Posts Tagged ‘Charles Darwin’

Ancient Fungal Clues


Ancient Fungal Clues

Ancient fungal clues recently discovered off the coast of South Africa further stretch the boundaries of the theory of evolution. Birger Rasmussen, a geology professor at the Western Australian School of Mines, was drilling at a depth of 2,600 feet for the purpose of dating the ancient submarine lava in the Ongeluk Formation estimated to be 2.4 billion years old in Northern Cape Province of South Africa when he unexpectedly noticed what appeared to be microfilaments (pictured).

“I was startled to find a dense mesh of tangled fossilized microbes,” Rasmussen said in an interview with LiveScience writer Jerry Redfern last month. To Marlowe Hood writing for Phys.org, Rasmussen recalled that “My attention was drawn to a series of petrified gas bubbles, and when I increased the magnification of the microscope, I was startled.” The bubbles were “filled with hundreds of exquisitely preserved filaments that just screamed ‘life.’” In the words of Science Alert writer Peter Dockrill, “It’s raising some big evolutionary questions.”
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Behavioral Evolution in the Red Fire Ant


Behavioral Evolution in the Red Fire Ant

The behavioral evolution in the red fire ant species with the two different types of colonies, one with a single queen and one with multiple queens, have long puzzled biologists. An invisible border seems to exist between the two. Queen ants happening to wander between colonies are quickly destroyed by the male ants. To understand what evolutionary mechanisms might be at play, molecular scientists have recently turned to the genome.

At Queen Mary University of London, a team of biochemists led by Rodrigo Pracana (pictured below) sequenced the whole genome in both colony types to examine the genetic difference between the two types of colonies – SB and Sb. Surprisingly, rather than finding “slight, successive changes” as predicted by Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, they discovered two the genes to be “highly divergent” from each other.
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Origin of Bioluminescence


Origin of Bioluminescence

Bioluminescence is woven into folklore legends. From the 8th century Japanese firefly legend known as hotaru, to Fox an Apache American Indian who spread fire over the Earth during festive dance with fireflies, the world-wide wonder of bioluminescence is interlaced throughout the expanse of nature from the microbe to vertebrates.

“Researchers,” however, “have long wondered how bioluminescence came to be,” wonders science writer Steph Yin in the Quanta Magazine article entitled “In the Deep, Clues to How Life Makes Light.”

To explore the science of ancient legends, evolutionary biologist Matthew Davis at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, published the results of their study in the paper entitled “Repeated and Widespread Evolution of Bioluminescence in Marine Fishes” in the journal PLoS One (2016). Despite the inference in the title, however, evidence for the origin of bioluminescence continues to stymie scientists.
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Bacteria Evolution


Bacteria Evolution

The shape of bacteria has long been anticipated to correlate with movement. From an evolutionary perspective, form is predicted to follow function – but, had yet to be tested. In the words of evolutionary geneticist Fouad El baidouri, “despite a few pioneering attempts to link bacterial form and function, functional morphology is largely unstudied in prokaryotes [bacteria].”

Now in a landmark study published in Nature, Ecology & Evolution, a research team lead by El baidouri from the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom Elizabeth Allen explains in Phys Org, “the shape of bacteria does not influence how well they can move – this is the surprising finding… The findings refute long-held theories that there should be a strong link between the evolution of shape in bacteria and their ability to move.”

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Bird Eye Random Regularity

CHIKN_1K copy
Bird Eye Random Regularity

The mystery behind the superiority of bird eye sight over humans is now more mysterious than ever. Joe Corbo, staring into the eye of a chicken seven years ago, saw something startling carpeting the retina. Rather than randomly distributed color-sensitive cones, like in humans, Corbo observed a uniform distribution of the cones – a pattern previously unrecognized in birds.

Science writer, Natalie Wolchover, in A Bird’s-Eye View of Nature’s Hidden Order published in Quanta Magazine in July reported that while cones were remarkably uniform in distribution, the actual cone locations seemed haphazard. “The dots’ locations followed no discernible rule, yet never seemed too close or too far apart” – a strange mix of bird eye random regularity.

