human evolution – new discoveries, & how do we accommodate them in our teaching?

What follows is loosely based on a workshop I ran at this year's Biolive/ChemEd secondary science teachers' conference. (A most excellent conference, by the way – kudos to those organising & presenting.) I've added a bunch of hotlinked references. Back when I was in 7th form (or year 13 ie a rather long time ago), […]

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tunicates – apparent simplicity belies a complex past

Tunicates are more commonly known as 'sea squirts' – little blobby marine creatures that squirt water when you touch them (hence the name). We don't hear about them often, except perhaps when they make the news for all the wrong reasons. But from an evolutionary perspective they are fascinating little creatures – and it's largely […]

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the bedbug genome and their bloody habits

Once upon a time, I wrote about traumatic insemination in bedbugs. (Those of my friends who are still traumatised by learning about the reproductive habits of various slug species may not wish to follow that link.) Now, two papers just published in Nature Communications describe the results of sequencing & examining the genome of the […]

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a mantis? or a fly?

So, which is it? A mantis? Or a fly? (Image by kind permission of Daniel Llavaneras) In fact, the creature shown in this gorgeous image by Daniel Llavaneras is neither mantis nor true (Dipteran) fly, although its common name is 'mantisfly'. Instead, it belongs to the insect family Mantispidae (a group that includes lacewings and antlions). Like real praying mantids, matisflies walk […]

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from small beauties to a big one

Is it a peacock? Is it a turkey? Another in the occasional series of gorgeous creatures: the ocellated turkey 🙂 Image credit: backyardchickens.com Over on Tetrapod Zoology, Darren Naish provides the detailed story of this species' biology & evolution. Apparently they are difficult creatures to keep in captivity, so they won't be appearing on the Christmas menu […]

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sticky little lizard feet

Evolutionary change can be fast – Peter and Rosemary Grant's long-term & ongoing research project on the Galapagos finches documented rapid responses to environmental changes, for example, as does the  recent work on cane toads in Australia. And biologists have known since Darwin's time that competition can be a strong driver of evolutionary change. (Take […]

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rapid evolution in cane toads

In her book Paleofantasy, Marlene Zuk discusses cane toads (Bufo marinus) as an example of just how rapidly evolutionary processes can work. These amphibian pests were introduced into Australia in 1935 to control borer beetles in sugar cane. Unfortunately the toads never got the memo about this expectation, and have spread rapidly across the continent, […]

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