Posts tagged with ‘evolution’

Dazzled and Deceived by Peter Forbes

This is a book about mimicry and camouflage; principally in nature but also in human use — i.e. the military. I heard about it because it won the Warwick Prize for Writing 2011, and the subject sounded interesting, so I thought I’d give it a go. It’s certainly pretty good, but I wasn’t blown away by […]

Life Ascending by Nick Lane

Full title: Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution. The ten ‘inventions’ are: The origin of life, DNA, photosynthesis, the complex cell, sex, movement, sight, hot blood, consciousness and death. Lane explains how each of these work and how they evolved, at least as far as current knowledge can take us — which in some […]

Harry’s advent calendar of birds, day 17: Green-tailed Sunbird

Still on the dinosaur thing, because it is genuinely fascinating, I think. Yesterday I picked a bird that looked like a bit like a dinosaur to illustrate the point, but of course they’re all evolved from dinosaurs, even ones like the Long-tailed Tit, or this Green-tailed Sunbird: And it’s not a distant relationship, in evolutionary terms; […]

Links – Bizarre band of paleo-crocs unearthed 'A suite of five ancient crocs, including one with teeth-like boar tusks and another with a snout like a duck’s bill, have been discovered in the Sahara.' Cool. ( tags: crocodiles evolution paleontology ) BBC News – Octopus snatches coconut and runs 'Underwater footage reveals that the creatures […]


BBC News – Feeding birds ‘changes evolution’ Interesting stuff: 'European birds called blackcaps follow a different "evolutionary path" if they spend the winter eating food put out for them in UK gardens.' ( tags: birds evolution )


Darwin’s finches tracked to reveal evolution in action : Nature News More fascinating results from the legendary research by Peter and Rosemary Grant into Galapagos finches. If you haven't read 'The Beak of the Finch' – why not? ( tags: Galapagos birds evolution speciation ) Video: Atul Gawande: New Yorker Festival : The New Yorker […]

The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins

Full title: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. I don’t need any persuading about the fact of evolution, but Dawkins is always worth reading on the subject. And Amazon had it at 50% off, so as much as I dislike hardbacks I thought I’d give it a go. Since I’ve read so […]

Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin

Your Inner Fish is a book which uses comparisons between human anatomy and the anatomy of other animals, living or extinct, to show how evolution helps explain the way we are and the way our bodies develop. Shubin is the palaeontologist who discovered Tiktaalik, one of the key fossils in understanding the fish/tetrapod transition, so […]

Darwin’s other finches

The Galapagos finches are an icon of evolution. But you don’t have to go all the way to the Galapagos to see finches which have evolved different beaks and different body shapes in order to specialise for different kinds of food and different lifestyles. These are all species of finch that Darwin might conceivably have […]

The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

The final chapter of The Origin of Species — Darwin’s ‘Recapitulation and Conclusion’ — states the case for evolution as well as any short account I have ever read. It’s tightly written, it argues a case, it summarises all the different kinds of evidence and shows clearly why they are important. It’s pithy, confident: great stuff.  […]


Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted): Early Birds Shake Up Avian Tree of Life via Pharyngula/Tangled Bank, exciting parrot/falcon/songbird news! 'This analysis effectively redraws avian phylogeny, or family tree, thus shaking up our current understanding of the early, or "deep", evolutionary relationships of birds.' ( tags: phylogeny birds evolution taxonomy )


What critics of critics of neo-creationists get wrong: a reply to Gordy Slack – The Panda’s Thumb ‘Here is a short list of things we have discovered or confirmed in the last 50 years or so about the origin of life. In my opinion all of these points have reached high enough confidence that they […]


The Royal Society – Article Interesting. 'It is widely believed that Charles Darwin avoided publishing his theory of evolution for many years… This essay demonstrates that Darwin's delay is… overwhelmingly contradicted by the historical evidence.' via Carl Zimmer ( tags: C19th CharlesDarwin evolution history )

Bones, Rocks and Stars by Chris Turney

Or to give it its fuller, more informative title: Bones, Rocks and Stars: The Science of When Things Happened. It is what it sounds like: a brief (under 200 pages, including the index) overview of dating technologies for a general audience: radio isotope dating, dendrochronology, Antarctic ice cores and so on. And I enjoyed it; […]


Moving On Up! Via Pharyngula: Jack Chick explains evolution. Which is weirdly fascinating. ( tags: comics evolution propaganda religion ) Japanese Matches – Too Cute To Burn ‘It is hard to believe they are real matches and not little edible sugar-candies. Of course that isn’t likely as it wouldn’t go over well with parents, but, […]


Amoebas may vomit E. coli on your greens – New Scientist ‘A laboratory study has found that food pathogens survive being eaten by protozoa living on spinach and lettuce. The temporary asylum might help bacteria stick onto leafy greens or resist efforts to kill them before packaging.’ ( tags: amoebae bacteria ) Ancient bird is […]

Ospreys, monogamy and stupidity

There’s an exceptionally stupid article by Magnus Linklater in the Times today. He talks about the recovery of the British osprey population over the past 50 years with reference to their apparent monogamy and long-term pair bonds. The article ends: What the osprey demonstrates is that, whatever indiscretions may be committed in the course of […]

40 Days and 40 Nights by Matthew Chapman

Full title: 40 Days and 40 Nights: Darwin, Intelligent Design, God, OxyContin®, and Other Oddities on Trial in Pennsylvania. In other words, it’s about the trial in Dover, Pennsylvania where the school board tried to put Intelligent Design into the biology classes and were found to be in breach of the constitutional separation of church […]

Monkey Girl and teaching evolution in the US

I’ve just finished Monkey Girl by Edward Humes, an account of the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District court case about the constitutionality of teaching Intelligent Design in biology lessons. I was slightly underwhelmed by the book—you can read my review here—but the subject is interesting. How do you manage science education in a country […]

Monkey Girl by Edward Humes

This book is about the Dover, Pennsylvania school board’s decision to put Intelligent Design into the biology curriculum and the ensuing trial that ruled it a breach of the constitutional separation of church and state. It’s interesting enough, but not particularly special. Perhaps they were keen to get to press quickly and the book is […]

Evolved belief?

Scavella asks: And the real question is why. What evolutionary purpose has this tendency, whose existence, even among the most rational of us, suggests that the search for transcendence may be hard-wired into human beings? I would need some persuading that religious belief is a specific adaption; i.e. that we have evolved the tendency to […]

Darwin’s prose

I recently found Charles Darwin’s Beagle Diary, being posted ‘live’ on the internet with a mere 175 year time-lag (see also Pepys, Thoreau). He’s only just reached Brazil, so there’s plenty of time to join the fun. This is from today’s entry: The houses are white and lofty and from the windows being narrow and […]

The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner

This book was recommended to me when I was in the Galapagos; I finally got round to reading it and I’m really glad I did. It’s an account of Peter and Rosemary Grant’s long-term study to measure the effects of natural selection on finches in the Galapagos. When this book was published in 1994, the […]