Old spiders

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web_in_amber_tease.jpg

Two short articles in this week's Science link the orb-weaving spiders back to a common ancestor in the Early Cretaceous, with both physical and molecular evidence. What we have is a 110-million-year-old piece of amber that preserves a piece of an orb web and some captured prey, and a new comparative study of spider silk proteins that ties together the two orb-weaving lineages, the Araneoidea and the Deinopoidea, and dates their last common ancestor to 136 million years ago.

Araneoids and Deinopoids build similar looking webs—a radial frame supporting a sticky spiral—but they differ in how they trap prey. Deinopoids spin dry fibers that they fluff into threads that adhere electrostatically to small insects; Araneoids secrete glue onto the the strand, which takes less work (no fluffing), and is much more strongly adhesive. The differences are enough to make one question whether there was a single origin of orb weavers, or whether the two groups independently stumbled on the same efficient form of architecture.

Continue reading "Old spiders" (on Pharyngula)

16 Comments

This is what I love about PT as opposed to the crew over at Uncommon Descent: Panda’s Thumb actually posts acomplishments in the field of evolution, while UD does no such thing. Guess the reason why is obvious, though: there are no accomplishments in the content-empty field of Intelligent Design.

Good science well presented reads like a detective story - and this definitely fits. Fascinating reading. Makes me a bit sad my next grad work is probably in business instead of Evolutionary Biology (though honestly, business can be a detective story too).

Ric, Another difference I note is that ID/UD seems to be focused on using insult and casting aspersions upon people. Certainly we have uncivil moments here, but it’s not a cornerstone of activity - and here you get good science like this or the recent post on pharyngeal arches.

Dragonscholar, I have noticed that as well. I also find it amusing that Dembski and the UDers have begun more and more to post pro-religious and cultural right articles, revealing their true purpose. I mean Dembski wants Ann Coulter to be the ID poster-girl. How much more obvious can they get?

I also find it amusing that Dembski and the UDers have begun more and more to post pro-religious and cultural right articles, revealing their true purpose.

Well, once ID got its clock cleaned in Dover, there wasn’t much point in maintaining the “ID isn’t religious apologetics, really it isn’t” deception any more, was there. (shrug)

Alas, much as I enjoy hearing about the latest scientific findings, I also recognize that they are, in the evolution/creation “debate”, utterly irrelevant. The “debate” simply isn’t about science. IDers weren’t won to ID because of science. And they won’t be won away from it by science, either.

Most revealing to me as of late have been the posts on how Darwinian Theory is somehow mystery/nature religion OR like alchemy, or comments on how some scientist mentioned the spiritual aspects of science (Hell, I get a spiritual rush from a good joke, but I don’t have a religion around Lewis Black. Much.). It’s shrill, it’s irrelevant, and it frankly echos some of the paranoia I’ve seen on the religious right - that goes back decades. The embracing of Coulter is something I still am having trouble adjusting too - one does not promote intelligent discussion by having someone as shrill as she promote your ideas.

It’s also why I’m so anal about the idea that pro-science people should work to present a good image. Let the UDers and the rest look bad - the pro-science crowd can win on both hard results AND good manners.

ID jumped the shark at Dover: http://www.google.com/trends?q=intelligent+design

And yes, it’s quite something to see how uncommondescent.com has spiraled out of control since Dover. Something I find quite striking is the amount of anti-gay rhetoric you find in the comments these days. Unironic use of the word “sodomy” and nobody blinks an eye.

And does anybody else think that Dembski secretly regrets his decision to give DaveScot access to the blog?

A zoom in on the last six months just for fun: http://www.google.com/trends?q=inte[…]mp;date=2006

Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 1, column 52, byte 52 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

One thing I’ve found reassuring in the past six months or so, is that regardless of what sort of political sentiments seem to prevail, the truth will out. Dover was one example, the NAS report on global warming this week was another.

BTW I’ve noticed the UDers are really focussing on abiogenesis these days. It certainly seems they are conceding the issue of human origins, as fossil and molecular evidence continues to pile up. [Never mind what fantasies of human origins they harbor in their heart of hearts.]

Stephen, I used to think that Dembski would regret giving DaveScot, with his rabidly illogical and hate-filled posts, control over the blog, but then it seems lately that Dembski has been striving to outdue DaveScot in the stupid posts department, so who knows?

I see nothing unexpected in Dembski’s delegating the management of his site to DaveScot. He himself is on about the same level of honesty and decency - just recall his shenanigans on Amazon and his own posts on UD where he has time and time again jumped to praise obviously false “news,” promoted plainly absurd claims and calumnies (like in Padian’s case etc,) and generally behaved as just a slightly less blunt version of DS.

It’s also why I’m so anal about the idea that pro-science people should work to present a good image. Let the UDers and the rest look bad - the pro-science crowd can win on both hard results AND good manners. Well, I certainly wouldn’t want our side to start emulating Coulter or something. But on the other hand, I hope you’re not suggesting muzzling Darwin’s rottweiler, either. :) I think we need some firebrands like Dawkins, Penn & Teller, or PZ Myers. Tell the truth, but tell it loudly if need be. There’s no shame in calling a liar a liar, even if it is insulting.

I quite agree. I see no need to make nice-nice with the nutters. They certainly have no intention to be nice-nice with *us* – if they win, people like us will certainly be behind barbed wire.

I hope they don’t put me and PZ in the same prison yard.

(grin)

Well ‘Rev’,

I can see that as PZ already has given you a beating on http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/[…]nonhuman.php . :-)

huh? Was Lenny even mentioned on the thread on Pharyngula?

I looked, but i must have missed it.

The midsummer holiday was long and eventful, apparently so was this thread.

Toejam,

PZ linked to one of ‘Rev”s comment on another Panda thread and commented: “I often see a related attitude in the comments at the Panda’s Thumb, too, and I’m beginning to find it wearing thin.”

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on June 23, 2006 11:38 AM.

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