Special issue of Journal of Effective Teaching.

The Journal of Effective teaching has a special issue on evolution education.

Journal of Effective Teaching

Volume 9, Issue 2, September 2009
Special Issue – Teaching Evolution in the Classroom

Full Issue – PDF


Letter from the Editor-in-Chief:: Origins …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 1-3
Russell L. Herman …………………………………….. HTML, PDF


The Influence of Religion and High School Biology Courses on Students’ Knowledge of Evolution

When They Enter College ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 4-12
Randy Moore, Sehoya Cotner, and Alex Bates ………………………. Abstract, HTML, PDF

Teaching Evolution in the Galápagos ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 13-28
Katherine E. Bruce, Jennifer E. Horan, Patricia H. Kelley, Mark Galizio ……………….. Abstract, HTML, PDF

A College Honors Seminar on Evolution and Intelligent Design: Successes and Challenges ……………………… 29-37
Patricia H. Kelley …………………………………………….. Abstract, HTML, PDF

Clearing the Highest Hurdle: Human-based Case Studies Broaden Students’ Knowledge
of Core Evolutionary Concepts
…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 38-53
Alexander J. Werth ………………………………….. Abstract, HTML, PDF

Evolution in Action, a Case Study Based Advanced Biology Class at Spelman College ………………………….. 54-68
Aditi Pai ……………………………………………………. Abstract, HTML, PDF

Preparing Teachers to Prepare Students for Post-Secondary Science:
Observations From a Workshop About Evolution in the Classroom ………………………………………………….. 69-80
Caitlin M. Schrein, et al. …………………………… Abstract, HTML, PDF

Evolution of the nervous system.

To the list of special issues dealing with the evolution of eyes (E:EO, Phil Trans R Soc B), you can now add one on nervous systems in Nature Reviews Neuroscience.

Nature Reviews Neuroscience

Vol. 10, Oct. 2009

Charles Darwin’s theory of descent with modification by means of natural selection has stood the test of time, with new discoveries in genetics and the mathematical basis of natural selection providing ever growing evidence for the theory. This focus issue of Nature Reviews Neuroscience — sponsored by the Wellcome Trust — celebrates the contribution of Darwin’s ideas to our current understanding of the evolution of the nervous system. The articles in this special issue discuss the molecular, cellular and structural changes that have contributed to CNS evolution and their functional consequences.

The origin and evolution of synapses

Tomás J. Ryan & Seth G. N. Grant

Nature Reviews Neuroscience 10, 701-712 (2009)

Tracing the phylogeny of the molecular components of synapses, Ryan and Grant speculate on the core components of the last common ancestor of all synapses and posit that the diversification of upstream signalling components contributed to increased signalling complexity later in evolution.

Considering the evolution of regeneration in the central nervous system

Elly M. Tanaka & Patrizia Ferretti

Nature Reviews Neuroscience 10, 713-723 (2009)

What allows some species, but not others, to regenerate their nervous system? In this Review, the authors compare CNS regeneration among vertebrates looking for clues that might explain how this ability might have emerged or been restricted through evolution.

Evolution of the neocortex: a perspective from developmental biology

Pasko Rakic

Nature Reviews Neuroscience 10, 724-735 (2009)

Focusing on mammalian species, Pasko Rakic uses evo–devo studies to model how gene mutations may have affected neuron number and neuronal migration, which in turn may have contributed to the species-specific expansion and elaboration of the cerebral cortex.

Chordate roots of the vertebrate nervous system: expanding the molecular toolkit

Linda Z. Holland

Nature Reviews Neuroscience 10, 736-746 (2009)

By comparing developmental gene expression and neuroanatomy of vertebrates and the basal chordate amphioxus, Linda Holland sheds light on the molecular changes that may have facilitated the evolution of the vertebrate brain.

HT: Evolving Thoughts

The evolution of eyes.

Those of you who have been following this blog will know about the special issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach on the evolution of eyes that I edited last year (see below). There is now another excellent collection of papers on this subject in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, edited by eye experts Trevor D. Lamb, Detlev Arendt, and Shaun P. Collin.