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Dead Evolution Icon

Industrial Melanism Light
Dead Evolution Icon

Britain’s peppered moth has long been an evolution icon. This month, a new genetic discovery renews the spotlight on the moth. “Researchers from the University of Liverpool,” reports ScienceDaily, “have identified and dated the genetic mutation that gave rise to the black form of the peppered moth, which spread rapidly during Britain’s industrial revolution. The new findings solve a crucial missing piece of the puzzle in this iconic textbook example of evolution by natural selection.”

Peppered moths are notable for their unique speckled range of colors from light, shades of gray, to nearly black. The dark moths are also known as melanics or carbonaria. ScienceDaily’s crucial missing piece evidence, the “jumping gene,” was published this month in the prestigious journal Nature. “From time to time,” however, according to Jerry Coyne, a University of Chicago evolution scientist, “evolutionists re-examine a classical experimental study and find, to their horror, that it is flawed.”

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Zika Virus

Zika Virus III
Zika Virus

“The Brain defects caused by Zika virus ‘could set evolution back 2 million years’ scientists claim” was the leading story  in the UKs Daily Mirror in February. Since then, the global spread of Zika virus, a previously known as a rare virus, continues as a leading headline story – for good reasons. As CNN reports, “This is the first time a mosquito has been found to cause congenital birth defects.”

The New England Journal of Medicine published the article entitled “Zika virus and Birth Defects — Reviewing the Evidence for Causality” on April 13, written by a team headed by Sonja Rasmussen at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to Rasmussen, “sufficient evidence has accumulated to infer a causal relationship between prenatal Zika virus infection and microcephaly and other severe brain anomalies.” Since Zika infections are associated with congenital defects, the Zika virus is set to test the holy grail of evolution – natural selection.
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R2d2 Disses Darwin

R2d2 Graphic II
 R2d2 Disses Darwin

R2D2, short for Artoo-Detoo, is best known as the fictional robotic character in the Star Wars universe series created by George Lucas. Inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame in 2003, R2D2 has since been included in the Smithsonian Institution list of 101 Objects that Made America. R2D2 is the good guy; the favorite character of George Lucas – known for always saving the day at least once in every film.

In the realm of biology however, the R2d2 gene is a Darth Vader villain terrorizing Darwin’s once popular theory. R2d2’s newly recognized function was published on February 15 in a paper in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution by leading investigator Fernando Pardo-Manuel de Villena (pictured below), professor of genetics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. With a stealthy title, “R2d2 drives selfish sweeps in the house mouse,” R2d2 disses Darwin with scientific evidence.
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Standard Evolution Equipment – Racism

Science Magazine
Standard Evolution Equipment – Racism

The theory of evolution comes with standard equipment that includes Charles Darwin’s concept of races. The complete title of his most popular book, The Origin of Species (1859), includes the phrase the “Preservation of Favoured Races.”

How “races” might relate to humans was clarified a few years later in Darwin’s The Descent of Man (1871). As Darwin explains, “The sole objective of this work is to consider… the value of the differences between the so-called races of man.” Racism has scarred the theory of evolution. The latest attempt to remove racism was published this month in the journal of Science by geneticist and leading author Michael Yudell of Drexel University, Philadelphia, in the paper entitled “Taking Race Out of Human Genetics.”
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Natural Selection Unfriends Darwin

Liver_Cancer II
Natural Selection Unfriends Darwin

Natural selection, sometimes known as the opium of the evolutionary biologists, has long been envisioned as the driving mechanism of biological evolution. “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection” by Charles Darwin was the first publication to popularize natural selection. In the words of twentieth century evolutionary biologist Niles Eldredge, “A century and a half ago, Charles Darwin offered the world a single, simple scientific explanation for the diversity of life on Earth: evolution by natural selection.”

Scientific evidence, however, continues to challenge the importance of natural selection in evolution. Eugenie Scott, recipient of the 2012 Richard Dawkins Award, in Evolution vs Creation (2013) hedges on the “single, simple” role of natural selection: “The main—but not the only—mechanism of biological evolution is natural selection” New evidence discovered in a human genetics study underscoring why, in the end, natural selection unfriends Darwin. Read the rest of this entry »

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Darwin, Then and Now is a journey through the most amazing story in the history of science - the history of evolution. The book encapsulates who Darwin was, what he said, and what scientists have discovered since the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859.

With over 1,000 references, Darwin Then and Now is a historical chronicle of the rise and fall of the once popular theory of biological evolution.

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