What I taught today: molecular biology of bat wings

Hard to believe, I know, but this class actually hangs together and has a plan. A while back, we talked about the whole cis vs. trans debate, and on Monday we went through another prolonged exercise in epistatic analysis in which the students wondered why we don’t just do genetic engineering and sequence analysis to figure out how things work, so today we reviewed a primary research paper by Chris Cretekos (pdf) that teased apart the role of one regulatory element to one gene, Prx1, in modifying the length of limbs. It’s a cool paper, you should read it. It’s kind of hard to replicate the teaching experience in a blog post, though, because what I did most of the hour was ask questions and coax the students into explaining methods and figures and charts.

I’m afraid that what you’re going to have to do is apply for admission to UMM, register for classes, and take one of my upper level courses. I always have students read papers direct from the scientific literature, and then I torture them with questions until they extract meaning from them. It’s fun!

Although…it would also be cool to have a scientific-paper reading and analysis session at a conference, now wouldn’t it? Especially if it could be done over beer.


  1. mathema says

    That’s pretty awesome. Getting an entire class together is tough, thats cool. I went straight to the math, so I never really took ANY biology (which is kind of odd, now that I think of it, I should’ve taken some electives to learn more about biology while I had the chance).. I would always take electives without labs lol, like certain easy as hell philosophy courses, to make things bearable. It must be cool as doodie to have PZ as your PROF.

  2. Anthony K says

    There’s molecular biology involved? I’d have guessed ‘bat wings’ were more of a function of the surface tension of the water causing the loose scrotal skin to ‘stick’ to the legs, et voilà!

    Since we’re on the subject of things that happen to men as they age, have you any explanations, molecular or otherwise, as to why belly button lint always seems to be blue regardless of the colour of clothing that ostensibly produces it?

  3. Matt G says

    PZ, what do you know about a paper on the same topic involving BMP-2? It’s from the lab of one of my grad school profs, Lee Niswander.