The evolution of phototransduction and eyes

edited by Trevor D. Lamb, Detlev Arendt, and Shaun P. Collin
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, vol. 364, issue 1531, Oct. 19, 2009

The evolution of phototransduction and eyes
Trevor D. Lamb, Detlev Arendt, and Shaun P. Collin

Evolution of phototaxis
Gáspár Jékely

The ‘division of labour’ model of eye evolution

Detlev Arendt, Harald Hausen, and Günter Purschke

Eye evolution: common use and independent recruitment of genetic components
Pavel Vopalensky and Zbynek Kozmik

The evolution of eyes and visually guided behaviour

Dan-Eric Nilsson

The evolution of irradiance detection: melanopsin and the non-visual opsins
Stuart N. Peirson, Stephanie Halford, and Russell G. Foster

Evolution of vertebrate rod and cone phototransduction genes

Dan Larhammar, Karin Nordström, and Tomas A. Larsson

Evolution of opsins and phototransduction
Yoshinori Shichida and Take Matsuyama

Evolution and the origin of the visual retinoid cycle in vertebrates
Takehiro G. Kusakabe, Noriko Takimoto, Minghao Jin, and Motoyuki Tsuda

Evolution of vertebrate retinal photoreception

Trevor D. Lamb

The evolution of early vertebrate photoreceptors

Shaun P. Collin, Wayne L. Davies, Nathan S. Hart, and David M. Hunt

Evolution and spectral tuning of visual pigments in birds and mammals
David M. Hunt, Livia S. Carvalho, Jill A. Cowing, and Wayne L. Davies

Evolution of colour vision in mammals

Gerald H. Jacobs

The evolution of eyes
edited by T. Ryan Gregory
Evolution: Education and Outreach, vol. 1, issue 4, Oct. 2008


351. Editorial by Gregory Eldredge and Niles Eldredge (PDF)

352-354. Introduction by T. Ryan Gregory (PDF)

355-357. Casting an Eye on Complexity by Niles Eldredge (PDF)

Original science / evolution reviews

358-389. The Evolution of Complex Organs by T. Ryan Gregory (PDF)
(Blog: Genomicron)

390-402. Opening the “Black Box”: The Genetic and Biochemical Basis of Eye Evolution by Todd H. Oakley and M. Sabrina Pankey (PDF)
(Blog: Evolutionary Novelties)

403-414. A Genetic Perspective on Eye Evolution: Gene Sharing, Convergence and Parallelism by Joram Piatigorsky (PDF)

415-426. The Origin of the Vertebrate Eye by Trevor D. Lamb, Edward N. Pugh, Jr., and Shaun P. Collin (PDF)

427-438. Early Evolution of the Vertebrate Eye—Fossil Evidence by Gavin C. Young (PDF)

439-447. Charting Evolution’s Trajectory: Using Molluscan Eye Diversity to Understand Parallel and Convergent Evolution by Jeanne M. Serb and Douglas J. Eernisse (PDF)

448-462. Evolution of Insect Eyes: Tales of Ancient Heritage, Deconstruction, Reconstruction, Remodeling, and Recycling by Elke Buschbeck and Markus Friedrich (PDF)

463-475. Exceptional Variation on a Common Theme: The Evolution of Crustacean Compound Eyes by Thomas W. Cronin and Megan L. Porter (PDF)

476-486. The Causes and Consequences of Color Vision by Ellen J. Gerl and Molly R. Morris (PDF)

487-492. The Evolution of Extraordinary Eyes: The Cases of Flatfishes and Stalk-eyed Flies by Carl Zimmer (PDF)
(Blog: The Loom)

493-497. Suboptimal Optics: Vision Problems as Scars of Evolutionary History by Steven Novella (PDF)
(Blog: NeuroLogica)

Curriculum articles

498-504. Bringing Homologies Into Focus by Anastasia Thanukos (PDF)
(Website: Understanding Evolution)

505-508. Misconceptions About the Evolution of Complexity by Andrew J. Petto and Louise S. Mead (PDF)
(Website: NCSE)

509-516. Losing Sight of Regressive Evolution by Monika Espinasa and Luis Espinasa (PDF)

Book reviews

548-551. Jay Hosler, An Evolutionary Novelty: Optical Allusions by Todd H. Oakley (PDF)

Journal websites.

Some time ago, I put together a list of websites for the journals I am most interested in. It occurred to me that this could be useful for others. (I am also planning to post some information on how to aggregate journal tables of contents, automatic index searches, and science news).


