My interest in kākāpō way back in my honours year at uni: a guest speaker told us that as far as anybody knew, the last remaining birds were a few males, somewhere in Fiordland. I remember feeling that that sounded really sad – those lonely males booming for females who never came. Shortly after that, […]Continue reading
human evolution and attention-grabbing headlines
Image: By Nadina – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link Every so often there’s a new story claiming that a study has overturned our understanding of human evolution. (Or something along those lines.) I’ve just come across another one**, & thought I’d write this post as a warning to year 13 biology students. As Carl […]Continue reading
a pivotal species? what’s that?
By the end of the school year, year 13 students preparing for Schol Bio should have a pretty good grasp of the concepts & content they’ve encountered in their studies. What tends to throw some, though, is the fact that the context used for each question will almost certainly be something that they haven’t come across […]Continue reading
cave bears and brown bears and and admixture, oh my!
Last week the story of a hybrid hominin was in the news: the discovery that remains found in Denisova Cave were those of a 13-year-old girl whose parents were a female Neandertal and a Denisovan male. This was exciting stuff: we already know, from genomic analysis, that interspecies matings involving Neanderthals, Denisovans, and H.sapiens happened […]Continue reading
slick propaganda has no place in science classroom
Except, perhaps, if it’s used to develop critical thinking skills. But I don’t think that’s what happened on the occasion reported under the headline Creationism taught in science class at Villa Education Trust school: [A student who’d studied at] Mt Hobson Middle School said Darwinism was taught as an unproven theory and students were shown […]Continue reading
ducks, domestication, and selection’s signature
I've always rather liked ducks, ever since we hand-reared some ducklings back when I was still a school-kid. Mind you, the innocent me of those days didn't know what I know now about the effects of sperm competition and sexual selection on their reproductive organs. (Those of an enquiring mind will learn more – much […]Continue reading
appeal to antiquity? appeal to nature? bingo!
I was idly skimming the Herald's website when I came across an article with the headline "Is plant medicine really that effective?" Since the article appears to be in the nature of an advertorial, the answer is, it depends on who you ask. Unlike man-made chemical drugs that have been developed as novel medicines from the 19th […]Continue reading
could – & should – the moa be a goer again?
I’m starting to gear up for some Schol Bio preparation days in the regions (hi, Hawkes Bay! See you in 4 weeks!) and realised that I haven’t written anything specifically focused on those exams for a while. So I thought that putting something together would be a good way to spend a rather wet Sunday. […]Continue reading
poor little pangolins – driven headlong to extinction by human greed & stupidity
Pangolins are strange little creatures, with their diet of ants and termites, and the entire outer surface of their bodies covered with armour-like scales (face, belly & the inner surfaces of the limbs are either hairy or naked). When in danger, pangolins are able to roll up in a ball, presenting only that armoured surface […]Continue reading
the immortal life of a hydra
Students often get to look at hydras – tiny, fresh-water members of the group that includes sea anemones, jellyfish, corals, and the Portuguese man’o’war. All these cnidarians have a simple body-plan: two layers of true tissue with a jelly-like layer between them, a sac-like gut with a single opening that acts as both mouth and […]Continue reading