How did this get published?

The Journal of Phylogenetics & Evolutionary Biology, despite the fancy name, must not have much in the way of standards because they published this article, Genome Size and Chromosome Number Relationship Contradicts the Principle of Darwinian Evolution from Common Ancestor. It’s bizarre. The authors have a deep misconception about evolution and they just run with it right into crazyland.

They seem to think there is some kind of progression in chromosome number — that life is supposed to go from some low chromosome number in primitive organisms, to a much larger number in ‘advanced’ organisms, and they have just discovered…chromosome numbers are scattered all over the place! Therefore evolution must be false, because humans are supposed to have the biggest number!

The human genome was located at 4/6 away from the controversial common ancestor genome and 2/6 away from the largest detected genome. Results of this study contradict the principle of Darwinian evolution from common ancestor and support the independent appearance of living organisms on earth. This will open the door for new explanations for the existence of living organisms on earth based on genome size.

Shocking, huh? It’s not as if you can find this fact in introductory genetics textbooks. Oh, wait, you can!

So these guys have some archaic notion of progressive evolution, and also have this strange idea that the number of chromosomes is indicative of complexity. I don’t know where they get that idea — you won’t find that in any of the genetics or evolutionary biology textbooks.

They’re very explicit about it, too. I don’t know how this could have gotten past a reviewer, unless they paper wasn’t reviewed at all (it wasn’t edited in any way, either — the typos and poor grammar are everywhere.)

It is certain that a genome controls the organism structure and development therefore; the genome is expected to evolve before the evolution of the organism. So, based on Darwinian evolution from common ancestor, we expect gradual change (increase) in genome size from the assumed common ancestor (smallest detected genome in this study, Buchnera sp.) to the largest detected genome (P. aethiopicus). Based on this assumption, human is expected to have the largest genome because it is the most recent and the most developed species on earth [30-32] and consequently is expected to lie at the end of genome size evolution curve. In addition, according to the Darwinian evolution from common ancestor, the gradual increase in genome size must be correlated with gradual increase or decrease in chromosome number (chromosome number evolution) as well as with organism evolution. The location of human genome among other genomes based on genome size and chromosome number (Figure 2) confirms that there is no correlation between genome size of species and their emergence on earth (genome evolution). This rolls out the idea that human genome evolved from smaller pre-existing genome. It is well documented that the genome size of an organism does not reflect its structural complexity which raised the question about what mechanisms led to these huge variations in genome size [33]. This was described as the ‘C-value enigma’ [6]. In addition, finding diploid plants with larger genome size than human genome raises a cloud of doubt about the sequence of appearance of living organisms on earth.

I had to look up citations #30, #31, and #32, to find out what fool made the argument that humans are the most recent and the most developed species on earth. More surprises!

30. Elhaik E, Tatarinova TV, Klyosov AA, Graur D (2014) The extremely ancient chromosome that isn’t: a forensic bioinformatic investigation of Albert Perry”s X-degenerate portion of the Y chromosome. EJHG 22: 1111-1116.

31. Elhaik E, Tatarinova TV, Klyosov AA, Graur D (2014) The extremely ancient chromosome that isn’t: a forensic bioinformatic investigation of Albert Perry”s X-degenerate portion of the Y chromosome. EJHG 22: 1111-1116.

32. Royer DL (2006) CO2-forced climate thresholds during the Phanerozoic. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 70: 5665-5675.

There are some lessons to share with my science writing students.

  • The fool in question is Dan Graur, author of the book Molecular and Genome Evolution. He’s going to be so surprised!
  • That’s a good trick to pad your citations, listing the exact same article twice. I guess that makes your point doubly powerful.
  • I’ve read those first two (one) paper(s). They make no such argument. I didn’t know you could just sprinkle your paper with irrelevant citations with no connection to your claims.
  • Speaking of which, the third (second) paper is about climate change, not human evolution.

I don’t think the Journal of Phylogenetics & Evolutionary Biology is going to be on my routine reading list.


  1. rietpluim says

    I’d expect something like this from young-earth creationists. Are the authors yec’s?

  2. call me mark says

    the genome is expected to evolve before the evolution of the organism


    I am not able to rightly apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a sentence.

  3. wcorvi says

    I particularly enjoyed them making an assumption, finding the results to be false, and so negating the entire field. Something like, “Assume the universe is one billion years old. It is not, so all of cosmology is wrong.”

  4. ridana says

    That Wikipedia article is hilarious (and disheartening).

