Archive for the 'AABQOTW' Category


OK one from leftfield this week, and although the answers lead into predicatable territory (it’s amazing how many go like that, looping around till they come to rest in a familiar position) it’s another great demonstration of how science works, the importance of critical thinking (both by the people answering the questions and the person who thought to ask) and the realities of evidence vs interpretations of evidence. This time out then, were there ever giant humans?


This is a rather odd one, but I like it as it shows off exactly why (I think) AAB as a whole works and that just about everyone in the world has one biology-based thing they have noticed that they can’t work out and can’t easily find any information on it. In this case it’s the issue of why ducks and other aquatic birds float at different heights in  the water. Those who know their sauropods are hopefully familiar with this paper by Don Henderson dealing with a simialr issue.


Continuing with the theme from last week, it’s another AABQOTW focusing on evolutionary theory. The big question this time, which leads to an interesting discussion on the use of terms in different settings, is “what is meant by ‘survival of the fittest’?“.


Obviously I have missed a few AABQOTWs of late with my illness and trip to Japan, so it’s good to get them going again. I know these are not the most exciting posts (and cerainly are not that often read) but thanks to Darwin, the evolution questions are really hotting up and there are some superb questions and debates appearing about evolutionary theory. I really think both this week’s effort and soem of the others are well worth your time. This popped up only this week and relates to an important issue in the theory and philosophy of science – just want predications can you make from evolution?


This week the question is probably not of great interest to the average Musings visitor, but might be worthwhile for some younger readers (and I assuem there are a few). If nothing else it does rather demonstrate the variety of fields available in biology and the length of time it takes to qualify. Many people seem to think that getting a PhD is quick and easy, and it isn’t.

The question was “How do I become a herpetologist?” (someone who studies reptiles and amphibians). And if you want to see what was said, then the answer is this way.


Time to get beyond archosaurs a bit and move into evolutionary patterns and adaptation. Here we were asked about the acquisition of new characters, and more specifically about the origins of lungs. As ever, if you want to see what we saidthen here are the answers.


Since evrything seems to revolve around taxonomy this week, lets have a taxonomy related AABQOTW.

This time out the tricky and vexing question of just how many species are there? As ever click on the link here to read the expert replies.


This time out we move onto extant archosaurs and the question of why would some birds lose the power of flight?

As ever the answers are available here. This is a good illustaration of a few points on evolution however – birds went to quite a lot of trouble to evolve flight (so to speak) so why was it lost (really quite often – ostriches, kiwi, great auk, penguins, dodo, kakapo, Sephen’s Island wren among plenty of others)? Flight is of course just one component of bird life and bahaviour, and its evolution and maintenence is a huge energetic cost which between them can provoke a variety of situations under which flight may be lost.


Another nice and obvious one that bears heavily on archosaurian evolution:

Did birds start flying from the trees down, or from the ground up?

Read the answers / debate from a variety of experts here.


I’m having internet issues again, so please bear with me if there are problems with formatting and I can’t insert tags or mark categories. It’ll be OK in a few days and I’ll fix the backlog, and in the meantime I do have some posts uploaded so it should be fine.

Anyway, here is this week’s AABQOTW, this time dealing with the vexed and ongoing problem of evolution, fact or theory? I imagine most of you will know the answer well in advance, but it’s worth a peek if you have not tought about it before, and is certainly something that should be brought up more often to avoid confusion.

I don’t normally go in for ‘coming soon’ type posts, but as I hope the AABQOTW will be a regular fixture (regular in the sense that I remember to write it, you don’t have much choice in my putting it up) it seems a practical way of introducing the odd upcoming feature. Anyway, even with Christmas on the horizon you can look forward to posts on taxonomy, new Chinese dinosaur footprints, pterosaur terrestriality, BAD-BAND, bone degredation and the progression of science.


Since everyone else on the web seems to have some kind of weekly feature I thought it was time I joined in. I don’t have a huge archive of publishable photos, so I’m going to need something that I can easily purloin or link to with minimal effort that will make a quick post. Of course given the other palaeo / bio websites I’m involved in it seemed obvious to steal from my own creations (if such a thing is possible) and so I bring you the Ask A Biologist Question Of The Week or the incredibly catchy acronym of AABQOTW (the SV-POW boys have nothing on me).

So each week I’ll trawl through the AAB archives (and if you don’t know what that is by now, shame on you!) and pull out one of the more interesting questions and reproduce the text here. It *is* a cheap and easy post for me, but hopefully it will bring a new audience to AAB and let me explore some arrears of biology wither beyond the archosaurs, or to areas that are directly relevant that I rarely get the opportunity to crowbar into my posts (like mate choice, or feeding behaviour).


Hopefully this will be the first of many, and of course you should feel free to browse the 1300 questions (and over 4000 answers!) available over at AAB or even leave a question yourself (since that’s kinda the point).

This week I have picked the (apparently) endless question of Tyrannosaurus:predator or scavenger. It is not the most fascinating of questions in my opinion, but these kinds of issues can drive huge amounts of research as people come up with more and more ingenious ways of looking at the fossil record (and living animals) to try and answer the question, and for this reason at least it is still a major subject in palaeotology.

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