here. They also should challenge their readers to post one also, and then notify me so i can add them to the master list.

I have three I would like to suggest. Two are science fiction, the third may or may not be fantasy.

1)The Phantom from Space. This movie is somewhat ahead of it’s time. It starts with communications engineers looking for the cause of some interference. Along the way they come to the aide of a woman, her husband, and a friend. They had been attacked by a mysterious man with no face. As the police investigate it becomes clear thatt the police and communications engineers are looking for the same thing. A man from outer space. It also becomes clear that what is motivating the aliens behavior is the need to survive. You see his space ship is wrecked at the bottom of the ocean and the only thing he has left is his space suit which is rapidily running out of power, correct atmosphere, etc. The movie was made in 1953 when all men from outer space when all aliens were out to kidnap earth women for nefarious purposes, so it’s sympathetic view is years ahead of it’s time (don’t see it again till Starman or ET).

2)The Magnetic Monster. In the 1950’s most science fiction revolved around bug eyed monsters – either made in the lab or coming from outer space. Although, the magnetic monster was made in a lab it definately did not have bug eyes. The monster of the story is a weird radioactive isotope that sucks down massive amounts of energy and actually reproduces. The heroes of the story have to figure out a way to stop it before it destroys the world. It is a low budgett film by Curt Siodmak that was actually well done – although I don’t think you will find it at any of the movie stores.

3)Secrets of the Roan Innish. What does a ten year old girl and seals have in common? And what’s up with the mysterious “dark” branch of the family? Absolutely phenomenal! Great acting, great cinematography, great story. When it was over I found myself saying “It can’t be over, I want more!” See it if you can.

Transitions News

RPM at Evolgen has allowed me to cross post his series on “Detecting Natural Selection”. I have decided to create a new page for genetics at Transitions. The first two parts of RPM’s series can be found here.

I have also selected the next Site of the Week Check both out. Be sure to visit Evolgen while you are at it.

Papers I have Read in the Last Two Weeks

Fry, B. G. and Wuster, W, 2004, Assembling an Arsenal: Origin and Evolution of Snake Venom Proteome Inferred from Phylogentic Analysis of Toxin Sequences. Mol. Biol. Evol. 21(5):870-883. Background for a post I was thinking about doing, but Zimmer beat me to it. May still do the post anyway.

Vidal, N. and Hedges, S. B., 2005, The Phylogeny of Squamate Reptiles (Lizards, Snakes, and Amphisbaenians) inferred from Nine Nuclear Protein-Coding Genes. C. R. Biologies 328:1000-1008. See above.

Bleiweiss, Robert, 1998, Slow Rate of Molecular Evolution in High-Elevation Hummingbirds. PNAS 95:612-616 Background for a post I’m working on.

Martin, A. P., Palumbi, S. R., 1993, Body Size, Metabolic Rate, Generation Time, and the Molecular Clock. PNAS 90:4087-4091. Same as the previous article, although it may be awhile before I post it. I’m thinking of going out and buying several books on the subject as I’m really developing an interest in the effects of body size, etc, on metabolism.

Seino, S., Bell, G. I., and Li, WH, 1992, Sequences of Primate Insulin Genes Support the Hypothesis of a slower Rate of Molecular Evolution in Humans and Apes than in Monkeys. Mol. Biol. Evol. 9(2):193-203. See above.

Fielding, S, Martill, D., and Naish, D., 2005, Solnhofen-Style Soft-Tissue Preservation in a New Species of Turtle from the Crato Formation (Early Cretaceous, Aptian) of North-East Brazil. Paleontology 48(6):1301-1310. I did a post on this a few days ago.

Bell, G. L., and Polcyn, M. J., 2005, Dallasaurus turneri, A New Primitive Mosasauroid from the Middle Turonian of Texas and Comments on the Phylogeny of Mosasauridae (Squamata). Netherlands Journal of Geosciences 84(3):177-194. I did a post on this as well. Strangely enough, it is relevant to the above two articles on snakes. I’ll mention how it is relevant if I actually get round to writing the post. I say strangely because a paper I mentioned here has bearing on the above articles on body size, metabolic rates and molecular evolution.