What we're reading: Sex and the single endogenous retrovirus, extinction by hybridization, and the PLOS data-sharing policy

Read a book
In the journals
Jalasvuori M & J Lehtonen. 2014. Virus epidemics can lead to a population-wide spread of intragenomic parasites in a previously parasite-free asexual population. Molecular Ecology. 23(5):987–991. doi: 10.1111/mec.12662.

Endogenous retroviruses are retroviruses that have integrated to the germ line cells and are inherited thereafter vertically. They can also replicate within the genome similarly to retrotransposons as well as form virus particles and infect previously uninfected cells. This highlights the possibility that endogenous retroviruses could play a role in the evolution of sexual reproduction.

Kleindorfer S, JA O’Connor, RY Dudaniec, SA Myers, J Robertson, & FJ Sulloway. 2014. Species collapse via hybridization in Darwin’s tree finches. The American Naturalist. 183(3):325-341. doi: 10.1086/674899.

The results presented here go to the heart of evolutionary biology: by what criteria do we denote species, and by what criteria do new species form or collapse? Here we present evidence that three sympatric species of Darwin’s tree finches in the 1900s have collapsed, under conditions of hybridization, into two species by the 2000s.

In the news
“Data should be in the form in which it was originally collected, before summarizing, analyzing or reporting.” —The PLOS journals are instituting a sweeping new data-sharing policy that appears to require sharing “raw” data. This has made some people very angry, while others are all in favor. But regardless, that data archiving mandate won’t be a panacea.
“Why filter and not just let anybody publish whatever they want?” —A nice multi-part discussion of the how’s and why’s of peer review.
“… you should contact several POs from different programs to put your name on their radar.” —Why you should probably be angling to sit on an NSF review panel, and applying for a CAREER grant.
“I can, at least in principle, imagine a creationist professor who taught the contents of a microbiology curriculum, complete with the common descent of life on Earth, and never breathed a word of his personal beliefs in the classroom.” —Can a young-Earth creationist be trusted to teach an introductory biology course at Jeremy’s alma mater?

About Jeremy Yoder

Jeremy B. Yoder is an Associate 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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