Biological Bulletin
Biological Reviews
Biology Letters
Communicative and Integrative Biology
Current Biology
Integrative and Comparative Biology
Journal of Biology
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B
PLoS Biology
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B
Quarterly Review of Biology
The Scientist


American Naturalist
Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society
Biological Theory
BMC Evolutionary Biology
Development Genes and Evolution
Evolution & Development
Evolutionary Applications
Evolutionary Biology
Genetics Selection Evolution
Genome Biology and Evolution
Journal of Evolutionary Biology
Journal of Experimental Zoology (Mol Dev Evol)
Molecular Biology and Evolution
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Systematic Biology
Trends in Ecology & Evolution
Trends in Evolutionary Biology

Genome biology and evolution

Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics
BMC Genomics
Cell Cycle
Chromosome Research
Comp Biochem Physiol B – Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Comp Biochem Physiol D – Genomics and Proteomics
Comparative and Functional Genomics
Current Opinion in Cell Biology
Current Opinion in Genetics & Development
Cytogenetic and Genome Research
Cytometry A
DNA Research
Genome Biology
Genome Biology and Evolution
Genome Research
Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Insect Molecular Biology
Journal of Heredity
Journal of Molecular Biology
Journal of Molecular Evolution
Mobile DNA
Molecular and Cellular Biology
Molecular Biology and Evolution
Molecular Cell
Nature Genetics
Nature Reviews Genetics
Nucleic Acids Research
Physiological Genomics
PLoS Genetics
Tissue and Cell
Trends in Genetics


Acta Zoologica
Canadian Journal of Zoology
Frontiers in Zoology
Invertebrate Biology
Journal of Zoology
Zoologica Scripta
Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society
Zoologischer Anzeiger


American Biology Teacher
Evolution: Education and Outreach
International Journal of Science Education
Journal of Biological Education
Journal of College Science Teaching
Journal of Research in Science Teaching
Research in Science and Technological Education
Research in Science Education
Science & Education
Science Education
Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology

Evolution: Education and Outreach vol. 2 iss. 3.

The most recent issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach (vol. 2, issue 3) is now available online. I decided to sit this one out after six consecutive contributions (links below), but I will be back in the next issue with a follow-up to my previous article on selection.

Evolution: Education and Outreach
Volume 2, Issue 3
Greg Eldredge and Niles Eldredge

Why I Teach Evolution
Greg Eldredge

Evolution in Biology Education: Sparking Imaginations and Supporting Learning
Kristin P. Jenkins

Evolution Education in Utah: A State Office of Education–University Partnership Focuses on Why Evolution Matters
Jerald B. Johnson, Marta Adair, Byron J. Adams, Daniel J. Fairbanks, Velma Itamura, Duane E. Jeffery, Duane Merrell, Scott M. Ritter and Richard R. Tolman

Why Science Standards are Important to a Strong Science Curriculum and How States Measure Up
Louise S. Mead and Anton Mates

The Growing Visibility of Creationism in Northern Ireland: Are New Science Teachers Equipped to Deal with the Issues?
Conor McCrory and Colette Murphy

Attitudes of Students at a Private Christian Liberal Arts University Toward the Teaching of Evolution
Troy A. Ladine

Addressing Undergraduate Student Misconceptions about Natural Selection with an Interactive Simulated Laboratory
Joel K. Abraham, Eli Meir, Judy Perry, Jon C. Herron, Susan Maruca and Derek Stal

Phylogenetic Analysis: How Old are the Parts of Your Body?
Robert K. Kuzoff, Seth B. Kemmeter, Jeffrey S. McKinnon and Courtney P. Thompson

Using Avida-ED for Teaching and Learning About Evolution in Undergraduate Introductory Biology Courses
Elena Bray Speth, Tammy M. Long, Robert T. Pennock and Diane Ebert-May

Using Inquiry and Tree-Thinking to “March Through the Animal Phyla”: Teaching Introductory Comparative Biology in an Evolutionary Context
James J. Smith and Kendra Spence Cheruvelil

“Evolution for Everyone”: A Course that Expands Evolutionary Theory Beyond the Biological Sciences
Daniel Tumminelli O’Brien, David Sloan Wilson and Patricia H. Hawley

Teaching Evolution Concepts to Early Elementary School Students
Louis Nadelson, Rex Culp, Suzan Bunn, Ryan Burkhart, Robert Shetlar, Kellen Nixon and James Waldron

Overcoming the Effect of the Socio-cultural Context: Impact of Teaching Evolution in Tunisia
Saïda Aroua, Maryline Coquide and Salem Abbes

Teaching Evolution with Historical Narratives

Esther M. van Dijk and Ulrich Kattmann

Preservice Teacher Understanding and Vision of how to Teach Biological Evolution
Louis S. Nadelson

Still More “Fancy” and “Myth” than “Fact” in Students’ Conceptions of Evolution

Deborah L. Cunningham and Daniel J. Wescott

Evolution in Lego®: A Physical Simulation of Adaptation by Natural Selection

Jakob Christensen-Dalsgaard and Morten Kanneworff

Does the Segregation of Evolution in Biology Textbooks and Introductory Courses Reinforce Students’ Faulty Mental Models of Biology and Evolution?

