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One evolutionary biology lab's publications in one year match "intelligent design's" 5-year total

In one of my first posts, I surveyed the scientific literature and found that there are thousands of scientific papers published on evolution every year, strong evidence against the long-running claims of evolution-denialists that scientists are rejecting evolution. But would it be rude to compare a single evolutionary biology lab's research productivity for one year to "intelligent design's" total for five years?

Denison lab: 4 papers published in 2010, all with original data.
They claim: 0 in 2010 (as of today), 2 in 2009, 0 in 2008, 0 in 2007, 2 in 2006...
... so 4 papers in 5 years (<1/yr), 0 with original data.

Their pathetic publication record confirms the criticism their list was intended to refute, namely, that intelligent design advocates don't publish much because they "don't have scientific data." Here's our list:


4) Ratcliff, W.C., R.F. Denison. 2010. Individual-level bet hedging in the bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti. Current Biology 20:1740-1744.
Perhaps because the duration of starvation is often unpredictable, these bacteria "hedge their bets" by dividing into one starvation-resistant "persister" and one more-active "grower." See this blog post.

3) Oono,R., R.F. Denison. 2010. Comparing symbiotic efficiency between swollen versus nonswollen rhizobial bacteroids. Plant Physiol. 154:1541-1548.
Rhizobia provide nitrogen more efficiently (more N per CO2 respired) in hosts that make the nitrogen-fixing bacteroid form swell up and lose the ability to reproduce, relative to the same rhizobial strains in hosts where bacteroids aren't swollen. See this blog post.

2) Denison, R.F., J.M. Fedders, B.L. Harter. 2010. Individual fitness versus whole-crop photosynthesis: solar tracking tradeoffs in alfalfa. Evolutionary Applications 3:466-472. By disrupting solar tracking and measuring effects on photosynthesis, we showed that the overall effects of tracking on photosynthesis can be negative. So why do they do it? See this blog post.

1) Oono,R., I. Schmitt, J.I. Sprent, and R.F. Denison. 2010. Multiple evolutionary origins of legume traits leading to extreme rhizobial differentiation. New Phytologist 187:508-520.
Legumes have evolved the ability to impose bacteroid swelling (shown above to increase nitrogen-fixation efficiency) repeatedly. See this blog post.

Our small lab should outperform all of "intelligent design" again in 2011, as the following have been already published or accepted:

Denison, R.F. 2011. Past evolutionary tradeoffs represent opportunities for crop genetic improvement and increased human lifespan. Evolutionary Applications (already on-line). See this post.

Kiers, E.T., R.F. Denison, A. Kawakita, E.A. Herre. 2011. The biological reality of host sanctions and partner fidelity. 2011. Proc. National Academy of Sciences (already on-line). Four of us, each studying a different mutualism, critique this paper, one of many that draws incorrect conclusions from modeling that ignores the tragedy-of-the-commons created by multiple symbionts per host, as I've discussed previously. Here's their response.

Oono, R., C.G. Anderson, R.F. Denison. 2011. Failure to fix nitrogen (N2) by nonreproductive symbiotic rhizobia triggers host sanctions that reduce fitness of their reproductive clonemates. Proc. Roy. Soc. B (already on-line). Inside the root nodules of some legume species, rhizobial bacteroids (the differentiated form of these bacteria, which convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form the plant can use) have lost the ability to reproduce. If these plants just cut off resources to nonreproductive bacteroids that fixed too little nitrogen, that would have no direct effect on future generations of rhizobia. But Ryoko Oono and Carolyn Anderson showed that pea and alfalfa, two examples of such legumes, can reduce the reproduction of the bacteroids' still-reproductive clonemates in the same nodule, perhaps by cutting off resources to an entire nodule when it doesn't fix nitrogen.

Ratcliff,W.C., R.F. Denison. 2011. Bacterial persistence and bet hedging in Sinorhizobium meliloti. Communicative and Integrative Biology (abstract already on-line). This is a follow-up to Will Ratcliff's recent paper showing that starving rhizobial bacteria bet-hedge by splitting into one high-resource "persister" (which can survive long-term starvation) and one low-resource but more-active "grower." New data in this paper show that the persister cells are resistant to an antibiotic that kills growing cells, and that they have lower rates of protein synthesis, at least for the green-fluorescent protein.

Hendry, A.P., M.T. Kinnison, M. Heino, T. Day, T.B. Smith, G. Fitt, C.T. Bergstrom, J. Oakeshott, P.S. Jørgensen, M.P. Zalucki, G. Gilchrist, S. Southerton, A. Sih, S. Strauss, R.F.Denison, and S.P. Carroll. 2011. Evolutionary principles and their practical application. Evolutionary Applications (in press). What can evolutionary biology contribute to conservation biology, agriculture, and medicine? This synthesis paper from the Applied Evolution Summit, held on Heron Island in January finds some useful generalizations.

My research has been and is supported by the National Science Foundation, but the opinions expressed here are my own.

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