National Science Teachers Podcast


The National Association of Science Teachers produces a biweekly podcast on “science teaching, science news, and anything with ‘science’ in it.” . The current podcast, available here, is an interview with Sean B. Carroll, author of The Making of the Fittest and Endless Forms Most Beautiful, about evolution, his new project, and science literacy. Highly recommended.



Its off topic for this post but I’ve been wanting to drop this into the PT discussions for a while. The June 2007 issue of Functional Ecology (Vol. 21 Issue 3 Pages 387-619) has a special feature on contemporary evolution. That is evolution observed on a timescale of decades or even years.

Two take home quotes both from the abstract of the editorial.

Ecologically significant evolutionary change, occurring over tens of generations or fewer, is now widely documented in nature.

Contemporary evolution occurs in a wide diversity of ecological contexts, but appears to be especially common in response to anthropogenic changes in selection and population structure. Evolutionary biology may thus offer substantial insight to many conservation issues arising from global change.

Worth keeping in mind next time someone comments here that evolution is unobservable or that it has no practical value. Matt

Matt said “…evolution observed on a timescale of decades or even years.” So is this “evolution observed” micro or macro? Is it natural variation expressed within a species, or has a new species been observed?

I’ve just heard about this, so I don’t have much information, but there seems to be at least one article which addresses Paul Burnett’s questions:

The speed of ecological speciation ANDREW P. HENDRY, PATRIK NOSIL and LOREN H. RIESEBERG Functional Ecology (2007) 21, 455–464 doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2006.01240.x

From the summary: “Adaptation can occur on ecological time-scales (contemporary evolution) and adaptive divergence can cause reproductive isolation (ecological speciation). From the intersection of these two premises follows the prediction that reproductive isolation can evolve on ecological time-scales. We explore this possibility in theory and in nature. Finding few relevant studies, we examine each in some detail.”

“Ecological speciation can commence within dozens of generations. How far it goes is an important question for future research.”

“So is this “evolution observed” micro or macro?” many scientists do not recognize the distinction- if you are asking is speciation has been observed - it certainly looks that way but it depends on who you ask - also the definition of a species varies by who you ask (somewhat)

reproductive isolation would tend to indicate populations that cannot interbreed - (one DEFINITION of a species) weather this isolation indicates “enough” genetic divergence (another factor in defining species) to indicate a different species is subject to interpretation.

the bottom line- EVOLUTION is being/ has been observed on the year/decade time scale

Keep in mind micro evolution is just another way of saying single gene change. Of course devolopmentally we know that Hox genes can dramatically change body plans with only a single gene. So in effect one has to proove that there is some kind of meaningful distinction between one gene changing, and more than that changing to imply that the two are somehow different processes instead of the same process observed over different periods of time.

National Science Teachers will publish a new journal in 2008:

Evolution: Education and Outreach

Launching at the conference of the National Association of Biology Teachers, November 28-December 2, Atlanta.

You’ll find the details at Springer’s web pages.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on November 4, 2007 11:44 PM.

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