Some thoughts on ecology, evolution and economics

Posts filed under Evolution

Empathy is a state of mind

Previously, I introduced Robert Sapolsky’s book Behave and the sections of our brain associated with certain thought patterns. The brain is relevant in how we prosecute criminals, vote for politicians and feel empathy for others. Again, nothing that shows up on a brain scanner excuses or explains our actions in these contexts but it does… (read more)

The Cambrian explosion

Of all the rapid evolutionary events we have explored in this blog , we have yet to look at the biggest and most consequential – the Cambrian Explosion. It is the big bang of evolutionary biology – the origin of animals. Within a period of 25 million years, all of the major body plans existing… (read more)

Black and White and Grey All Over

This post is written by my daughter , Suzette, thanks to whom I am now a grandfather! Watching the respect that my midwife has for obstetricians and vice versa has given me new hope for how science-based and ‘alternative’ medicine can work together and complement each other. Midwifery pulls from ancient knowledge of breath, touch,… (read more)

Evolutionary genomics

Evolution has always been about the complete package. Traits, like pea shape or hummingbird tongues, do not evolve – genomes do.  It is true that evolution is not real unless the list of instructions that makes up a genome is expressed in the real world but our genetic material is the scorecard of what succeeds and… (read more)

Small but mighty

Mosses stay close to the ground. Their humble habit belies their importance to evolution and ecology. For one thing, they have been on the banner of this blog right from the beginning. I think I instictively chose mosses as the essential combination of biology and physical geography that underpins all the topics dealt with in these… (read more)

A Tale of Tails

By far, the most recurring theme in this blog is an exploration of the lopsided nature of evolutionary success – what I have called Haldane’s Rule.  Is this a function of the process of speciation or is it something more mundane – something that we would expect in any branching process?  I have come to… (read more)

Flower power

The floral emblem of Canada – you know, the little garland at the bottom of the coat of arms – has four species.  Each species represents an ancestral homeland of the first settlers of Canada: England (rose), Scotland (thistle) , Ireland (shamrock), and France (lily).  Of course, the coat of arms also has maple leaves… (read more)

Tree of trees

The imagery of nature is woven into our language and culture. The moral significance of “going green” or the fear expressed by the term “running wild” are two examples.  It is ironic when we turn our nature-derived concepts to the task of describing nature.  I have been talking about branching rates in many of my… (read more)

The Beetles!

I have been working on this post  since 2013. ” I’ll just go to Encyclopedia of Life and count the genera in each of the beetle families”, I said to myself.  If my previous post on the perching birds represented  one neighbourhood in a tidy  little town of  10,000 occupants, the order of beetles is… (read more)

The Triple Bang

Something remarkable happened 160 million years ago. Three of the most diverse groups on the planet exploded in a simultaneous speciation event.  Two of the groups were new at the beginning of the Cretaceous period, the last chapter in the age of dinosaurs.  Flowering plants had just evolved from conifers and birds had just come… (read more)