Reminder: last day to enter the Volvox wall art giveaway

Today is the last day to enter the drawing for a ready-to-hang print of Volvox aureus on canvas. There’s no catch; all you have to do is go to and leave a comment with your favorite species (of anything). That’s it!

Right now there are only a dozen entries, so your odds of winning are pretty good. The winner will be announced on Monday.

Volvox aureus

Volvox aureus by me

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Uncommon Descent on Elizabeth Pennisi’s Science article

Two-headed quarter

Image from

Yesterday, I ran a bit long about Elizabeth Pennisi’s new article in Science, “The momentous transition to multicellular life may not have been so hard after all.” I’m not the only one who noticed it, though; Uncommon Descent also commented (“At Science: Maybe the transition from single cells to multicellular life wasn’t that hard?“). There’s not much to it, just a longish quote from the article followed by this:

So at the basic level, there is a program that adapts single cells to multicellularity? Yes, that certainly makes multicellularity easier and even swifter but it also make traditional Darwinian explanations sound ever more stretched.

So if the evolution of multicellularity is easy, that’s evidence against “traditional Darwinian explanations.” Remember “Heads I win, tails you lose“?

…if multicellularity is really complicated, that’s evidence for intelligent design. But if multicellularity is really simple, that’s evidence for intelligent design.

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Volvox barberi “flocks”

Balasubramanian Fig 3 A&B

Figure 3 A&B from Balasubramanian 2018. (a) V. barberi flock where 56 colonies gathered over several minutes and rotated coherently and rapidly in the culture well. (b) Schematic of flock in panel a.

At the Fourth International Volvox Meeting in St. Louis, a student from Harriton High School in Rosemont, Pennsylvania presented a talk and a poster on “flocking” behavior in Volvox barberi. Now a preprint describing his work is available on bioRxiv.

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When I was putting together my post about Rafatazmia, the 1.6 billion-year-old fossil tentatively interpreted as a red alga, I searched Fierce Roller to see what I had written about Bangiomorpha, the previous record-holder for the oldest red algal fossil. I was surprised to find that I never have published anything about Bangiomorpha. This is a serious oversight!

Bangiomorpha was described by Nick Butterfield back in 1990, from a series of fossils collected on Somerset Island in Nunavut, the northernmost territory in Canada:

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Hapalochloris nozakii

Dr. Hisayoshi Nozaki catching a quick nap during the Second International Volvox Meeting in New Brunswick.

Dr. Hisayoshi Nozaki catching a quick nap during the Second International Volvox Meeting in New Brunswick.

University of Tokyo Professor Hisayoshi Nozaki and his colleagues are responsible for describing a large portion of the known diversity of the volvocine algae (see New Volvox species). He described a new species of Astrephomene when he was in high school, leading me to ask him if ‘high school’ meant something different in Japan (it doesn’t). Ironically, since Dr. Nozaki has named numerous species after other people (e.g. Richard Starr, David and Marilyn Kirk, Patrick Ferris, Annette Coleman…), there are, to my knowledge, no species named after him!

Until now, that is: a new paper by Takashi Nakada and Masaru Tomita in the Journal of Phycology introduces Hapalochloris nozakii. This is not just a new species but a new genus, and the bonus is the abbreviated form: H. nozakii.

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