Tag Archives: biology

Most Earth species ‘still unknown’, Brazil expert says

27 Feb

“We estimate that there are a total of around 13 million species (known and unknown) in the world,” says Thomas Lewinsohn, a renowned professor of ecology at the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in Sao Paulo state.

“Out of these, roughly 1.75 million species, including micro-organisms, plants, insects, bacteria and animals, have been described,” he told AFP in an interview.

And it would take 2000 years to describe them all.

via Most Earth species ‘still unknown’, Brazil expert says.

Ruy Teixeira Reviews Samuel Bowles And Herbert Gintis’s “A Cooperative Species” | The New Republic

19 Jun

The selfless gene (or, more likely, genes) allowed our ancestors to think and to act as a group, thereby outcompeting other chimp-like species—literally leaving them in the dust. Moreover, our cooperative nature allowed us to build ever more complex ways of interacting with one another, which led to further evolution of the traits that facilitate cooperation (referred to as “gene-culture coevolution”). The end result of this dynamic was civilization and, eventually, the globally interconnected society we live in today.

According to this view of human nature, we are defined by our sense of fairness, adherence to group norms, willingness to punish those who violate such norms, and to share and work for the good of the group. We are not a species of seven billion selfish individuals, uninterested in anything save our own welfare and willing to cheerfully break any rule and hurt any other individual to secure it. Indeed, we think of such people as sociopaths, and if their tendencies actually dominated humanity we would still be back on the savannah with the rest of the chimp-like species. This view, as it becomes more widely accepted and understood, should have enormous significance for economics, politics, and a wide range of public policy challenges.

via Ruy Teixeira Reviews Samuel Bowles And Herbert Gintis’s “A Cooperative Species” | The New Republic.

Open Tree of Life Project Draws In Every Twig and Leaf – NYTimes.com

10 Jun

The Tree of Life – How many species? 2 million, 10 million? 100 million? And it’s not really a tree.

The most familiar species, those of animals and plants, will take up only a tiny part of the tree. “Most biodiversity on earth is microbial,” said Dr. Katz, the biologist at Smith.

Microbes also pose a special challenge. The branches of the tree of life represent how organisms pass their genes to their descendants. But microbes also transfer genes among one another. Those transfers can join branches separated by billions of years of evolution.

“In a lot of the tree of life, it’s not really treelike,” Dr. Cranston said.

She and her colleagues are exploring how they can build their database to include these gene transfers, and how best to visualize them. “That’s an issue we intend to struggle with for the next three years,” Dr. Katz said.

via Open Tree of Life Project Draws In Every Twig and Leaf – NYTimes.com.