Posts Tagged ‘mutation’

Whale Evolution Nightmare

Whale Evolution Nightmare

Early northeast colonial settlers, William Bradford and Edward Winslow, in 1620 sent out a business prospectus: “Cape Cod was like to be a place of good fishing, for we saw daily great whales, of the best kind for oil and bone.” The American whaling industry was just beginning. Two-hundred years later, New England was the premier whaling center in the world. More than 10,000 men set-sail on whaleships in 1857 from New Bedford, Massachusetts, alone.

Within the next 100 years, during the life-time of Herman Melville’s mythical Moby Dick (illustrated), the whaling industry was forced to hunt deeper into the ocean and eventually into the southern Atlantic, leaving the north Atlantic population decimated. Since fewer than 100 were known to exist by 1935, whaling was globally banned in 1937. While the population is estimated to have finally increased to 500 in 2013, a Florida research team has uncovered that a genetic mutation is now forcing the whale population into extinction – a whale evolution nightmare.

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Genetics to Epigenetics, the Third Wave


In his autobiography, Charles Darwin notes, “Towards the end of the work I gave my well abused hypothesis of Pangenesis. An unverified hypothesis is of little or no value”—the First-Wave of evolutionary thought. Today, Darwin’s sentiments on pangenesis have re-emerged, however, this time on genetics.

In this week’s edition of the journal Science published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the focus is on epigenetics. An on-line issue even features a video by Science editor Guy Riddihough asking a number of top researchers a simple question: “What’s your definition of epigenetics?” And, “Their answers aren’t quite so simple,” according to Riddihough. Continue Reading



In The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin uses the term information seven times. In all seven uses, information is only used in the context of gaining knowledge, “I have also reason to suspect, from information given me by Mr. W. W. Edwards, that with the English race horse the spinal stripe is much commoner in the foal than in the full-grown animal.”

Information is never used in the context of genetics. In fact, information is only used in the context of exchanging information between colleagues.  

“And it would appear from information given me by Mr. Watson, Dr. Asa Gray, and Mr. Wollaston… ”

“… as I have learnt from information and specimens sent to me by Mr. Salvin… ”

“Mr. Agassiz, to whose great kindness I am indebted for much information on the subject… ”

“This species is found in the southern parts of England, and its habits have been attended to by Mr. F. Smith, of the British Museum, to whom I am much indebted for information on this and other subjects.”

“Accordingly I wrote to Professor Miller of Cambridge, and this geometer has kindly read over the following statement, drawn up from his information.”

“… without any information in regard to their geological position, no one would have suspected that they had co-existed with sea-shells all still living.”

Little did Darwin know that even before the publication of the fourth edition of The Origin of Species in 1866, Gregor Mendel had presented the now-famous paper entitled “Experiments on Plant Hybridization,” laying the foundations of modern genetics. Continue reading



Charles Darwin lamented in his autobiography over ascribing to pangenesis in The Origin of Species – 

Towards the end of the work I gave my well abused hypothesis of Pangenesis. An unverified hypothesis is of little or no value.

While Darwin’s hypothetic pangenesis was an accepted theory in 1859, by 1864 French biologist, Louis Pasteur, had undermined pangenesis by demonstrating that life cannot arise spontaneously—life can only come from life. Darwin was right. Pangenesis is of “no value.”

By the mid-twentieth century, while Francis Crick and James D. Watson unveiled the molecular structure of DNA. In 1953, the momentum of evolution theory was rapidly defaulting to a mutation plus natural selection neo-Darwinian model, most commonly known as Modern Synthesis.
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Fruit Fly, 100 Years Later


The fruit fly is celebrating 100 years of research. Charles W. Woodworth at the University of California, Berkley, at the turn of the twentieth century, was the first to use the fruit fly as model in the study of genetics. Today, Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly, has become one of the most studied organisms in biological research, particularly in the field of genetics.

In 1910 following Woodworth’s footsteps, at Columbia University from the top floor of Schermerhorn Hall, now known as the Fly Room, Thomas Hunt Morgan confirmed and extended Gregor Mendel’s basic principles of genetics. A year later, Morgan published his findings in Science, establishing the foundation for the emerging neo-Darwinism movement.

Morgan, in the book entitled The Mechanism of Mendelian Inheritance (1915) demonstrated how mutations using radiation on two-winged fruit flies resulted in four-winged fruit flies. The four-winged fruit fly was widely heralded as the earliest evidence that the first evolutionary step to produce a new species was a mutation.

The question, however, centered on whether the mutated four-winged fruit fly was a new species or an unsustainable aberrational freek. By 1963 after decades of research, the question could be answered definitively. Ernst Mayr, Charles Darwin’s twentieth century Bulldog, viewed the mutated four-winged fruit flies as “such evident freaks that these monsters can be designated only as ‘hopeless.’ They are so utterly unbalanced that they would not have the slightest chance of escaping elimination.” Mutation is not the gateway to evolution.

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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.