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Episode 3 (April 23, 2014)
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4/23/2014 at 8:34:36 PM GMT
Posts: 142
Episode 3 (April 23, 2014)
This topic is devoted to episode 3 of Neil Shubin's "Your Inner Fish."

Last edited Wednesday, April 23, 2014
4/25/2014 at 12:35:01 AM GMT
Posts: 21
J.R.R. Tolkien noted someplace that of all the criticisms he got of Lord of the Rings, he really only agreed with one. It was too short. That's my only complaint about Your Inner Fish. Really well done, and fascinating stuff. Shubin's books are excellent, too. If I had another research career to choose, I think I would go evo-devo. No trips to northern Canada, probably, but I usually think the answer is in the details.

4/25/2014 at 2:05:50 AM GMT
Posts: 41

I agree with you, Preston, too short -- it was so good.

This was another fine and, unfortunately, the final episode of Your Inner Fish describing our evolutionary path from fish ancestors.  Neil Shubin included, in part,

  1. color vision evolution, including an experiment where scientists produced color vision in a spider monkey by inserting genes encoding the opsin protein they need for color vision -- amazing!;
  2. olphactory senses and the fact that humans have 600 odor receptor genes that are no longer active
  3. the brain – brain genes shared by humans and organisms with a notochord but no brain
  4. bipedalism in our earliest hominid ancestors with amazing 3D animation of what it would have looked like for Lucy to walk uprightly; and
  5. backbone issues from walking uprightly

My only disappointment, besides leaving out hiccups, was that the show was limited to an hour and that the series is now concluded.  I’d wager that it will be back.

Hiccups – if you read the last chapter of Your Inner Fish, you’ll hear how hiccups are the same biological response that occurs in tadpoles having both gills and lungs that enables them to use the one and not the other.

4/25/2014 at 11:22:21 AM GMT
Posts: 142
It was a very good series and I hope more like it will come in the future.
In the previous episode I noted the pervasive use of teleological language, even though those who use it don't really mean any independent intelligent designer. In this episode I noted what I think is also very prevalent in the field, the use of the singular form as in "common ancestor." Isn't it fair to say that when evolutionary biologists use the term "common ancestor" it is really shorthand for what they are thinking of, namely a "common ancestral population?" Seldom would descent come solely from one individual of an ancestral species. Maybe a particular trait or mutation might be traced to one individual, but the full set of characteristics of a species is considered to have descended from an ancestral population, right? It's just easier to use the singular as representative of the ancestral species, but it may give the wrong impression to the public.

4/25/2014 at 12:44:00 PM GMT
Posts: 41
There is a talk, "Is Teleology still a Useful Concept in Biology?", that speaks to that very question.  Its by Dr Harvey McMahon on the Faraday multimedia site and given in 2013.  I don't remember getting a whole lot out of it other than what you might expect -- yes, they talk in such terms but don't really mean it in the way folks might take it, but isn't it remarkable. 

And yes, I'm sure your right that "common ancestor" is shorthand for ancestral population in the way that it is used in the show, especially since they'll never be able to pinpoint an ancient individual from whom you are a direct descendant.  

But, wouldn't that be interesting to be able to remember and honor your great, great, great,...grandfather fish who died on such and such a date  ;-o) ?