This is a big story about a little snail. Biologist Helen Scales relates an epic tale that spans the globe and involves calamity, tragedy, extinction and we hope, salvation. It stars the tiny tree-dwelling mollusc from French Polynesia, Partula, a snail that has captivated scientists for centuries. Like Charles Darwin studied finches on the Galapagos, Partula became an icon of evolution because, in the living laboratories of the Pacific islands, it had evolved into multiple species. But a calamity drove Partula to extinction, when a botched biological control, the predatory Rosy Wolf Snail, was introduced. It was supposed to eat another problem mollusc, but in a cruel twist, devoured tiny Partula instead. An international rescue mission was scrambled to save a species and from just one or two rescued individuals, populations of this snail species have been built up over thirty years in captive breeding programmes in zoos around the world. And now, in the nailbiting sequel, we track Partula’s journey home.
Tagged with “evolution” (39)
Does our ability to talk about and believe in things that don’t exist explain our dominance over all other forms of life?
Tupac Shakur trained as an actor, posed as a street thug and became a best selling rapper. He continues to be mythologised, revered and highlighted like no other. Poet and playwright Al Letson recalls the life of this restless revolutionary who was shot and killed 18 years ago, yet remains one of the biggest-selling hip hop artists.
Tupac led a conflicted life, causing moral outrage in one verse and capturing the voice of the disenfranchised in another. He continues to inspire revolutionaries around the world and has even been chosen by the Vatican as someone who ‘aimed to reach the heart of good-minded people’. He wrote the feminist elegy Brenda’s Got a Baby and the abusive Wonda Why They Call U Bitch. Graffiti tributes cover walls across the world, he carried the conflict between community struggle and personal gain.
With contributions from Tupac’s first manager and the actor Tony Danzia, Al Letson explores the complexity of Tupac’s life and the contending identities that define him.
There’s no one like you. At least, not yet. But in some visions of the future, androids can do just about everything, computers will hook directly into your brain, and genetic human-hybrids with exotic traits will be walking the streets. So could humans become an endangered species?
Be prepared to meet the new-and-improved you. But how much human would actually remain in the humanoids of the future?
Plus, tips for preventing our own extinction in the face of inevitable natural catastrophes.
Robin Hanson – Associate professor of economics, George Mason University Luke Muehlhauser – Executive director of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute Stuart Newman – Professor of cell biology and anatomy, New York Medical College Annalee Newitz – Editor of io9.com, and author of Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction
Bees are remarkable among insects. They can count, remember human faces, and communicate through dance routines performed entirely in the dark. But are they intelligent? Even creative? Bee aficionado Stephen Humphrey, along with a hive of leading bee researchers and scientists, investigates the mental lives of bees.
We all know the eensey-weensey spider went down the water spout. But for a lot of us, that’s about all we know about spiders. They’re around. They spin webs. They have a lot of legs and make some people shriek.
A big new exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History goes way on in to the spider story, with the fishing spider and the golden orb-web spider and the goliath bird eater spider – a spider as big as your hand. It’s got the story of spider venom and spider silk – stronger than steel! – and why we need spiders.
Is intelligent life trying to communicate with us from space? Professor Paul Davies explores the potential and limits of research into the origin and evolution of life, and the search for life beyond Earth. Has ET maybe visited our planet ages ago and left us a message? At the Australian National University, Paul Davies discussed his latest book The Eerie Silence: Are We Alone in the Universe?
Maybe you thought your body was a noble castle poised against the onslaughts and invasions of the world. Well, think again. It turns out, we are the world. Our bodies are loaded with a jungle of microbial life, inside and out, that is essential to healthy life.
New science has found ten times as many bacteria cells as human cells in and on the human body. A load of microbes that work with us from the moment of birth in all kinds of key ways. Killing them off, avoiding them, may make us sick. Make us fat.
This hour, On Point: Microbes are us. The amazing full ecology of the human body.
Edward O. Wilson has revolutionized science and inspired the public more often than any other living biologist. Now he is blending his pioneer work on ants with a new perspective on human development to propose a radical reframing of how evolution works.
First the social insects ruled, from 60 million years ago. Then a species of social mammals took over, from 10 thousand years ago. Both sets of “eusocial” animals mastered the supremely delicate art of encouraging altruism, so that individuals in the groups would act as if they value the goal of the group over their own goals. They would specialize for the group and die for the group. In recent decades the idea of “kin selection” seemed to explain how such an astonishing phenomenon could evolve. Wilson replaces kin selection with “multi-level selection,” which incorporates both individual selection (long well understood) and group selection (long considered taboo). Every human and every human society has to learn how to manage adroitly the perpetual ambiguity and conflict between individual needs and group needs. What I need is never the same as what we need.
E. O. Wilson’s current book is The Social Conquest of Earth. His previous works include The Superorganism; The Future of Life; Consilience; Biophilia; Sociobiology; and The Insect Societies.
Adrian Bejan takes the recurring patterns in nature—trees, tributaries, air passages, neural networks, and lightning bolts—and reveals how a the Constructal Law accounts for the evolution of these and all other designs in our world. Design in Nature: How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, and Social Organization, written with J. Peder Zane, looks at how everything—from biological life to inanimate systems—generates shape and structure and evolves in a sequence of ever-improving designs in order to facilitate flow.
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