Category: Misconceptions

Organism of the week #11 – Not even primitive

Psilotum nudum sporangia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Eric Guinther Marshman@Wikipedia]

It’s not much to look at, but Psilotum nudum‘s naked fronds hold a cautionary tale for biologists: Psilotum looks a great deal like some of the earliest fossils of land plants. One of the earliest such fossils is Rhynia, the first specimens of which which were unearthed in Aberdeenshire around 1910, a mere 410 million years after they were …

Continue reading

A brief history of rubbish

Contents of the human genome [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Steve Cook]

In 1972, the geneticist Susumu Ohno coined the term “junk DNA” to explain why the genomes of closely related organisms vary so much in size: The mammalian genome […] contains roughly […] 3.0 × 109 base pairs. This is at least 750 times the genome size of E. coli. If we take the simplistic assumption that …

Continue reading

The magnolia misunderstanding

Angiosperm phylogeny stressing magnoliids [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Steve Cook]: thistle appears as an outgroup to the ((magnolia,bay),(pepper,birthwort)) clade

T. Ryan Gregory has a great post at Genomicron on the ‘Platypus Fallacy’. He imagines a platypus professor explaining the wonders of the Human Genome Project to a group of student platypodes: “The lineage of which humans are a part is a very ancient offshoot of our mammalian family tree, so it was 166 million …

Continue reading

Why living fossils need to die

Blue-tit feeding at bird-feeder, London 2012 [cc-by-sa-3.0 Steve Cook]

I’m the proud owner of a Madagascan cycad. He or she (I won’t know until s/he gets older) gets an annual decking with baubles at Christmas, but spends most of the rest of the year getting in the way of the television. Cycads look a lot like palms, but rather than producing flowers and fruits, they make cones …

Continue reading

Load more