    With little knowledge of nuclear physics, Bartneck used iOS’s auto complete function to write the paper, choosing randomly from its suggestions after starting each sentence, and submitted it under the name Iris Pear (a reference to Siri and Apple). A sample sentence from the abstract for the resulting manuscript [which was accepted] was: “The atoms of a better universe will have the right for the same as you are the way we shall have to be a great place for a great time to enjoy the day you are a wonderful person to your great time to take the fun and take a great time and enjoy the great day you will be a wonderful time for your parents and kids.”

    Well, now we know how Trump writes his speeches.

    In another example, Tom Spears of the Ottawa Citizen repeatedly submitted to OMICS conferences several sting abstracts that included “Evolution of flight characteristics in avian-porcine physiology” and “Strategies for remediation of benthic and pelagic species dependent on coral reefs: Cases of T. migratorius and G. californianus.” which respectively claimed to explain how pigs fly and claimed roadrunner birds lived underwater.

    While I was glad to see the FTC sued them, I suspect that if the current administration notices, they’ll direct them to drop the suit, since this is just the sort of disinformation that serves their purposes.

  5. stwriley says

    A real joke of a journal attempting to prop up their mediocrity with ever dishonest trick in the book. I actually took a moment to look up their webpage just to make sure I wasn’t unfairly judging them, but it’sjust as bad as it seems. Their editor-in-chief claims to have published 30 peer-reviewed articles, but when you actually look at the list of publications, it turns out that almost all of them were published in…the Journal of Phylogenetics and Evolutionary Biology. Now I may just be spitballing here, but I’m betting that the editor-in-chief of that journal was reluctant to turn down an article from that particular source.

  6. zetopan says

    As others have noticed, this is a garbage publication being run by total idiots. They even publish papers without the original author’s permission to pad their “credibility”. Do not be surprised if they actually publish rabid creationist pablum (e.g. stuff from the DI or any other creationist organization). They quite literally cannot tell the difference between “peer reviewed” and “my cousin’s neighbor’s veterinarian’s assistant overheard someone talking about their theory about which alien planets the dinosaurs actually came from.”

  7. says

    As Jeff Shallit and other commenters have been saying, the journal is not credible. I’ve heard of most journals in the field, but this one is new to me. It’s not the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, for example. There is a actually a literature out there, starting with papers by Imai and Crozier (1980) and Imai, Maruyama, and Crozier (1983) finding a good fit to the null hypothesis that karyotypes change randomly, with no directional trend in chromosome numbers. One can find further papers by looking for ones that cite Imai and Crozier’s work. And sorry, where did Dan Graur say that humans were “the most recent and most developed species on earth”? The post was ambiguous about that.

  8. says

    The journal’s editorial board lists some actual scientists
    However, predatory publishers such as OMICS have been known to put names on their editorial boards despite those people not being aware of their listings – indeed there have been many cases where “editors” learned that they were listed and demanded repeatedly to be removed from those lists, without results.
    It might be an amusing project to contact some of the members of the editorial board to ask if they were aware of their claimed participation in this predatory journal.

  9. chrislawson says

    “…and furthermore, spiders are four times more evolutionarily advanced than humans because they have eight legs.”

  10. jrkrideau says

    @12 Bob Michaelson
    The Heartland Institute has been known to have some associated “Experts” who were a bit startled to hear that they had anything to do with it.

    On the other hand, at the Fraser Institute, a right wing Canadian think tank and fantasy writing co-op (I know, same thing), dead people seemed to make up about 25% of the Board of Directors.

  11. petesh says

    Why chromosomes anyway? If you organize genes into one, why not, well, one? I assume some kind of mutation split one, and was useful and survived, though it’s the kind of evolutionary accident that I find fairly hard to imagine. And then, why stop increasing (in a given lineage, such as ours)? I’d give a shiny new penny. if I had one, to anyone who can offer a convincing theory I can understand for how no chromosomes became one chromosome.

    Not that this has anything to do with these idiots.

  12. tenine says

    More evidence this is a Donald 45 society; at least they don’t show support for Ayn Rand

  13. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Given the long lag between birth and sexual maturity, humans would seem to be among the least evolved species on earth.

  14. bigjimslade says

    “I didn’t know you could just sprinkle your paper with irrelevant citations with no connection to your claims.” It’s very popular in some circles. I recall this practice being pointed out in take-downs of Ann Coulter books. If you get caught, you just blame proofreaders or editors…

  15. DanDare says

    Far out. This sort of thing is a blatant crime. Surely there are fraud laws that cover this?

  16. neilgodfrey says

    You are aware of predatory journals posing as open access scholarly publication? Check with your librarians. The journal you mention sounds like it should be added to Beall’s list of predatory journals: