Sunday, June 19, 2011

Evolution 2011: Sunday

To be honest, today was a bit slow for me. I guess I went to the wrong sessions. Two talks stuck out for me, though.

Jeff Johnson discussed his research on Gloger's rule in Greenland gyrfalcons. Gloger's rule states that individuals in a species tend to be more heavily pigmented in lower latitudes. Sure enough, gyrfalcons from northern Greenland are white while populations in central and southern Greenland have more grey individuals. He's only just started to work on studying why this is, but it seems to have something to do with the limited breeding season in the north. Yeah, weird, but fascinating.

The other talk that got my attention was in the session on Sex and Reproduction, given by Tara Marriage on genetic load in asexual reproduction (I'm not kidding). What made this interesting was how counterintuitive it was. Her simulations showed that genetic load (roughly the number of bad mutations a population carries) is reduced in a mixed sexual/asexual population when asexual reproduction increases. For more details, see her digital dissertation: PDF.

I ended the day with Jerry Coyne's presidential address on his research on the speciation of Drosophila santomea. It was a great talk and really interesting stuff. Basically, it's yet another example of an island endemic derived from a species that is widespread on the nearby continent, in this case from Drosophila yakuba on Africa. There were a lot of interesting twists though, including the degree to which the two species are reproductively isolated (a LOT) and the weird hybrid zone. He's got several papers on this subject linked on his website.

So that was my day.

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