Volvox in Highlights Magazine

Highlights_screenshot

This is so cool! The March issue of Highlights Magazine (“Fun with a purpose”) includes a full page on Volvox. Highlights is aimed at kids 6-12 and publishes both print and digital editions:

In every 40-page issue, kids explore new topics, investigate cool subjects and find out about the world. Highlights magazine for kids is filled with stories, games, puzzles, riddles, science experiments, craft projects and interactive entertainment!

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Chlamy postdoc at NASA Ames

Ames

Oana Marcu — you might remember her from the First Volvox Meeting — is looking for a postdoc to do research on Chlamydomonas at NASA Ames Research Center:

This position is for a postdoctoral fellow with experience in Chlamydomonas. The project is part of a larger DOE collaboration focused on approaches to improve biomass and lipid production in microalgae. The work will take place at the NASA Ames Research Center in California and is centered on the molecular and biochemical aspects at the core of the project.

Qualifications: strong experience with Chlamydomonas growth, mutants, biochemistry/molecular biology assays and bioinformatics experience in genomics/transcriptomics. Experience with ICP-MS is desirable. The candidate should be able to pursue independent research while interacting with a large team of scientists of various expertise. The laboratory is at NASA Ames, with local collaborations at Stanford U. and Lawrence Livermore National Labs.

Instructions for applicants are here.

Changing into my old genes: Betül Kaçar’s molecular paleontology

KacarTapeofLife

Betül Kaçar has posted another preprint to bioRxiv describing her work combining molecular paleontology with experimental evolution. I’ve written about Dr. Kaçar’s research, and the Discovery Institute’s bizarre interpretations, before, and I won’t be surprised if the cdesign proponentsists feel compelled to respond again.

The new preprint describes experimental evolution in E. coli bacteria genetically engineered to express an ancient protein in place of its modern counterpart. The gene encoding the protein, Elongation Factor Tu (EF-Tu), exists in two copies in the wild-type E. coli genome. Dr. Kaçar’s team deleted one copy and replaced the other with a gene sequence inferred to be similar to that in E. coli‘s ancestor from 700 million years ago.

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Levels of selection in biofilms: Ellen Clarke on individuality

Pseudomonas biofilm. From Spiers et al. 2013.

Pseudomonas biofilm. From Spiers et al. 2013.

The question of what constitutes a biological individual is intimately entangled with questions about levels of selection. Many authors implicitly or explicitly treat individuals as units of evolution or some variation on this theme. A recent appreciation for the complexity of bacterial biofilms has led to comparisons with multicellular organisms. A recent paper by Ellen Clarke bucks this trend by claiming that multispecies biofilms are not evolutionary individuals.

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Chlamy 2016 registration open

Screenshot 2016-03-17 07.18.34

Registration and abstract submission for the 17th International Conference on the Cell and Molecular Biology of Chlamydomonas (Chlamy 2016) are now open. The deadline for abstract submission is April 11th. The meeting will be at the Kyoto International Conference Center June 26-July 1. This year’s program includes a session on “Evolution, Chlamydomonadales / Volvocales.”

The flip side of the Galileo Gambit: Denyse O’Leary on multicellularity

Figure 7 from Anderson et al. 2016. Evolution of GKPID’s new function by unveiling a latent protein-binding site. (A) The binding surface for Pins in GKPIDs is derived from the GMP-binding surface of gk enzymes. Homology models of Anc-gkdup (left) and Anc-GK1PID (right) are shown as white surface, with all side chains that contact either GMP or Pins as yellow sticks. Pink sticks show GMP; green ribbon shows Pins backbone, with the side chains of all Pins residues that contact the GK protein shown as sticks. The phosphate group on GMP and on Pins residue 436 are shown as orange and red sticks. Black dotted lines, protein-ligand hydrogen bonds. In the AncGK1PID structure , substitutions at sites in the binding interface are shaded red, including key substitution s36P. The binding modes of extant gk enzymes and GKPIDs are similar and support the same conclusions (see Figure 7—figure supplement 1). (B) The structure of the hinge and GMP/Pins-binding lobes is conserved between the Pins-bound GKPID (blue, rat Dlg, 3UAT), the apo-gk enzyme (brown, S. cerevisiae guanylate kinase 1EX6), and the apo-gk-s36P mutant (gray, 4F4J), all in the open conformation.

Figure 7 from Anderson et al. 2016. Evolution of GKPID’s new function by unveiling a latent protein-binding site. (A) The binding surface for Pins in GKPIDs is derived from the GMP-binding surface of gk enzymes. Homology models of Anc-gkdup (left) and Anc-GK1PID (right) are shown as white surface, with all side chains that contact either GMP or Pins as yellow sticks. In the AncGK1PID structure , substitutions at sites in the binding interface are shaded red, including key substitution s36P. (B) The structure of the hinge and GMP/Pins-binding lobes is conserved between the Pins-bound GKPID (blue, rat Dlg, 3UAT), the apo-gk enzyme (brown, S. cerevisiae guanylate kinase 1EX6), and the apo-gk-s36P mutant (gray, 4F4J), all in the open conformation.

Cdesign proponentsists really don’t seem to like research on the evolution of multicellularity. Pretty much any time real scientists learn something new about the origins of multicellularity, writers on intelligent design blogs Evolution News & Views and Uncommon Descent feel compelled to tells why it’s wrong (for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

So I shouldn’t be surprised that Denyse O’Leary has weighed in on the latest work out of Ken Prehoda’s lab, in which Prehoda and colleagues identified a mutation crucial for forming and maintaining tissues in animals. Worse, from O’Leary’s point of view, the article describes the evolution of a new protein function, which is anathema to intelligent design thinkers. To say this post is badly argued is overly generous; it’s absolutely devoid of any substantive argument.

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Moving without limbs! Linnaeus on Volvox

 

Linnaeus - 1758

In ancient times, when dusky seaside sparrows still roamed the Earth, I took two years of high school Latin. My Latin name was Matteus (we were all required to call each other and Mrs. Knowles by our Latin names); my Latin motto was “carpe diem.” That’s about how much I remember. Thankfully, in these modern times, we have Google Translate*. If you remember more Latin than I do, please feel free to correct my translations in the comments.

Linnaeus gave Van Leeuwehoek’s “great round particles” the name Volvox in his Systema Naturae. Linnaeus lists two species of “Volvox“, V. globator and V. chaos. “Volvox chaos” is an amoeba now known as Chaos sp. (though there is some confusion about its exact identity). Although AlgaeBase lists V. chaos as a valid taxon, Leidy (1879, pp. 30-35) reviews the synonymy of Chaos, and it is clearly an amoeba, not an alga.

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The Discovery Institute still doesn’t understand free speech

The Discovery Institute has a persecution complex. They have a hard time distinguishing between rejection and mockery of their silly ideas and violation of their right to free speech. They’ve created a ‘Censor of the Year’ award to protest their treatment. The previous winners are noted free speech opponents Jerry Coyne and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

For the past month, they Institute has been in an absolute tizzy over the decision of the United Methodist Church’s decision to exclude (‘ban‘) them from its General Conference coming up in May. Because they don’t understand that free speech doesn’t obligate others to provide a platform, they think this decision amounts to ‘intolerance‘ and ‘censorship‘.

Persecution complex? Image from an Evolution News & Views post on UMC.

Persecution complex? Image from an Evolution News & Views post on UMC.

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