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Small Genetic Change Responsible For Blond Hair

the biologist Re:obvious (125 comments)

Flaxen/blonde hair isn't a signal of youth of most cultures, because it simply doesn't happen, It might work as a signal of youth in a subset of European cultures or in Australian/Melanesian (as you note).

The blonde hair of Australian/Melanesian peoples isn't just in the females, though it is more prominent in females. That it isn't consistent with the UV-vitaminD hypothesis doesn't suggest sexual selection is involved, only that UV-selection isn't involved.

The pupil thing does sound likely, however. Cultures with predominantly black irises would have to rely on other characteristics to identify interest from others.

about 2 months ago

Small Genetic Change Responsible For Blond Hair

the biologist Re:It's a gene (125 comments)

The ENCODE project has shown that effectively every piece of DNA is transcribed at some level. All ORFs are transcribed, but we don't always know a function/meaning associated with them. We keep finding transcribed sequences to be important which we had previously attributed to noise. There are even proteins with well-recognized functions that appear to have been derived from random noise-sequences.

There isn't a need to switch to metaphor with such a simple concept as this and doing so only confuses your meaning. "Syntactic term" vs. "semantic term" are near-meaningless phrases to me, even with the assistance of google. Both "orf" and "gene" are terms in common use that have specific and implied meanings in different contexts.

Someone in molecular and computational biology (like me) would also call the controlling element a gene. Science journalism is far too often full of such odd definitions and misunderstandings.

about 3 months ago

Small Genetic Change Responsible For Blond Hair

the biologist Re:obvious (125 comments)

Every human being on the planet is more attracted to light colored hair than dark because, evolution-wise, it indicates being younger and thus more likely to have a healthy baby in theory.

This appears to be a pretty dramatically unfounded statement. I would be interested in your evidence for this claim, however.

about 3 months ago

Small Genetic Change Responsible For Blond Hair

the biologist Re:It's a gene (125 comments)

ORF (Open Reading Frame) is typically used for the case you described, and has been for some time now.

about 3 months ago

Efforts To Turn Elephants Into Woolly Mammoths Are Already Underway

the biologist Re:Times sure are changing (147 comments)

the "damn good reason" mammoths went extinct seems to be that we ate them.

about 3 months ago

Japan Orders Military To Strike Any New North Korea Missiles

the biologist Re:Sounds good! (107 comments)

No, he's saying that the North has been holding the South hostage to get what they want. They might threaten to bomb the South if Japan knocks down one of their 'peaceful test' missiles.

about 5 months ago

Scientists Publish Letter Saying, "We Need More Scientific Mavericks"

the biologist Re:Hire/promote dont just complain (126 comments)

As someone going through a PhD program in biology you don't know what the hell you're talking about. The only institutional line that matters is, "Bring in grant money!".

The rest of it is pretty much spot-on, but not really any different than in business or anywhere else. You've got to convince your bosses to keep from firing you, after all.

about 5 months ago

First Look At the Animals of the New Hebrides Trench

the biologist Re:Atmospheric pressure (40 comments)

Pressure bothers us because we have internal air spaces, which get compressed. If you were full of nigh-incompressible water, the depth isn't so much of a problem.

about 6 months ago

Asteroids Scarred By Solar System's Violent Youth

the biologist Re:Wow (31 comments)

Academic jobs are rarely describable as 'cushy' and require lots of work all the time to simply justify their existence. This doesn't mean there are no crackpots, but it does mean your general perspective on academic life as depicted here is flawed.

about 7 months ago

Monogamy May Have Evolved To Prevent Infanticide

the biologist Re:NO (256 comments)

You do realize that you're full of shit here, right? I'm not entirely sure you realize this because you're not posting as AC.

1 year,29 days

Ohio Zoo Attempts To Mate Female Rhino With Her Brother For Species Survival

the biologist Re:Never released in the wild (272 comments)

There have been many successful reintroductions, but the general criteria for them is that the habitat has to exist. In the case of black rhinos, the habitat is still being abused by poaching/etc, so reintroducing the animals won't help the population. The successful reintroductions tend to be with smaller species that never got the attention of poachers/collectors, but that were harmed incidentally through our actions.

about a year ago

Ohio Zoo Attempts To Mate Female Rhino With Her Brother For Species Survival

the biologist Re:Live hand of Darwin (272 comments)

The reason we care about extinction is that we probably caused them. The reason the police care about the death of a person you were arguing with is because you probably caused it.

A reason we care about extinctions that we cause is that interesting and potentially valuable species are casually discarded. We don't care about the extinction of the smallpox virus because it was an intentional process because of the incredible harm it caused us. If the Sumatran Rhino had a habit of killing everyone in any village it came across, we would be less concerned about their extinction. Instead the rhino peaceably goes about its life and we humans kill it out of spite, or to make our erections bigger, or other stupid short-sighted selfish reasons.

about a year ago

Ohio Zoo Attempts To Mate Female Rhino With Her Brother For Species Survival

the biologist Re:I'd just like to know... (272 comments)

The point of no return for a biological species is a complicated concept. If you have one male and one female, then they can survive... but they will probably be more susceptible to the pathogenic organisms that can evolve faster than them. If you have one female of a parthogenic species, that species can survive. The low genetic diversity only impacts the likelihood of long term evolutionary survival, not their "viability" as a species.

In the case of "Lonesome George", it was only a hopeless cause because he no longer had any interest in sex. If he had lived another twenty years, we would probably have cloned him and generated females for him and thus preserved the species for repatriation to the island he came from. Should we just have made soup out of him when we realized we couldn't find any others like him?

Cheetahs show evidence of an evolutionarily recent extremely severe population bottleneck. Skin grafts can be made from one animal to any other random animal and have a decent change of success. Should we just kill off the cheetahs because there's no hope for them genetically?

The point of having a bunch of animals is that they have their own life and evolutionary trajectory to follow. If they're sickly, then selection will rapidly sort out the unhealthy versions of genes and the species will move along.

about a year ago

Fifteen Years After Autism Panic, a Plague of Measles Erupts

the biologist Re:Fear leads to Hate, Hate leads to Measles (668 comments)

The "dealing with it" is the necessary testing part of medical science. It could be throat cancer, or a wasp stuck in her throat, or a magical fairy that doesn't like her, or a herpesvirus infection of the controlling nerve, or radiation damage from a neighbor's death ray experiments, or Bell's Palsy. Without any testing to validate the opinion, the opinion means absolutely nothing at all about what is actually going on in the medical issue.

Doctors will initially diagnose and treat for the common causes of a problem, because that will help the majority of people. The only way to know that a more complicated scenario is unfolding is to notice the standard treatment did nothing to help (or even made it worse). If the disorder is very rare, such as partial paralysis of a vocal chord, there will be no common cause to guide their treatment.

about a year ago


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