Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Notes for Feb 16th

  • Although I know many people moved to Florida to avoid the cold, apparently there are some benefits to the surprisingly freezing conditions: Invasive tropical species are dying by the thousands! Of course, these are species that invaded with a very small initial population, so I doubt enough are being killed by a single freeze to seriously damage the viability of the long-term population.
  • More about feathers on dinosaurs. Open debate about why feathers evolved: For flight? For insulation? What about for sexual displays? Sexual displays links directly to fitness, so it is hard to imagine they weren't used for this as soon as it was possible for them to be used for this, but is this what drove their evolution? Interesting observation by Luis Chiappe: Essentially, reptiles can display color on their skin without feathers, so he doubts dinos would have needed feathers to make colorful displays. Ah, but I think we sometimes forget that we're talking about modern reptiles displaying color on their skin. Dinos broke off from the modern reptile lineage a long, long time ago. Can birds display colors on their skin? (I don't know...but I doubt they need to, so it could have been lost) Anyway, my image of a terrifying dinosaur has changed completely. I find the new version way more plausible.
  • Often scientific names are depressingly boring (The Big Bang? Really? That's all you got?). Not always though. I present: The Armored Devil Toad. I'm not even kidding.
  • I've been saying for years that p=0.05 as a cutoff for statistical significance is ridiculous and arbitrary. I've tried to get away with avoiding it altogether. But that isn't easy to do when your advisors are wedded to the idea. Maybe things will start to change now that Hurlbert (pdf) has spoken. Some big picture explanation here. For some reason Hurlbert can drive a point home to biologists like nobody's business. Finally.

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