Today marks seven years since I started The Dispersal of Darwin. Posting was heavy while I was in school, and has since declined in the last couple of years, and even more so since starting another blog and having a second child.
While I wish I had the means to post original content, I hope, my readers, that you still enjoy the smattering of videos, new article and book notices, and other posts. Is it time to retire DoD, or should I keep dispersing Darwin, evolution, and history of science content?
A new article in Archives of Natural History (April 2014):
The katydid that was: the tananá, stridulation, Henry Walter Bates and Charles Darwin
Claudio J. Bidau
Abstract The Amazonian bush-cricket or katydid, Thliboscelus hypericifolius (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae: Pseudophyllinae), called tananá by the natives was reported to have a song so beautiful that they were kept in cages for the pleasure of listening to the melodious sound. The interchange of letters between Henry Walter Bates and Charles Darwin regarding the tananá and the issue of stridulation in Orthoptera indicates how this mysterious insect, which seems to be very rare, contributed to the theory of sexual selection developed by Darwin.
You must be living under a rock if you haven’t heard about or seen the first two episodes of the reboot to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (originally aired on PBS in 1980), Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (on FOX and National Geographic networks). While all of it so far has been a treat to watch and Tyson is charming in his enthusiasm for science, the first episode (FOX/Hulu) came under fire largely by historians for its cartoon depiction of how Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake by the Roman Inquisition in 1600 for his cosmological views (painting him a martyr for science and perpetuating the long-discredited “conflict thesis”). If you wish to dive into this discussion, see these posts: 1, 2, 3, and 4). Luckily the second episode, all about evolution, steered clear of myth-making in the history of science and presented a solid treatment of evolution (thoughts from PZ Myers, Larry Moran, and Steven Newton/NCSE about the episode).
You can view episode 2 of Cosmos, “Some of the Things Molecules Do,” through FOX or Hulu. Enjoy!
A new article in the Journal of the History of Biology by John van Wyhe:
A Delicate Adjustment: Wallace and Bates on the Amazon and “The Problem of the Origin of Species”
Abstract For over a century it has been believed that Alfred Russel Wallace and Henry Walter Bates set out for the Amazon in 1848 with the aim of “solving the problem of the origin of species”. Yet this enticing story is based on only one sentence. Bates claimed in the preface to his 1863 book that Wallace stated this was the aim of their expedition in an 1847 letter. Bates gave a quotation from the letter. But Wallace himself never endorsed or repeated this story. Many writers have acknowledged that this letter still survives. Yet the wording is different from that quoted by Bates and the letter says nothing of an expedition. It is argued that the sentence given by Bates is not a genuine quotation from this or any other Wallace letter but was modified by Bates to promote his own reputation. More significantly, this leads to the conclusion that there was a very sudden and dramatic shift in the way species were thought of and discussed after Darwin’s Origin of species appeared. Something called “the problem of the origin of species” (and similar variants) never occurred before Darwin’s book but exploded in frequency immediately after it. A profound change in how species origins were discussed happened which no one seemed to notice.
About a year ago I posted about two children’s books that combine interesting stories, beautiful illustrations, and factual information about dinosaurs and other extinct animals: Ankylosaur Attack and Pterosaur Trouble. Moving on to another group of extinct reptile, Daniel Loxton rounds out this trilogy in the Tales of Prehistoric Life series: Plesiosaur Peril (Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press, 2014, 32 pp.).
Again combining beautiful digital illustrations with landscape photography (or should I say, seascape photography) by Loxton and Jim W.W. Smith, this book recounts the “day in the life” of a family of ocean-dwelling Cryptoclidus as they evade the hungry jaws of a much larger plesiosaur, Liopleurodon. Young readers will enjoy the action, while parents will appreciate the theme of family bonds. Educators will enjoy the current paleontological information (paleontologist Darren Naish was a consultant, and he posted on his blog a lot of information about plesiosaurs and the process of working on the book), while everyone will enjoy the beautiful rendering of plesiosaurs, ammonites, ichthyosaurs, and belemnites (squid-like creatures). This trilogy is perfect for science-minded kids, and would be great set of books to have on elementary school library shelves.