Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Evolution 2010: Tuesday

I had a good day wrapping up my time at Evolution 2010. I started out in the Speciation and Hybridization session, where I heard a couple of interesting talks. Amanda Brothers explained her work demonstrating Haldane's rule in Silene species with heteromorphic sex chromosomes [ABSTRACT]. Then Chris Nice presented his discovery of multiple hybrid populations of the same two butterflies. He suggested that they might be independent origins of the same hybrid species.

In the next session on hybridization, I got all nostalgic listening to David Marsh describe his work with the recently described salamander Plethodon sherando. P. sherando is related to the red-backed salamander P. cinereus, but while cinereus is widespread, sherando is found on a single mountain peak in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. This is kind of a pattern in the area, where certain Plethodon species have very restricted ranges (endangered Shenandoah salamander and the Peaks of Otter salamander are the others). Marsh found that the sherando species could be morphologically distinguished from cinereus and that they were genetically distinct as well. I used to work on plethodontid salamanders in my undergrad days. I participated in a mark-recapture study of the Peaks of Otter salamander, and I looked (unsuccessfully) for hybridization between Desmognathus fuscus and Desmognathus monticola. Listening to Marsh's talk made me want to go out and catch salamanders again. If only I had the time...

In the afternoon, I learned about rattle vestigilization in island rattlesnakes from Ali Rabatsky. Seems the snakes still shake their tails even though they have no rattles. Then Julie Meachen-Samuels enlightened us about killing styles in sabertoothed carnivores. Forelimb strength correlates positively with increasing canine length. So they apparently held their prey down and ripped their throats out, rather than just holding them in a strangle hold like modern cats. Last but not least, I enjoyed Bryn Dentinger's talk on mushroom mimicry in the orchid genus Dracula.

And so ends the conference. Right now I'm sitting on a couch finishing my blog before I head off to the airport to catch a redeye back to Tennessee. That'll be fun...

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