Ross H. Nehm, Therese M. Poole, Mark E. Lyford, Sally G. Hoskins, Laura Carruth, Brent E. Ewers and Patricia J. S. Colberg

From Newsroom to Classroom
Anastasia Thanukos

Science Standards Evolve
Eugenie C. Scott

Paleontology and Evolution in the News
Sidney Horenstein

Blogging Evolution

Adam M. Goldstein

Darwin: Origin and Evolution of an Exhibition
Chiara Ceci

In the Wake of Charles Darwin and Beyond: A Tribute to Ernst Mayr
Review of J. Haffer: Ornithology, Evolution, and Philosophy. The Life and Science of Ernst Mayr 1904–2005. Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg, 2007, 464 pp, $ 119, 00
U. Kutschera

A Permian Murder Mystery
Review of Extinction: How Life on Earth Nearly Ended 250 Million Years Ago, by Douglas H. Erwin. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2006. pp. vii + 296. S/b $22.95
Matthew Williams

How Charles Darwin’s Early Years Led Him to Revolutionize Biological Thought
Review of The Young Charles Darwin by Keith Thomson. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2009, Pp. xii + 276, $28.00
Joel S. Schwartz

The Comparative Biology of Cultural Inheritance
Review of The Question of Animal Culture, Edited by Kevin N. Laland and Bennett G. Galef. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009. Pp. vii + 351. H/b $45.70
Lauren W. McCall

Nitrogen and the Carrying Capacity of the Earth
Review of Enriching the Earth: Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch, and the Transformation of World Food, by Valclav Smil. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2001
Joseph L. Fail

My earlier articles:

Journal covers.

It is always a nice feeling to have a paper published, especially when it is a first paper for a student. It is an even nicer feeling when that paper is featured on the journal cover (i.e., when you submit a cool picture that the editor likes). As it happens, two of our papers appeared on covers in the last month, joining two that I had before.

Smith and Gregory (2009).
Photo by Oliver Lucanus.

Hebert and Gregory (2005).
Image by T.R. Gregory.

Gregory and Shorthouse (2003).
Photo by David Shorthouse.

Brief response to comments on E:EO.

Various bloggers on my must-read list have weighed in on the latest issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach, which focuses on transitional fossils (guest editor, Don Prothero). It is great to see the articles being discussed and recommended. A couple of minor responses to the apt comments (not criticisms per se, or at least mostly constructive ones).

@ Sandwalk: Larry is absolutely right that I did not get into the role of drift alongside natural selection in any significant way. This is a more advanced subject that will be covered in a follow-up article “What natural selection does and does not do”.

@ Laelaps: Why no humans? Special issue unto itself coming.

@ Pharyngula: Articles are not really useful for talking with creationists. I agree, but the target audience is teachers, students, postsecondary educators, researchers, and interested laypeople. That said, an article on effective strategies for entering into reasoned discussions with creationist proponents would be appropriate and welcome.

Evolution: Education and Outreach, Special issue on transitional fossils.

The latest issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach is now online. This is a special issue on transitional forms edited by Don Prothero, author of Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters. The papers are available without charge. Remember to also check out the special issue on the evolution of eyes edited by yours truly from last year.

