Grad student proves one of Darwin's theories almost 140 years after his death

In On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin posited that animal lineages with more species should also have more sub-species, or "varieties" in Darwin's terminology. Now, nearly 140 years after Darwin's death, Laura van Holstein, a PhD student in Biological Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, and her colleagues have proven Darwin right. According to a University of Cambridge report, "her research could now be used to predict which species conservationists should focus on protecting to stop them becoming endangered or extinct":

A species is a group of animals that can interbreed freely amongst themselves. Some species contain subspecies – populations within a species that differ from each other by having different physical traits and their own breeding ranges. Northern giraffes have three subspecies that usually live in different locations to each other and red foxes have the most subspecies – 45 known varieties – spread all over the world. Humans have no subspecies.

van Holstein said: “We are standing on the shoulders of giants... My research investigating the relationship between species and the variety of subspecies proves that sub-species play a critical role in long-term evolutionary dynamics and in future evolution of species. And they always have, which is what Darwin suspected when he was defining what a species actually was.”

van Holstein’s research also proved that evolution happens differently in land mammals (terrestrial) and sea mammals and bats (non-terrestrial)­ because of differences in their habitats and differences in their ability to roam freely.

Here is the scientific paper: "Terrestrial habitats decouple the relationship between species and subspecies diversification in mammals" (The Royal Society)

image credit: Nordin Ćatić, University of Cambridge news release Read the rest

Charles Darwin spent most of his day chilling out

Spending too much time at the same place doing the same thing all day is no formula for success, as Charles Darwin and many other great minds of history demonstrate. Nautilus looks at the history of highly productive slacking. Read the rest

Charles Darwin "Natural Selecta" t-shirt

In celebration of Charles Darwin's birthday today, our friends at Imaginary Foundation reprinted their classic "Natural Selecta" t-shirt! The IF Director kindly provided BB readers with a site-wide 10% off code too: boingboing Read the rest

The most influential academic book ever written is...

A panel of academic booksellers, librarians, and publishers asked the public to vote on which academic book from a list of 20 is "the most influential." Charles Darwin's "On The Origin of Species" (1859) dominated with 26% of the vote, beating out the likes of George Orwell's "Nineteen Eight-Four," Adam Smith’s "The Wealth of Nations," and Mary Wollstonecraft's "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman." The top five also included "The Communist Manifesto," "The Complete Works of Shakespeare," Plato's "The Republic," and Immanuel Kant’s "Critique of Pure Reason."

University of Glasgow humanities and English Language professor Andrew Prescott said that Darwin’s text is “the supreme demonstration of why academic books matter."

“Darwin used meticulous observation of the world around us, combined with protracted and profound reflection, to create a book which has changed the way we think about everything – not only the natural world, but religion, history and society,” Prescott said. “Every researcher, no matter whether they are writing books, creating digital products or producing artworks, aspires to produce something as significant in the history of thought as Origin of Species.”

(The Guardian) Read the rest

Blunders of Genius: interesting errors by Darwin, Pauling, and Einstein

History has shown us that even some of the greatest scientific luminaries, towering figures such as the naturalist Charles Darwin, the twice-Nobel-Laureate chemist Linus Pauling, and the embodiment of genius — Albert Einstein — have made some serious blunders.

In which Charles Darwin gets trolled

From Darwin's diary written aboard the HMS Beagle, an accounting of an epic April Fool's prank of 1832. Knowing what I know about 19th-century sailors, this seems like a good way to get beaten up. Read the rest

Read the previously unpublished letters of Charles Darwin

More than 1000 letters written between Charles Darwin and botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker, including 300 never before published, are now available free online for your reading and research pleasure. Read the rest