What we're reading


As we head into the weekend, here’s a few things we’ve noticed that might be worth your screen-time.
In the journals
Lindsey, H.A., Gallie, J., Taylor, S. & Kerr, B. 2013. Evolutionary rescue from extinction is contingent on a lower rate of environmental change. Nature 494: 463–467. doi: 10.1038/nature11879.

We allowed hundreds of populations of Escherichia coli to evolve under variable rates of increase in concentration of the antibiotic rifampicin. We then genetically engineered all com- binations of mutations from isolates evolved under lower rates of environmental change. By assessing fitness of these engineered strains across a range of drug concentrations, we show that certain genotypes are evolutionarily inaccessible under rapid environ- mental change.

Wright, K.M., Lloyd, D., Lowry, D.B., Macnair, M.R. & Willis, J.H. 2013. Indirect evolution of hybrid lethality due to linkage with selected locus in Mimulus guttatus. PLoS Biology 11: e1001497. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001497.

Here we show, using high-resolution genome mapping, that copper tolerance and hybrid lethality are not caused by the same gene but are in fact separately controlled by two tightly linked loci. We further show that selection on the copper tolerance locus indirectly caused the hybrid incompatibility allele to go to high frequency in the copper mine population because of hitchhiking.

Graur, D., Zheng, Y., Price, N., Azevedo, R.B.R., Zufall, R. a & Elhaik, E. 2013. On the immortality of television sets: “function” in the human genome according to the evolution-free gospel of ENCODE. Genome Biology and Evolution 1–43. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evt028.

The ENCODE Consortium aims to convince its readers that almost every nucleotide in the human genome has a function and that these functions can be maintained indefinitely without selection. ENCODE accomplishes these aims mainly by playing fast and loose with the term “function,” by divorcing genomic analysis from its evolutionary context and ignoring a century of population genetics theory, and by employing methods that consistently overestimate functionality, while at the same time being very careful that these estimates do not reach 100%.

In the blogosphere
Was J.P. Morgan’s “rogue trader” undone because he made a copy-paste error in Microsoft Excel?
Do nice folks finish last in academia?
Carl Zimmer describes how biologists tracked down a multidrug resistant bacterial strain in a National Institutes of Health hospital.

About Jeremy Yoder

Jeremy B. Yoder is an Assistant Professor of Biology at California State University Northridge, studying the evolution and coevolution of interacting species, especially mutualists. He is a collaborator with the Joshua Tree Genome Project and the Queer in STEM study of LGBTQ experiences in scientific careers. He has written for the website of Scientific American, the LA Review of Books, the Chronicle of Higher Education, The Awl, and Slate.
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