Evolution: Education and Outreach
Vol 2, Iss 2


Niles Eldredge and Gregory Eldredge

A Question of Individuality: Charles Darwin, George Gaylord Simpson and Transitional Fossils

Niles Eldredge

Evolutionary Concepts

Understanding Natural Selection: Essential Concepts and Common Misconceptions
T. Ryan Gregory

Special Issue on Transitional Fossils

Donald R. Prothero

Palaeontological and Molecular Evidence Linking Arthropods, Onychophorans, and other Ecdysozoa
Gregory D. Edgecombe

Monoplacophorans and the Origin and Relationships of Mollusks
David R. Lindberg

The Evolutionary Emergence of Vertebrates From Among Their Spineless Relatives
Philip C. J. Donoghue and Mark A. Purnell

The Fish-Tetrapod Transition: New Fossils and Interpretations
Jennifer A. Clack

The Evolution of Marine Reptiles
Ryosuke Motani

Evolutionary Transitions Among Dinosaurs: Examples from the Jurassic of China
James M. Clark and Xing Xu

Downsized Dinosaurs: The Evolutionary Transition to Modern Birds
Luis M. Chiappe

Dimetrodon Is Not a Dinosaur: Using Tree Thinking to Understand the Ancient Relatives of Mammals and their Evolution
Kenneth D. Angielczyk

From Land to Water: the Origin of Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises
J. G. M. Thewissen, Lisa Noelle Cooper, John C. George and Sunil Bajpai

Evolutionary Transitions in the Fossil Record of Terrestrial Hoofed Mammals

Donald R. Prothero

Educational Papers

A Name by Any Other Tree
Anastasia Thanukos

Transforming Our Thinking about Transitional Forms
Louise S. Mead

Access to Evolution
Lara Eldredge


Paleontology and Evolution in the News
Sidney Horenstein

Book Reviews

The Charms of Nature: Darwin on Meaning and Value
Darwin Loves You: Natural Selection and the Re-enchantment of the World, by George Levine. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006. pp. xxiii + 304, s/b $18.95
Adam M. Goldstein

Illuminating Charles Darwin’s Morality: Slavery, Humanity’s Origin and Unity, and Darwin’s Evolutionary Theory
Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Darwin’s Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin’s Views on Human Evolution. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. Pp. xxi + 485. H/b $30.00
Joel Schwartz

Your Inner Fish
Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body, by Neil Shubin. Pantheon Books, 2008, 229 pages
Michael Gaspar

Genome Biology and Evolution.

The online journal Genome Biology and Evolution is now publishing its initial set of articles, so be sure to have a look and watch for some good stuff in the future.

I notice that there’s a paper on mammalian genome sizes planned for the first issue. It looks interesting, though I note the following intriguing quotes:

“The evolutionary patterning of genome architecture by nonadaptive forces is supported by population-genetic theory, estimates of the relative power of the major forces of evolution, and comparative analyses of whole-genome sequences. Nevertheless, some biologists still adhere to the idea that even the most arcane aspects of genome evolution, including expansions of genome size by mobile-element proliferation, are direct products of natural selection (e.g., Gregory 2005; Kirschner and Gerhart 2005; Caporale 2006)”.

“our results challenge the notion that genome size reflects a finely tuned structural determinant of the adaptive phenotypes of organisms (Cavalier-Smith 1978; Hughes and Hughes 1995; Gregory 2005).”

Readers of this blog can probably answer the issue of whether I believe all aspects of genome expansion are adaptive.

I have looked at the article in more detail, and it is indeed interesting. However, as is common with this kind of analysis, there are some questions. Here are the species they examined to claim that no reductions in genome sizes occurred in plants or invertebrates:

Plants — Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress, genome size 125Mb, one of the smallest in plants), Populus trichocarpa (cottonwood, 500Mb), and Oryza sativa (rice, 420Mb). The average genome size for flowering plants is 6,400Mb based on more than 4,000 species, ranging from around 60Mb to 124,000Mb.

Invertebrates — Strongylocentrotus purporatus (sea urchin, 870Mb), Anopheles gambiae (mosquito, 280Mb), Drosophila melanogaster (vinegar fly, 175Mb), Caenorhabditis elegans (nematode, 100Mb), Ciona intestinalis (tunicate, 195Mb), and Daphnia pulex (water flea, 230Mb). I would not want to suggest a mean genome size for “invertebrates”, but I can say that even in mosquitoes they range at least 8-fold.

If people who work on genome size do not immediately accept the population size explanation for differences among taxa, it’s not because they don’t understand the argument. It’s because the data are based on a tiny and non-random subsample of genomes, and because predictions don’t seem to be upheld when we examine genome sizes. Being miscited doesn’t help.


I received notification today that the most recent article from my lab has been accepted by BioScience. I am feeling a bit sentimental about it because this marks my 50th peer-reviewed paper. It’s also something new for me, a study on grad student conceptions of evolution. I have now officially been all over the map — experimental, comparative, synthetic, reviews, methods, and educational. Thanks to all my colleagues and students who have been co-authors to date!