Archive for August, 2009

Blogging will resume in early September

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009 | Administrative, Comparative Anatomy | 5 Comments

Archetype is about to get even quieter.

Grant proposals have been dealt with (more or less), and next week I will be in Turin, Italy, for the congress of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology. I just don’t want to won’t have time to blog during the congress, unfortunately.

But do not fear, for I leave you with a very tough quiz. Let see if someone knows what’s depicted below. A couple of tips:

– It is one of the few sclerites (skeletal pieces) in adult workers that is completely internal.

– It comes in pairs (left one pictured).

The answer will be revealed upon my return.

The mysterious sclerite X (Scanning Electron Micrograph, Roberto Keller/AMNH)

The mysterious sclerite X (Scanning Electron Micrograph, Roberto Keller/AMNH)


Nineteenth century figure found to be wrong about something, kind of

Friday, August 21st, 2009 | Comparative Anatomy, History of Science | 1 Comment

appendixI have Google Alerts set for the term “cladistics” so I will receive a feed every time Google indexes that word. Now, in the last couple of days those feeds have catch a story circulating in the news media regarding a recently published study looking at the appendix from a comparative and phylogenetic perspective, pretty cool if you ask me.

I can only access the abstract of the original publication unfortunately, but it does seems to be a well done and thorough study. The problem is the way the report gets increasingly hyped by the news media. I first got this: Evolution of the appendix: A biological ‘remnant’ no more. OK, that’s not bad. I then got this: Appendix redux. Yeah, sure, succinct and clever. But today I got this: Darwin wrongly called the appendix a biological ‘remnant’, say researchers:

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Patenting cladistics

Friday, August 14th, 2009 | Cladistics | 2 Comments

Every once in a while someone comes and tries to file a patent on some of the very basic algorithms we all use to infer phylogenetic trees.
This time is a very “special” someone. The image to the left may give you a clue. Read more at Myrmecos blog.

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Chris Humphries, botanist and founding fellow of the Willi Hennig Society, died on July 31st, aged 62

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009 | Cladistics, Personalities | 1 Comment
© The Systematic Association

Photograph courtesy of Malte C. Ebach (

It is our sad task to record the death of Professor Chris Humphries, merit researcher in the Botany Department until his retirement in 2007, on Friday 31st July. Chris was a leading figure in the cladistic revolution in systematics and biogeography. Without his tireless efforts, systematic botany – perhaps systematic biology – would be a very different beast.

Chris joined the Botany Department in 1972 as an assistant curator, a nearly-finished PhD student, coming directly from Vernon Heywood’s Botany Department in Reading University. With the exception of three sabbaticals – two of them at the University of Melbourne (1979-80, 1986) and a six month stay as a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin) in 1994 – Chris spent his entire career in the Museum.
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New on my blogroll

Saturday, August 1st, 2009 | Metablogging | 2 Comments

I had stumble across myrmician the macrophotographer on the web before. He has a very nice collection of Australian ants, spiders and other invertebrates on Flickr.

I just learned he is also a Ph.D. student at Pert, researching the effects of salinity levels on terrestrial arthropods. He started a clever-looking blog where he mixes photography and science. After one month posts are looking good. Besides, you know that anyone with that avatar can’t be a bad blogger.

(Hat tip to himself 😉 )

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And as we discussed last semester, the Army Ants will leave nothing but your bones.
- Tom Waits