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UT Press: ‘Evolutionary Gem’

This is a Press Information page entitled UT Press: ‘Evolutionary Gem’ within the Press / News Items section of Caudata.org --- HERALD JOURNAL (Logan, Utah) 09 January 09 ‘Evolutionary Gem’ (Kim Burgess) USU professor’s Darwinian theory study appears in Nature magazine Research led by a Utah ...

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Old 10th January 2009   #1 (permalink)
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Default UT Press: ‘Evolutionary Gem’

HERALD JOURNAL (Logan, Utah) 09 January 09 ‘Evolutionary Gem’ (Kim Burgess)
USU professor’s Darwinian theory study appears in Nature magazine
Research led by a Utah State University professor is among the best evidence of Darwin’s evolutionary theories, according to Nature magazine.
Edmund “Butch” Brodie Jr., a faculty member in USU’s biology department, studies garter snakes’ ability to eat highly poisonous newts. The amphibians are so toxic that one could kill dozens of humans.
The work was listed among 15 studies that Nature called “Evolutionary Gems” for demonstrating that Charles Darwin’s ideas are supported by evidence.
The article, printed in the January 2009 issue, is subtitled “A resource from Nature for those wishing to spread awareness of evidence for evolution by natural selection.” It was compiled to recognize the 200th anniversary of the famed evolutionary biologist’s birth.
“Given that the concepts and realities of Darwinian evolution are still challenged, albeit rarely by biologists, a succinct briefing on why evolution by natural selection is an empirically validated principle is useful for people to have on hand,” the Nature editors wrote in their introduction.
Brodie’s work adds to that validation by showing that garter snakes and newts have been evolving together since the last ice age ended in 12,000 B.C.
During that time, the newts have grown more toxic, while the snakes have developed greater resistance to the compound, allowing them continue eating the amphibians.
For most of millennia, the evolutionary arms race between the two creatures was a draw. The snakes succeeded in eating some newts, and the newts succeeded in poisoning some snakes.
But recently one group of snakes won hands down.
A team headed by Brodie discovered that garter snakes in the San Francisco Bay area have an exceptional resistance to the newt’s toxin.
Basically, the snakes can eat with abandon; no newt can do them in.
One of the USU professor’s former doctoral student, Shana Geffeney, built on his work, eventually discovering the molecular basis for the snakes’ ability. Geffeney, who is now at the Stanford School of Medicine, showed that the reptiles have a change in a particular sodium channel, which prevents the newt poison from binding to their cells. This research, published in Nature in 2005, was highlighted as an “Evolutionary Gems” — number 14 on the list.
Also included in the article are studies that examine the origin of feathers and the spread of animals from water onto land.
http://www.nature.com/nature/newspdf/evolutiongems.pdf



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