Lice on a Bird: Convergent Evolution in action!

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A really nice example of how to communicate some fascinating evolutionary biology.  Illinois Natural History Survey ornithologist Kevin  Johnson describes his research on the history of feather lice.  Anyone who works with birds knows they are lousy–as in, usually covered in lice.

But how did all those lice evolve? Did they share a common louse ancestor, and then diverge as their bird hosts diverged? Bird winglice  from a parrot look a lot like bird wing lice on a duck–but those are very different and unrelated hosts. What does that tell us about the history of lice?

You can read the paper this work is based on here:

Johnson, K.P., Shreve, S.M. & Smith, V.S. (2012). Repeated adaptive divergence of microhabitat specialization in avian feather lice, BMC Biology, 10 (1) DOI: 10.1186/1741-7007-10-52
 

(Looking for a text transcript of the video; you can get most of the content text here)

Report from the Con

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I’m back in town and trying to catch up on all the sleep I missed by being at SkepchickCon.  After some calculations this afternoon, I determined that the last time I attended a science fiction convention was in 1982.*

Seriously.

I was at (and helped to plan) AggieCon XIII. AggieCon is “the oldest and largest student-run science fiction convention in the United States.”  We showed Rocky Horror for the first time on what was (and still is) an extremely conservative campus with a large military presence. Ted, our faculty adviser, was very nervous that the higher-ups would be upset with the sexual content of the movie.  I think that was a pretty realistic fear :)

So, I did go into CONvergence with an idea of what a sci-fi con was.
One of the fun things about Cons is all the weirdos come out to play.  But the nature of the play has changed. A lot.

Pretty much everyone at CONvergence seemed to be wearing a corset, dudes included. Huge tracts of land were on display everywhere, as well as fetish costumes that would keep you in your bunk for weeks. Hot damn, things have changed!!

Every flavor of freak flag was flying happily and proudly. Everyone was so beautiful. And they all had AMAZING SHOES.

We also had a great series of panels on the skeptic/science track at the convention, with lots of attendees and great questions. I got to spend some time chatting with Greg Laden and Pamela Gay, which gave my brain some exercise.

I have some interesting stories to write up for you when I’m less sleep deprived.

*the first commenter to mention they weren’t even born in 1982 will be dope-slapped within an inch of their life. You’ve been warned.