The August Carnival of Evolution

Every month, Bjorn Ostman finds another sucker^W^W^W organizes a Carnival of Evolution blog post, that does a roundup of blogs on evolution from a previous month. This month, I'm hosting it -- it's a bit late, due to some teaching duties, so apologies!

Trigger warning: This blog post contains discussions of evolution, which may cause anxiety in those who don't want to be exposed to ideas with which they are pretty sure they disagree.


My favorite blog post from July was the Marc Srour's post on Cone snail venoms and their awesomeness. Marc reviews a paper, Dutertre et al. (2014), that discusses how one cone snail venom duct manufactures different kinds of defensive and offensive venoms, presumably in response to the different needs of defense and predation.

Jane Hu's post on how the largest known flying dinosaur avoided crashing reviews Han et al., 2014, which describes how the long feathers on a raptor helped stabilize it during flight.

I found this post on why there are no ring species by Jerry Coyne to be interesting from two perspectives. First, I'd never read about the ring species concept before; and second, I thought it was interesting to devote so much discussion to why no actual examples of this concept seemed to exist :).

Bjorn's post on death of the fittest is a nice example of how simple bottom-up simulations can help you understand evolutionary concepts. I'm mildly disappointed that Bjorn didn't make the MATLAB code available as a link in the blog, though - what's with that?

Craig Benkman's blog on the outsized impact of a small mammal explores his PNAS paper, Talluto and Benkman (2014) on selection pressures from seed predation and fire. The short version is that pine squirrels prefer to harvest hard woody pine cones that also help repopulate the forest quickly after fires. In what I think is the best line in the blog post, "when squirrel densities exceed one and a half squirrels per hectare", the anti-hard-woody-pine-cone selection pressure from squirrels eating them dominates over the pro-repopulate-after-fire selection pressure.

Turning to humans, Bradly Alicea has a nice discussion of how dual process models that take into account both genetic fitness and cultural adaptation could be a better way to understand human biological variation.

Veering to something much smaller, Viking wannabe Jeff Morris wrote a nice blog post on microbial ecosystems and the Black Queen Hypothesis, talking about how the Black Queen Hypothesis can foster certain kinds of apparent "cooperation".

Next, returning to Jerry Coyne and Why Evolution is True, check out this great blog post on Poelstra et al. 2014, looking at the genomic and transcriptomic underpinnings of two closely related crows. Despite very little genetic variation, these crows maintain distinct appearance and territories. tl; dr? The closer we look at the concept of "species", the harder it is to draw clear lines. Also, the primary point of difference between the two ...subspecies? seems to be located at one very small portion of their chromosome 18. How odd!

Wrapping up my Carnival, Samuel Perez blogs about stamen size in some populations of Arabidopsis thaliana. There is a mystery here: what is causing populations at low altitudes to lose their short stamens?

And that's it for this month! From a personal perspective, it was nice to compare and contrast so many different topics and styles of blog posts -- it's clear there are many ways to blog, and this is a fine selection of blogs! Thanks for roping me in, Bjorn!


The next host: the September edition will be at Sam Hardman's blog Ecologica (

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