EvoLiteracy News 03 28 2015

Science, the universal language…

Happy Saturday everyone, here are a few of my favorite news, videos and science links about topics of broad interest, enjoy!

Earth’s tectonic plates skitter about, from Science Magazine.

“…Geoscientists have unveiled a computer model that maps the details of [Earth’s crust] tectonic dance in 1-million-year increments—practically a frame-by-frame recap of geologic time. It shows that the [tectonic] plates speed up, slow down, and move around in unexpectedly short bursts of activity…” Read full story in Science Magazine and watch the amazing video below. “The animation portrays the motion of continents (grey, yellow, orange and red) and oceanic plates (blue) since Pangea breakup from 200 million years ago.”


Liftoff! US, Russia Launch Historic One-Year Space Mission.

US Russia One Year Mission to ISS“An unprecedented one-year mission to the International Space Station [began] Friday (March 27). NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko [did] launch toward the orbiting lab aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule, at 3:42 p.m. EDT (1942 GMT), from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakshtan.” According to NASA, “…a crewed Mars mission could take 500 days or more; learning more about the potential problems astronauts could experience during a long mission is important [for planning  future missions to the Red Planet]…” See The Yearlong Space Station Mission: Full Coverage.

Below, Mars One introduction film (plus many other related videos).


Dynamic evolutionary change in post-Paleozoic echinoids and the importance of scale when interpreting changes in rates of evolution PNAS.

C exquisitus by Simon Coppard The Natural History Museum LondonFrom the cover of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Authors Melanie J. Hopkins and Andrew B. Smith provide “…an example of a 265 million-year-old marine invertebrate [sea urchin] clade where evolutionary rates show a net increase over time. This is punctuated by intervals of high rates of morphological evolution, coinciding with major shifts in lifestyle and the evolution of new subclades. The study demonstrates the dynamic nature of evolutionary change within major clades.” For complete study go to PNAS.

Debate over Kin Selection generates yet another response to the controversial 2010-Nature article authored by Martin A. Nowak, Corina E. Tarnita & Edward O. Wilson. The new critique was published in PLoS Biology.

Acanthognathus teledectus Photo April Nobile

Acanthognathus Photo April Nobile

The latest rebuttal to the Nowak et al. (2010) article is titled “Relatedness, Conflict, and the Evolution of Eusociality,” authored by X. Liao, S. Rong & D. C Queller. The researchers summarize their work [a theoretical mathematical model] as follows: “The evolution of sterile worker castes in social insects has fascinated biologists ever since Darwin; how can selection favor a trait that decreases reproductive fitness? W. D. Hamilton solved this dilemma in the 1960s with a theory showing that reproductive altruism could evolve if it increased the worker’s inclusive fitness, which included effects that it had on increasing the fitness of its relatives. This solution to a crucial evolutionary problem, sometimes called kin selection, was challenged in a recent paper (Nowak et al. 2010). The paper generated much controversy, but no one has contested its new theoretical model of the evolution of eusociality, which appeared to overturn much of what was previously thought to be true from kin selection theory. Here we [Liao et al. 2015] examine this model in greater depth, showing that its apparently novel conclusions are overgeneralized from narrow and often inappropriate assumptions. Instead, this modeling strategy yields results that confirm important insights from kin selection and inclusive fitness, such as the importance of relatedness and the existence of conflicts in social insect colonies.” For complete open access to article go to PLoS Biology.

Learn more about the kin selection debate in Op Piece “Dehumanizing Academia by Dismantling the Humanities,” including the crossfire between Richard Dawkins and Edward O. Wilson.


Stuck The Landing cartoon Mars Curiosity Rover