Monday, December 1, 2008

Carnival of Evolution #6

Hello everyone! Happy Carnival!

ev⋅o⋅lu⋅tion  [ev-uh-loo-shuhn or, especially Brit., ee-vuh-]
1. A gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form.
           Most of the time, when we think 'evolution', we think about animals and genetic diversity. Sure, we've heard the term "Chemical Evolution" thrown around a bit, too, but only about events before life began. Well, not everyone uses such a narrow definition of evolution. For example, a group of scientists claim that Rocks Evolve, Too. The international team detailed their theory of "mineral evolution" to describe the diversity of minerals."The key message is how closely intertwined the mineral world is with life and biology," says one of the scientists to the Canwest News Service.

2. A product of such development; something evolved
          Nothing is more exciting to me than some of the newest research on Evolution. Scientists are finding out more and more about how genes and gene regulation evolved and how proteins interact to aid in evolution. We also have found that genes can transfer between plants and animals when scientists found a plant gene in the genome of Solar Powered Slugs. Horizontal gene transfer between two kingdoms - can you believe it?! We've also learned a lot more about the evolution of turtles thanks to some newly discovered fossils. Though perhaps the most interesting study I found on evolution wasn't how it's worked in the past, but its applications for the future. A new study suggested using evolution (so to speak) to kill harmful viruses. The basic idea is to utilize the natural mechanisms that promote evolution, aka mutation, and use a drug to shift them into overdrive. As the virus mutates out of control, it would lose its ability to enter the host and protect itself from treatments and the immune system. Using evolution to fight pathogens - that's just cool.

3. The change in the gene pool of a population from generation to generation by such processes as mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift.
          Ah, finally! Darwin's legacy - natural selection. As 'The Origin of Species' had its 149th birthday last week, there was a lot of gabber about Darwin on the blogosphere. Allie over at Oh, For The Love Of Science! wrote a nice piece reminding us that the animals which started it all - the inspirations for Darwin's ideas - are close to extinction themselves. But the true Darwin-celebrating treat was the announcement of the Darwin Limerick Contest Winners over at The Dispersal of Darwin. The winning beauty (by none other than the ever eloquent Cuttlefish):
The object of all my affection
Just told me I failed her inspection!
So I guess that this means
It’s the end for my genes—
There’s a downside to natural selection!

Of course, Darwin's ideas have had their challenges over the years. Often, indeed, creationists tout the end of evolution as a theory - so often that Answer's in Science pulled out 162 year's worth of predictions of the demise of evolution. Thankfully, repetition doesn't make something true. Viva Evolution!

That's it! Submit your stuff to the next Carnival of Evolution to be hosted at Forms Most Beautiful in a couple weeks.