Gobbling Up The Family Tree: Understanding our phylogenetic tree

It’s Thanksgiving. Your mom and dad are debating the art of properly basting a turkey, while grandma is showing you and the rest of the grandkids your family tree. By now, you’ve noticed how long and complicated your tree is. Along with parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, there are second cousins, great aunts, great grand nieces, etc. And, while you may have never known these people directly, all are in some way related to your family and yourself. But what about the family tree that extends beyond your ancestral family tree?

Lucy’s Paleo Diet: How teeth reveal important insight into early hominin diet

So, you’re at the dentist office. While sitting in the waiting room, you pick up one of the many magazines. On the cover, is a title heralding a new dietary trend; the Paleo Diet. It may read “Eat like a Caveman” or “Paleo diet 101”. We see such titles everywhere as the paleo diet has gained enormous popularity in the western world. Often boasting staggering, stupendous, incredible health benefits, the paleo diet attempts to return us to the food our early ancestors consumed. However, many of the paleo diets we see in books and magazines are only loosely based on actual hominin diets. But, how are these paleo diets compiled when the generation they refer to has been gone for a few million years? Well, paleoanthropologists have been able to delve into the hominin diet by observing dental adaptations left behind by our early ancestors, documenting and cataloging information on early hominin diet.

#Takemeback: How faunal material can recreate the paleolandscape

Remember that vacation you took when you were with your squad? They looked good, you looked good, the weather was perfect and the selfies on fleek. Everyone has moments they remember fondly and wish they could go back to. And, like everyone else, paleoanthropologists wish they could go back in time, too…Just a couple of million years more!

The Human Color Swatch: How variation affects your skin color

Have you ever found yourself in the paint aisle, staring wordlessly at the seemingly endless array of color fusion? I inevitably find myself staring at those swatches and wondering how on earth there can be hundreds of variations of yellow. Perhaps, I think, I’m just an unrefined savage when it comes to discerning paint color, or perhaps the colors really aren’t that different and it’s simply a trick presented by paint advertisers. However, upon closer inspection, I see the vague tinges of shade difference. So, when presented with such an array of colors and all the designating names categorizing them, I realize that we humans have a deep understanding of color variation. This ability to see color has allowed us to note the vast diversity of skin color among our own species.

Supervillain or Superhero? How autosomal recessive disorders affected human evolution  

Oftentimes in movies, we root for the superhero and despise the super villain. After all, who wants Dr. Evil and Mr. Bigglesworth to dominate the world by turning the moon into a death star? His success wouldn’t benefit anyone other than himself and his cohort of miscreants.  Civilization and freedom would be compromised, effectively squashingContinue reading “Supervillain or Superhero? How autosomal recessive disorders affected human evolution  “

One Dog, Two Dog, Big Dog, Small Dog: The forces of evolution

Sitting on a park bench one day, you notice a Great Dane and Chihuahua happily sniffing and circling each other in mutual greeting. Staring, you notice how different they are and wonder how it is even possible that they are still part of the same species. This difference you see is known as ‘variation’.