EvoLiteracy News 03 23 2015

Is Autumn the neglected season in climate change research? Researchers at Boston University and the University of Connecticut think so! (03 2015).

Autumn leaves“…This neglect occurs despite the importance of autumn events, including leaf senescence, fruit ripening, bird and insect migration, and induction of hibernation and diapause. Changes in autumn phenology alter the reproductive capacity of individuals, exacerbate invasions, allow pathogen amplification and higher disease-transmission rates, reshuffle natural enemy–prey dynamics, shift the ecological dynamics among interacting species, and affect the net productivity of ecosystems…” The review article was published in the March issue of Trends in Ecology & Evolution Vol. 30 (3).

Watch 2:48 min video “Climate change: Earth’s giant game of Tetris – Joss Fong:”


Coral-reef fish changes color to imitate other species and eat their progeny. Study just published in Current Biology (03 19 2015).

Colour-morphing reef fish Curr Biol 2015Researchers at the University of Cambridge have reported that “The dottyback changes its colour to match surrounding damselfish species, enabling it to counter the defences of its damselfish prey by disguising itself as a harmless part of their community, then swoop in to hunt their young… By changing colour to imitate local damselfish communities, dottybacks are able to overcome the predator avoidance behaviour in the juvenile fish they hunt.” Watch graphical abstract of research at Current Biology: Phenotypic Plasticity Confers Multiple Fitness Benefits to a Mimic.

Is the Human chin –its unique shape among the apes and other primates– an adaptation for chewing stress, speech, or a sexual ornament? Are chins spandrels —byproducts of selection operating elsewhere in the mandible or face? Are chins the product of genetic drift (some inbreeding among ancestral humans)? (03 17 2015).

Jaws Richard Kiel actor Bond Movies TWO

Richard Kiel in the role of “Jaws”

The Journal of Human Evolution has an article addressing theses questions. The findings can be summarized as follows: “Quantitative measures that capture the degree of chin expression were gathered from a sample of 123 primate taxa, and evolutionary rates associated with these measures were reconstructed in the primate phylogeny. The evolutionary rate associated with these measures was reconstructed to be far higher along the Homo tip (∼77 times greater than the primate background rate of evolution) than elsewhere in the primate phylogeny.” The results suggest that the human-chin morphology  is an exceptionally derived trait relative to other primates and a product of selection. — Note: the large chin in actor Richard Kiel was actually product of a syndrome called acromegaly.

Golden retrievers genetically predisposed to  cancer. Research has applications to understanding human cancer. From the cover of PLoS Genetics (02 02 2015).

Golden Retriver PLoS Genetics 2015PLoS Genetics summarizes Tonomura et al.’s work as follows: “Dogs are not only ‘man’s best friend’ for their loyalty, they are also the geneticist’s best friend. The artificial breed structure has created genetically isolated groups of dogs, with differential predisposition to diseases they share with us. This facilitates mapping of diseases relevant also to humans. Golden retrievers are predisposed to various cancers, including B-cell lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma. The genetic risk factors for these diseases in humans are still being elucidated. Surprisingly, golden retrievers have two nearby genetic loci with haplotypes predisposing to both diseases.” The complete article is available open access at PLoS Genetics.

Cartoon: Climate Change is a Hoax

Climate Change is a Hoax cartoon