Oxford Evolution Debate of 1860

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Today in Science History —> On this day in 1860, the 1860 Oxford evolution debate at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History takes place.

This is the debate in which Thomas Henry Huxley supposedly bested Bishop Wilberforce with the remark about the ape and the grandfather: “Huxley rose to defend Darwin’s theory, finishing his speech with the now-legendary assertion that he was not ashamed to have a monkey for his ancestor, but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used great gifts to obscure the truth.”

It’s not clear whether that actually was said, but we do know that both Huxley and Joseph Hooker spoke in defense of Darwin’s theory.

#Evolution

Scopes Trial

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Today in History —> On May 25, 1925, John T. Scopes was indicted in Dayton, Tennessee for violating Tennessee’s Butler Act that prohibited the teaching of human evolution. (Most people think the law forbade the teaching of any evolution, but that is not the case.) After a weeklong trial, Scopes was convicted on July 21 after the jury deliberated for nine minutes, but the conviction was set aside on appeal because of a technicality: the fine, $100, was levied by the judge, and fines over $50 were supposed to be decided by the jury. Above is Scopes one month before the trial.

Mammal Extinction

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Something to think about:

A few years ago, a team of researchers in Europe wanted to figure out the answer to a simple question: How long would it take for evolution to replace all the mammal species that have gone extinct in the time humans have walked the earth?

Some 300 mammal species have died off since the last ice age 130,000 years ago. Their answer: It would take 3 to 7 million years for evolution to generate 300 new species. Humans have been around for about 200,000 years. That’s a blink of an eye in terms of the age of the planet. Nevertheless, in that time, we have caused damage that may well last longer than our species itself.

#Evolution #Extinction

Tropical Frogs

As is now fairly well known, tropical frogs are being devastated by the chytrid fungus. The Gamboa Reserve has an enclosed area where many poison dart frogs roam. (They are fed, so are probably no longer poisonous.) They are highly variable in their patterns. Here we have two versions of the green-and-black poison dart frog (Dendrobates auratus).

Also here are two individuals of the strawberry poison-dart frog (Oophaga pumilio). These are examples of the variety called the “blue jeans morph”

DNA Day

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It’s DNA Day by proclamation of Congress, celebrating the publication of Watson and Crick’s structure of “the molecule of life’.

On this day in 1953 that Watson and Crick published their groundbreaking paper in Nature suggesting the correct structure of DNA, “Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid“. The paper, the most influential in biology of the 20th century, was only a bit more than a page long. Here is most of the text above:

(Yes, I’m aware of the controversy involving Rosalind Franklin and others).