About Me and this Blog

Name: Marc Srour

Contact: marcsrour [at] gmail.com

Current Affiliation: Enalia Physis Environmental Research Center, Cyprus. Personal Page.

Some More Outreach Activities: See me on Quora, where I answer questions about zoology, palaeontology, geology (mostly).

About The Blog:

This blog was originally a small extension of my teaching duties, where I wrote extensions on topics discussed in class, but didn’t have time to elaborate on.

Since then, I kept the blog running and occasionally update on random topics I am currently working on. Earlier posts are scant on literature and further reading; from now (2011), I will be including extensive citations and the posts will look more like introductions to scientific papers (although without the jargon, hopefully). This is both due to me feeling as if I am plagiarising if I don’t include the citations and to guide the reader to where they can get more information. That said, the majority of these citations link to scholarly journals and are not accessible to people without a university connection. In those cases, don’t hesitate to send me an e-mail and I’ll send you the paper (and more literature if you want!).

There is no post schedule. I have a tight work schedule and this blog is not prominent at all on it. I will make exceptions for requests and work as fast as possible to fulfill them though :)

One section had to be axed because of the high density of morons on the internet: the Pseudoscience Abattoir, which had standard responses to common science-denialist hobby-horses. Due to the flood of hatemail and stupidity this generated, I deleted it. To make up for that, visit these websites which do a more thorough job than I did:

About Me:

I’m in my early 20s. I’m an invertebrate palaeontologist (educated in Germany), my main interest lying in the origin and evolution of the animals during the Cambrian. My taxon of choice is the arthropods and my BSc. thesis involved the redescription and phylogenetic analysis of two exceptionally preserved (i.e. with soft tissues) stem-group arthropods from the Devonian. My goal is to convince everyone that my hypothesis for the systematics of the arthropods is most reflective of reality. Unfortunately, every other worker in this field has this same goal, and each one has a different hypothesis.

That said, I never wanted to shoehorn myself into a narrow field and my range of professional interests varies across the biological spectrum (although, to be honest, arthropods are the center of most  of them). Some disciplinary biases: I only deal with invertebrates and broadly with plants; bacteria and other microcritters only come into the pictures as symbiotes, I do not consider them in any other contexts (except geochemical); vertebrates are boring and useless, and I only consider them when they are hosts destined to die. Here’s an incomplete list of my most prominent interests:

  • Phylogenetic Methodology: Mathematical bases and statistics are included here, but it’s mostly on the roles of morphology vs. genetics (where I fall squarely within the morphology group); also, a harsh critic of molecular clocks (where critic = someone who makes criticisms when they are due).
  • Ecology: Plant-arthropod interactions; terrestrial arthropod ß-diversity gradients; ecological mechanisms of sympatric speciation.
  • Arthropod Taxonomy: on the insect side: beetles, hymenopterans (esp. ants!), dragonflies, grasshoppers, mayflies, antlions; on the non-insect side: spiders, scorpions, millipedes and centipedes [I fell in love with arthropods because of these four groups, not the insects :) ]
  • Fossil Record: of the insects and early arthropods, and what they tell us about the evolution of these taxa; completeness of the fossil record; taphonomy; geochemistry of exceptional preservation
  • Animal Phylogeny: I concentrate on the arthropods, both where they belong on the tree and their interrelationships, but also have an interest in the more basal groups (sponges, cnidarians and the various wormy taxa); molluscan phylogeny is another hobby, but not as deeply involved as with the arthropods
  • Neurobiology: sensory biology of arthropods; invertebrate brains (esp. arthropod); comparative neurology among all invertebrates
  • Terrestrial Arthropod Physiology: especially abiotic influences on them, with view to how global warming may affect their distributions and diversity.
  • Parasitism: evolutionary basis and consequences; kickass examples of it
  • Sociality: evolutionary basis and consequences; criticism of mathematical models
  • Developmental Biology: comparative embryology (arthropods); evo-devo; criticisms of deep homology; morphogenesis and canalisation
  • Evolutionary Theory: levels of selection (individualist, leans towards group selection, thinks gene-level selection is bullshit); role of fossils and palaeontology in identifying and elucidating evolutionary processes
  • History of Biology: Everything, from how much ancient cultures knew, through the medieval periods, through the Renaissance and Enlightenment and the origins of the modern biological disciplines to the emergence of modern-day debates (e.g. the group selection kerfuffles, the punctuated equilibrium battles and the silliness of early molecular phylogeneticists and the ways in which that silliness is still present); also, philosophy of biology (species concepts!) and history of biological philosophical concepts; biographical histories.

Those are what occupy me all the time, generally. I sometimes go through fads when I am fascinated by some random subject (in the past, this included cell biology and biochemistry).

I am currently starting up a project to review the terrestrial arthropods of Cyprus: taxonomy, ecology and zoogeography (both in time and space); involved with this project is public outreach (making field guides, etc.). If you have been/are going to Cyprus and feel like helping me out (insect photographer, collector, enthusiast, amateur or professional biologist), contact me with ideas!