What you need to know for macroevolution

Natural selection is at the core of macroevolution. While not an all-powerful force as some would have you believe, it is still quite potent when considering the longer timescales we’re talking about here. Also important for macroevolution is the levels of selection debate, which I go into at the end …

Phenotypic Plasticity

Some organisms can change their appearance, physiology, and development in response to changes in the environment. This is called phenotypic plasticity, and some examples of phenotypically plastic organisms include the Junonia octavia butterflies described in my natural selection lecture, or water fleas that develop a spiny helmet in the presence …

How did sperm and egg evolve?

Sex comes at a large cost: a sexual female is only half as fertile as an asexual individual, because the sexual female has to divide her offspring into males and females. So when an asexual organism can produce 50 offspring capable of reproducing, the sexual one can only produce 25, …

Fluctuating selection, canalisation, and evolvability: Why macroevolution is not “microevolution writ large”

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say that macroevolution is just “microevolution writ large”; this is a common saying especially among the creationist-debunkers to counter the claim that microevolution happens but macroevolution doesn’t. It infuriates me to no end, particularly because one of my biggest research goals …

François Jacob (1920-2013)

François Jacob (1920-2013) is pretty much a household name for biologists. He was a French molecular biologist who was one of the three 1965 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine winners (the other two were André Lwoff and Jacques Monod). Monod and Jacob got it for their work on the …

On Group Selection

A reader picked up on my parenthesised comment on EO Wilson’s kin selection paper in this post, which led to a substantial e-mail conversation on group selection, which I will distill here to show you that the noise against group selection doesn’t hold much water anymore. Explaining the existence of …

Much Ado About Randomness

I’ve seen some fuss being made about this new book, Bonner’s Randomness in Evolution. It’s fairly incomprehensible to me why it’s seen as controversial, although I can guess at why there is confusion, besides the back blurb stoking the fires by saying it “challenges a central tenet of evolutionary biology”, …

Phenotypic Plasticity

The nymphalid above, the map butterfly Araschnia levana, produces multiple generations each year. Its pupae come in two forms, dark and light, the difference arising from varying melanin concentrations. These differences persist in the adult. Above you see the adult that emerged from a light pupa; below is the adult …