This week at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! Noah Reid takes a look at a study that attempts to disentangle the effects of reproductive isolation between species and the rate at which new species are formed. Why would you want to do that? So you can tell whether the former causes the latter!
RI [reproductive isolation] is often thought to be important in diversification because some theory predicts that even low levels of intermating between populations can prevent divergence from occurring and because hybridization between divergent populations can cause them to homogenize, or cause one population to become extinct. If these factors commonly prevent speciation or cause incipient species to go extinct, one might expect a positive correlation between the rate of evolution of RI and DR [species diversification]. This paper is the first test of this prediction.
But, of course, a lot of biologists would say that the evolution of reproductive isolation is the evolution of a new species … so things get a bit complicated. Go read the whole thing, and see what you think.◼
… for many of us, coming out is a daily task. Still, how out we are in a given situation or social group says a lot about how comfortable we are in that context.
We found that people tend to be less out to colleagues than to friends and family—but we also found some interesting patterns about what factors might determine how open participants can be when they come to work. To find out what those patterns are, go read the whole thing.◼
Over at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense!, I’ve written about a new study that tries to disentangle conflicting sources of natural selection to determine whether big herbivores like antelope, zebras, and ostriches have evolved to run because they’re always running away from predators.
An antelope’s frame is under more demands than evading cheetahs—it also needs to travel long distances to follow food availability with the shifting rainy season. In fact, the North American fossil record suggests that big herbivores on that continent evolved long legs for distance running millions of years before there were predators able to chase after them. And then again, not all predators run their prey down; lions, for instance, prefer to pounce from ambush.
To find out whether gazelles are running for their lives, or running for dinner, go read the whole thing.◼
Over at The Molecular Ecologist, I have a new post up discussing an interesting new modeling paper. It suggests that, for some viruses, variation in the rate of evolutionary change may be driven not by selection imposed by their hosts, but by the dynamics of the viral population within, and spreading among, host individuals.
Viruses based on RNA, as opposed to DNA, generally have very high mutation rates—in part because the process of replicating RNA is more error-prone than DNA replication. But there’s also tremendous variation in the substitution rate between different RNA viruses, even between populations of closely related viruses.
To find out how simple population dynamics could shape this wide variation in substitution rates, go read the whole thing.◼
Queer in STEM participants, sorted by gender identity and sexual orienation. Image via Queer in STEM.
I’m happy to announce that the two of us at the Queer in STEM study have finally found some time to put together our first report of results from the online survey. It’s a look at who participated—their identities, where they’re living, what kind of scientific work they’re doing.
When we closed sampling at the end of July, we had responses from 1,443 people. Those folks have given us a first look at a kind of diversity that isn’t well understood in scientific workplaces. Go have a look for yourself, and keep an eye on the study website for future updates, which will come out as often as we can pull them together.◼
Do you like evolution, genetics, and evolutionary genetics? Would you like to think of things to do with a whole lot of genetic data and a flagship model legume? Well, my boss, Peter Tiffin, is looking for another postdoc. Here’s the post description from EvolDir:
I have available a post-doctoral position to work on association and evolutionary genomics of the model legume Medicago truncatula. Collaborators and I have recently collected genome sequence for > 200 accessions and have used these data for GWAS and population genomic analyses. We are currently working to refine our understanding of genomic variation segregating within this species and are particularly interested in the evolutionary genetics of the symbiosis between Medicago and Sinorhizobia. The successful applicant will have considerable freedom to develop research in their area of interest.
The deadline for submissions is 15 September 2013, so get in touch with Peter pronto if you’re interested. (See the full ad for contact information and the application package requirements—it’s standard stuff.) Benefits of the position include working with population genomic data from the cutting edge of current technology in a collegial lab with some very smart people (and me) in the midst of a fantastic community of biologists at the University of Minnesota—as well as living in the Twin Cities, which are empirically awesome. Yes, even in winter.◼