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May 27, 2011

Butterflies, plants, ants, bacteria, and birds

This week's picks:

On the origins of sexual dimorphism in butterflies "In some lineages, eyespots and bands arise in a single sex [Darwin's hypothesis], whereas in other lineages they appear in both sexes but are then lost in one of the sexes [Wallace's hypothesis]. "

Evidence for competition and cooperation among climbing plants "mixed groups tended to allocate more mass to roots than comparable sibling groups"

Kin-informative recognition cues in ants "Contrary to the theoretical prediction, we show that the cuticular hydrocarbons of ant workers in all four colonies are informative enough to allow full-sisters to be distinguished from half-sisters with a high accuracy"

Deciphering the Rhizosphere Microbiome for Disease-Suppressive Bacteria "we identified key bacterial taxa and genes involved in suppression of a fungal root pathogen... [using] nonribosomal peptide synthetases"

Evolution of tolerance by magpies to brood parasitism by great spotted cuckoos "estimated tolerance as the slope of the regression of number of magpie fledglings (i.e. host fitness) on number of cuckoo eggs"

Earth's earliest non-marine eukaryotes "1 Gyr ago... far earlier than previously thought."

May 20, 2011

This week's picks

Experimental evolution of selfish policing in social bacteria

Molecular evidence for a single evolutionary origin of domesticated rice

Persistent predator–prey dynamics revealed by mass extinction

Fossil Evidence on Origin of the Mammalian Brain

May 16, 2011

Fake "scientific conferences"

Last week I wrote about the "World Congress of Agricultural Biotechnology", organized by BIT Life Sciences. They also claim to be planning several other conferences, including:
Low Carbon Earth Summit
World Congress of Environmental Biotechnology
World Congress of Petroleum Greentech
World Congress of Forensics
World Cancer Congress
Congress of International Drug Discovery Science and Technology
Congress of Immunodisease and Therapy
Here's another blog post on conference invitations from BIT Life Sciences.

This week, EPS Global Medical Development Inc. is inviting everyone I know to speak at "Shijiazhuang International Forum on Life Science and Biotechnology" and "Nanjing International Forum on Rehabilitation Medicine." Their scam is a little more sophisticated than BIT Life Sciences. They use an address in Canada and refer to an actual published paper by the "invited speaker." Most recipients will probably recognize this as spam, since they are sending it to people whose research has nothing to do with the topic of the "conference." But, just by chance, some of the recipients may actually work in biotechnology or rehabilitation medicine and think they were invited to speak based on their scientific expertise. There's more discussion of similar spam from EPS Global Medical Development Inc.here.

It's safe to assume that a conference whose "invited speakers" are whoever replied to random emails won't be of particularly high quality.

If you get an invitation to a conference in your field, how can you tell if it's legitimate? Real scientific conferences will have organizing committees consisting of individually identifiable scientists with strong publication records. It might be a good idea to check with one or more of them, though, in case the organizers are using their name without permission. For example, does it seem a bit odd that all of the "confirmation letters" from Nobelists who supposedly agreed to speak at a BIT Life Sciences conference have identical wording and all are on conference letterhead rather than that of the individual scientist's institution?

May 12, 2011

This week's picks

Rapid evolution of disease resistance is accompanied by functional changes in gene expression in a wild bird "following an experimental infection... finches from eastern US populations with a 12-y history of exposure to MG [a pathogen] harbored 33% lower MG... than finches from western US populations with no prior exposure"

Specificity in the symbiotic association between fungus-growing ants and protective Pseudonocardia "the ant-derived Pseudonocardia [bacteria apparently used to control pest fungi] inhibit Escovopsis [the pest fungus] more strongly than they inhibit other fungi, and are better at inhibiting this pathogen than most environmental Pseudonocardia strains tested"
See this earlier post for background on how fungus-growing ants control pests.

Rapid diversification and not clade age explains high diversity in neotropical Adelpha [Greater diversity of butterflies in the tropics may be mainly because they've evolved faster there, not just because missing the Ice Age gave them longer to evolve.]

Nocturnality in Dinosaurs Inferred from Scleral Ring and Orbit Morphology "flyers were predominantly diurnal; terrestrial predators, at least partially, nocturnal"

Evolution of adaptive phenotypic variation patterns by direct selection for evolvability "model... results predict that selection on rQTL [genes affecting correlations among traits] leads to higher correlations among traits... a mechanism by which natural selection can directly enhance the evolvability of complex organisms along lines of adaptive change."

Sex, sex chromosomes and gene expression "the X chromosome spends two-thirds of the time in females, autosomes one-half and Y none at all, leading to differing selective pressures on X-linked genes between the sexes"

Niche specialization of reef-building corals in the mesophotic zone: metabolic trade-offs between divergent Symbiodinium types OPEN ACCESS

May 10, 2011

PDF available for our Perspective in Science

Science has kindly allowed us to link to a PDF of our recent Perspective, but only from one web page. So I've linked to it from last week's post.

May 7, 2011

Fake World Congress of Agricultural Biotechnology?

I got an invitation to speak at a "World Congress of Agricultural Biotechnology" in China. I was a bit surprised, because I'm better-known as a critic of biotechnology -- a constructive one, I hope -- than as a biotechnologist. So I did a little web research.

The business model of the organizers, a company called BIT Life Sciences, seems to bear some resemblance to a pyramid scheme, according to information on the website of The Scientist about an earlier conference they sponsored:

Dan Fintel a cardiologist at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern University in Chicago, is listed as one of the plenary speakers on both the defunct program and the current program, and already booked a flight for himself, his wife and his son. But he said that BIT has now told him he must pay a $700 registration fee, unless he recruits four other cardiologists to participate in the meeting. In that case, in addition to waiving the fee, "they will give me $500 and pay my hotel," Fintel said.

The web site for the World Congress of Agricultural Biotechnology did nothing to assuage my fears. Their Program Committee, as of May 6, consisted of "Foreign Experts Databank of SAFEA-Dalian Biotechnological and Medical Experts Subdivision, China." A real scientific conference would have a program committee consisting of individually identifiable scientists with strong reputations -- reputations they wouldn't put at risk through association with a low-quality or imaginary conference. Reputations like mine, for example. If my name shows up in the program, against my explicit instructions, you'll know the conference is a complete fake.

May 6, 2011

Carnival of Evolution Blogs

Lab Rat is hosting the latest Carnival of Evolution Blogs. With all that interesting material, do I really need to write my own post this week?

I got my book revisions submitted, so hope to have time to blog more regularly soon. I'm currently contributing to three papers in preparation and trying to start a new project or two, but nothing as time-consuming as the book, I hope.