Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal features an argument between Richard Dawkins and EO Wilson, with a cameo by Michael Lynch.
*I fear this may be a very inside evolutionary biology joke which greatly oversimplifies the positions held by all three individuals.
On Sunday, I participated in a panel discussion of the ENCODE project and issues related to it, with the folks from ScienceSunday via Google+ Hangouts. Ian Bosdet and I joined hosts Rajini Rao, Buddhini Samarasinghe, and Scott Lewis. to talk about ENCODE and make it accessible to those without a decade of post-graduate training in genomics If you have a spare 78 minutes, the discussion can be viewed on YouTube.
A recent study on house dust mites has shown that the mighty mites have evolved “in reverse” from an obligate parasite into a free living organism. That is pretty cool. Yet, I find myself in the position once again of questioning the way the research is presented without questioning the quality of the research itself.
For permanent parasites and other symbionts, the most intriguing question is whether these organisms can return to a free-living lifestyle and, thus, escape an evolutionary “dead end.” This question is directly related to Dollo’s law, which stipulates that a complex trait (such as being free living vs. parasitic) cannot re-evolve again in the same form. Here, we present conclusive evidence that house dust mites, a group of medically important free-living organisms, evolved from permanent parasites of warm-blooded vertebrates. – Klimov & O’Connor 2013
The researchers present their result as a refutation of Dollo’s Law, which postulates that evolution is irreversible: Continue reading
Author’s Note: Post was written without access only to the abstract, not the full text, of the journal article in question. Note that the argument is not with the methods or results of the research, but with how the research question has been presented.
University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences tweeted the following tweet on Twitter today highlighting the work of post-doc Laure Ségurel on genetic risks for Type 2 Diabetes:
The work itself is interesting in its own right. Investigating the population genetic history of genetic markers associated with Type 2 Diabetes risk could have multiple applications, beyond the high level of intellectual interest.
The question used to frame the research, however, troubles me, because it plays to general misconceptions about the evolutionary dominance and efficiency of natural selection in humans:
Why is this deleterious disease so common, while the associated genetic variants should be removed by natural selection? -Ségurel et al (Eur J Hum Genet. 2013 Jan 23. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2012.295)