Courtesy Invisible Fence
Infographic describing the evolution of the dog from wolves - explaining all the different categories of dog breeds. Really interesting stats, and research about how well dogs have been bred and learned to interpret human specific behavior.
One cool section explains how all the different breeds of dogs are categorized into the seven main groups (Gundog, Hound, Working, Herding, Terrier, Toy, Utility).
On this 204th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, U.S. Rep Rush Holt of New Jersey introduced House Resolution 41 to express support for recognition of February 12th as Darwin Day and for scientific thinking. Watch this rare and rational moment from Washington take place.
Courtesy Mark RyanThe Science Museum of Minnesota will offer plenty of activities throughout the museum this Saturday (February 9, 2013) in honor of Darwin Day, an international celebration of naturalist Charles Darwin's birthday held each year in February.
From 1pm-4pm, museum visitors will be able to learn about such things as mussel diversity in the Mississippi River, scientific illustration, dating fossils, and comparing differences between human and chimpanzee skulls. They'll also be able to take a virtual trip to the Galapagos Islands, and see the types of tools used on the HMS Beagle to navigate the globe back in the 19th century.
Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809, and published his great work On the Origin of Species fifty years later.
Scott Thurman's documentary, THE REVISIONARIES, which deals with the Texas Board of Education and the fight to establish what will or won't appear in science and social studies textbooks, is now available online for free until the end of the month. I found the program enlightening, disturbing and aggravating, but you'll have to watch it and make up your own mind.
Courtesy Public domain via WikipediaThere’s concern in the scientific community as the Republic of Turkey seemingly expands its censorship of evolution. Turkey is one of the more secular Islamic countries, but recent events seem to show a growing trend in the Turkish government's crumbling stance on evolution. In 2008, the country’s Council of Information Technology and Communications (BTK) banned access to evolution websites including www.richarddawkins.com, www.aboutdarwin.com and www.darwin-online.org.uk. (Access to some other previously banned evolution sites was later allowed). The next year, the cover story of a science magazine celebrating the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth was removed just before publication but later reinstated after public outcry. In 2011, Turkey’s Council of Information Technology and Communications (BTK) released secure “Child Profile” Internet filters that, along with guarding against access to pornography, blocked sites containing words such as “Darwin” and “evolution”.
Now the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK) has stopped publication and sale of all evolution books its archives. The TÜBITAK website has long listed books by such evolution writers as Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, and J a m e s W a t son as “out of stock”, but now titles by these and other writers like will no longer be available.
Courtesy Striving to a goalSomewhere, deep in the recesses of animal evolution, a mass of molecules known as opsin mutated from a run-of-the-mill protein into a detector protein with great vision. Not vision in the figurative way, but vision in the literal way. Opsin is the protein in the photopigments of your eye that interacts with light, and allows you to see all the wonderful things visible in the universe. If you’re reading this post, you have the opsins in your eyes to thank.
Here’s how it works. When a particle or wave of light (a photon) enters your eye, the light sensitive opsin traps it using a small chromophore molecule in it architecture called retinal. Normally, retinal’s tail is all twisted and bent, tensed up, and waiting for something to happen. That’s just the way retinal is when it’s chilling out. But when a photon hits it, the light particle interrupts retinal’s naptime, and the molecule reacts by straightening out its tail. The tail’s movement starts a chain reaction of sorts activating the opsin, which in turn, activates a nearby nerve that shoots out a signal that your brain perceives as light.
Three types of opsin can exist in the eye: R-opsins (rhabdomeric), C-opsins (ciliary, and Go/RGR-opsins (Go-coupled/retinal G protein-coupled receptor). The R and C opsins, depending what type of animal you are (e.g. vertebrate or jellyfish), are used for detecting light. Go/RGR-opsins don’t detect light but are used instead to help regenerate retinal cells and regulate an animal’s inner clock or biological rhythms. Scientists have known about opsins since the 19th century, but haven’t known much on how they evolved, or how they became designated light detectors.
In a recent study published in the journal PNAS, Roberto Feuda of the Department of Biology, National University of Ireland Maynooth, and colleagues reported on their detailed examination of the genetic trail of opsins in all kinds of animal life, from sponges and jellyfish to reptiles, birds and mammals. And while their results warrant further study, they did add new knowledge to our understanding how the eye evolved.
The study negated a long-held idea among scientists that only certain light-designated opsins were present in certain animal types. Generally, C-opsins were thought to be present only in vertebrates, and R-opsins only in invertebrates. But the study showed otherwise. It postulated that all three forms of opsins probably existed in the earliest common ancestor right from the beginning. Later, somewhere along their respective evolutionary lines each group designated the C or R opsins for light detection. The leftover opsins (whether C or R) were used for other non-visual purposes such as setting biological rhythms.
It also pushed the origins of light-sensitive organs back a couple hundred million years from about half a billion years ago to three-quarters of a billion years ago, a time not long after sponges had diverged from other animals and before they split into Bilateria and Cnidaria. Within that evolutionary timeline opsins were found in the gene sequence of the tiny and transparent shape-shifting microorganisms called placozoa. However, because the genome lacks a critical retinal-binding amino acid - lysine 296– it’s unlikely these opsins were able to detect light. (It should be noted that placozoan phylogeny is still under debate). But somewhere along the evolutionary line, these non-visual opsins mutated into a light sensing protein. After just two more gene duplications the three opsins, R, C, and Go/RGR we find in our eye’s photopigments today, were already present in the genome.
Why or when opsins developed into part of the eye’s photopigment is anyone’s guess. This research doesn’t solve all the mysteries surrounding them, particularly their non-visual functions but it does fill in some of the gaps in our understanding of key components of vision evolution.
Courtesy chensiyuanGrand Canyon, could you please show us your birth certificate? A new theory that parts of the Grand Canyon were carved as far back as dinosaur days has geologists picking sides on a controversy. New research contends that the western end of the canyon might be up to 70 million years old, carved by an ancient river that flowed in the opposite direction of today's Colorado River. Conventional theories about the canyon had its aged pegged at 5 to 6 million years old.
So what do you think?
Courtesy lord enfield (motorcycle image) and Mark Ryan (gorilla)A new study published in the Proceeding of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal suggests great apes experience the same diminished feelings of well-being during their mid-life as we humans do. Now I feel better.
BBC Nature story
Thanksgiving is upon us, and once again, the centerpiece of the traditional holiday meal is a dinosaur. Eat up and 'Happy Thanksgiving'!
Courtesy Mark RyanDinosaur expert, Jack Horner, was in the Twin Cities this week for a very interesting talk at Macalester College on his investigations into creating a dinosaur through manipulation of the chicken genome. His research involves switching on evolutionary carryover genes that lay dormant in the chicken's gene sequence, such as teeth or a long reptilian tail. He's had some success but is still a long way off from unleashing a Chickenosaurus on the world. When asked why chickens when a bigger bird like an ostrich would make for a cooler and much larger dinosaur, the Museum of the Rockies paleontologist answered that the chicken genome already exists, chickens are cheap, and there are simply just more of them. Afterwards, Horner signed copies of his book, How to Build a Dinosaur for students and the public.