A Genomic secret of the pigeon’s crest shows the power of a single mutation to produce an explosion of biodiversity.
Everybody has heard of Darwin’s finches, but Darwin was just as interested in pigeons. He bred them, and according to UCSF evolutionary biologist Nathan Young, “The domesticated pigeon was just as, if not more, important to the evolution of his thinking about how natural selection worked.” New genomic information now confirms something he thought: domestic rock pigeons originated from wild rock doves.
In an effort to settle the evolutionary debate about when the ancestor of most mammals (the placental ones) evolved, Stony Brook University paleontologist Maureen O’Leary and colleagues have published a study packed with anatomical data and a significant bit of whimsy. The debate—“Fossils Versus Clocks” as Science writer Anne Yoder calls it in her editorial commentary—concerns the question of whether the earliest placental mammal evolved before or after the extinction of dinosaurs. O’Leary’s study stacks the deck on the “fossil” side with a mountain of anatomical data that ignores the “clock” side of the question.
The most popular idea about what caused dinosaur extinction—presumably marked by the K-T boundary—involves an asteroid impact memorialized by the Chicxulub (pronounced cheek’-she-loob) impact crater off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The main problem with the idea, from an evolutionary point of view, has been that dinosaur extinction seems to have taken place 300,000 years after the asteroid hit. A study published last week in Science offers a comfortable solution by re-dating the two events to a statistically plausible coincidence.
Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement on Monday indicated he will become the first pope in six centuries to resign. (The last was Gregory XII in 1415.)
Much speculation abounds as to what his replacement’s position will be on many issues, as the papacy has certainly wielded significant political and cultural influence for centuries, in addition to influencing what many people think about God and the Bible.
A few years back BBC television viewers could enjoy both David Attenborough and David Bellamy bringing wildlife and plants into their homes. Both were (and are) extremely environmentally conscious spokesmen for conservation of earth’s resources. And both men are gifted with the ability to engage their audience and make their subject matter interesting and vital. But Bellamy says the BBC dropped him suddenly in 2004 after he expressed his opinion that the scientific consensus about global warming was “poppycock.”
And Don’t Miss . . .
The Bible, a ten-hour, five-part docudrama, is set to premiere on March 3 on the History Channel. An award-winning narrator and international cast should make this a quality production you won’t want to miss. More importantly, prolific TV producer Mark Burnett has expressed his wish to honor God’s Word by making it memorable for viewers, whether they already treasure the Bible or are unfamiliar with its rich history. He says, “If you know the Bible, you'll enjoy seeing the stories come to life. If you've never read the Bible, I think you'll love the stories. There's a reason the Bible is the most widely read book in the world.” Explaining the importance of the project to himself and his wife, actress and fellow producer Roma Downey, he says, “Nothing we've ever done, not Touched By an Angel, not Survivor, not The Voice, not The Apprentice, none of this could possibly compare to The Bible. To us, as a family, we love the Bible. This is not a TV show to us. Its images and sound and sacred text that people will still watch, way after our grandchildren are old people.” Because the Bible can certainly not be completely covered in just ten hours, the miniseries, which was largely filmed in Morocco, will focus on events concerning key figures such as Abraham, Moses, and David, compressing accounts as needed for artistic purposes. “In the end, what we've done is a meta-narrative, a grand narrative of emotionally connected stories,” Burnett explains. “We know we're not qualified to teach the Bible. We're qualified to be good television producers and storytellers. By telling these emotionally connected, big stories, hopefully millions of people will reopen their Bibles. It is our obligation to tell the stories as written.” Burnett has committed himself to making the series convey biblical history accurately, and our first look at a pre-release video clip of a 6-minute scene on Noah’s Ark and the Creation has us eager to see more. Be sure to put this series premiere—March 3—on your calendars now and encourage any of your friends who are perhaps not so familiar with the Bible to do so, too. See nrb.org for the complete program schedule and the official trailer.
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