More calls for submissions

I got a couple more requests to drum up interest in up-and-coming carnivals.

The Dharma Bums are hosting the next I and the Bird carnival, so if invertebrates aren’t your bag, but highly derived tetrapods with elaborate keratinaceous external insulating coats are, send them a link.

If even that isn’t sufficiently narrow in scope for you, how about bipedal primates? How about bipedal primates with very specific, advanced cultural views? The Carnival of the Liberals is looking for submissions now, too.

Hey…and if you written something about those spineless Democrats, send the link to both Neural Gourmet and the Circus of the Spineless! (This really is the week for getting double-duty out of your links.)

Ha-Hah. Brits are just as stupid as we are!

A survey of British beliefs about the origin and development of life had the following results:

  • 22% chose creationism
  • 17% opted for intelligent design
  • 48% selected evolution theory
  • the rest did not know.

Or how about this result? Here’s what the people in the land of David Attenborough would like to see taught in school:

  • 44% said creationism should be included
  • 41% intelligent design
  • 69% wanted evolution as part of the science curriculum.

Depressing, isn’t it? I’ve got some Guinness in the refrigerator, maybe I should just knock off work early and go home and start drinking.

Chris has reservations about their methodology—but I don’t know. The fact that almost a quarter of the people admit to being creationists is damning in and of itself. Meanwhile, John thinks 30-40% “isn’t a large group opposing teaching evolution”. That makes me wonder if he’s been raiding my refrigerator and all my beer will be gone when I get home.

Then I read that 73% of American teenagers “engaged in at least one type of psychic or witchcraft-related activity”, and I just want to throw up my hands and give up. I’m going to need something stronger than beer.

Isn’t it about time to admit that the strategies of the past, such as being deferential to the nonsense of religion or letting the kooks who dominate discourse off the hook because pointing out their fallacies would be rude, aren’t working? I predict that there will be much finger-pointing at Dawkins and tut-tutting about all those militant members of the high church of evolutionism being to blame, and that there will be further insistence on molly-coddling lunacy to make those willing believers in creationism more comfortable.

Giant octopus attacks!


Here’s a nifty video (mpg) of an octopus confronting an ROV working off Vancouver Island. The poor thing was just trying to crush and eat an interloper (or perhaps disassemble it for spare parts to use in its high-tech scheme to take over the world), and the ROV operator uses its thrusters to fling debris at it and drive it away.

It’s quite a battle, and the octopus holds on for a surprisingly long time in the face of an extremely obnoxious machine.

Call for science submissions


This coming week will be a great one for science carnivals. First up is the Circus of the Spineless which will appear on Pharyngula on Sunday—if you’ve written anything about invertebrates in the past month, send the link to by Saturday evening.

The Tangled Bank

The second big event is the next edition of the Tangled Bank, scheduled for Wednesday, 1 February, at Adventures in Ethics and Science. Send links to any science writing to,, or by next Tuesday.

Hey…and if you written something about the science of invertebrates, send the link to both!

One last thing…the schedule of future Tangled Bank hosts has been updated with an influx of new volunteers. We’ve got stuff lined up through July; check the list below if you volunteered to see when your turn is coming up. And if you aren’t there and you want to be, send a note to and I’ll add you to the list.

1 Feb 2006 Adventures in Ethics and Science
15 Feb 2006 Kete Were
1 Mar 2006 Aetiology
15 Mar 2006 Living the Scientific Life
29 Mar 2006 The Island of Doubt
12 Apr 2006 Discovering biology in a digital world
26 Apr 2006 The Inoculated Mind
10 May 2006 Science Notes
24 May 2006 Science and Politics
7 Jun 2006 Get Busy Livin’, or Get Busy Bloggin’
21 Jun 2006 Centrerion
5 Jul 2006 Information Overload
19 Jul 2006 Hairy Museum of Natural History

I may have to shop for some alternatives

If this sell-out goes down, you can call me an utterly disaffected Democrat. I’ve been a voting Democrat since 1976, but if this current gang of slimy myxomycetes can’t even coagulate together enough fiber to fight Alito, they aren’t my party anymore. I wrote to Howard Dean, to Mark Dayton (I even stooped to writing to Norm Coleman…I know, it was a waste of time, but he is one of my senators. I was being thorough)—I told them all it wasn’t enough to just vote “no” on Alito, I want them to fight against the imperial presidency and for women’s rights.

I’m in complete agreement with David Neiwert. Last chance, Democratic party. Show me you are going to fight for my interests, or goodbye, and you can stop asking me for donations. Anybody know anything about the Green Party here? Or are they a bunch of blithering incompetents, too?

I wonder if the organizers at Yearly Kos are going to retract my invitation if I show up to snarl at Harry Reid.


I saw on Muton, and several readers have mentioned it to me, this article about the world’s smallest vertebrate, fish of the genus Paedocypris. It’s a gorgeous translucent cyprinid, so is somewhat related to my favorite fish, Danio rerio. They live in cool, slow moving water in peat swamp forests of Southeast Asia. One female, only 7.9mm long, contained about 50 eggs, so they know it was sexually mature.

Living Paedocypris progenetica, CMK 18496, (a, b) male, ca 9 mm; (c) female, ca 8.8 mm.

That size isn’t at all shocking—my zebrafish larvae at about that size are active hunters with functioning visual systems, capable of coordinated bouts of swimming, and they’re also very impressive animals…but they don’t have sex. It takes about 6 months for zebrafish to reach sexual maturity, and they are several centimeters long at that point. I would love to know how old these fertile Paedocypris were, but they were captured in the wild and virtually nothing is reported about their behavior or lifecycle. Ah, to have a fish colony that could be raised in a set of beakers, and could produce a couple of generations of crosses in a single semester…

One other clue that these are fully functioning, sexually mature adults are the presence of some pelvic specializations. Males have a hook and flange widget on their pelvic fins, and an odd prepelvic knob. Again, though, without knowing anything about their behavior, we don’t know how these are used in mating and courtship. Wouldn’t it be cool to put a pair under my Wild M3 scope and watch courtship and mating?

(a) Paedocypris micromegethes, paratype male, ZRC 49869, 10.4 mm; pelvic fins, anteroventral view, showing hook and flange on anterior ray. (b) Paedocypris micromegethes, paratype, male, BMNH 2004.11.16.1-40, 10.9 mm, ventrolateral view on hypertrophied pelvic arrector and abductor muscles marked by asterisk symbols. (c) Paedocypris progenetica, paratype male, ZRC 43199, 8.5 mm, scanning electronic micrograph of pelvic region in ventrolateral view, arrow points to keratinized prepelvic knob.

Of course, in addition to not knowing their generation time yet, these fish have another drawback relative to zebrafish: tiny eggs. They extracted a range of sizes from the ovaries, but assuming the smallest are immature, they max out at around 0.3mm diameter. That’s respectable, but Danio eggs are about 1mm in diameter.

Can you tell I’d love to get my hands on a bunch of these little fish? Unfortunately, I’ve heard from fish importers that it is agonizingly expensive and time consuming to bring wild tropical fish into the country, and for good reason: to block invasive species, to prevent the spread of new fish diseases, and also to discourage the plundering of native populations. I may not ever see one of these animals, short of making a trip to Malaysia, and even then I won’t be bringing any home.