30 June 2010

Celebrate diversity: Lesbian lizard sex

ResearchBlogging.orgI have a hard time remembering the name Aspidoscelis uniparens, because when it first broke into the limelight, it was Cnemidophorus uniparens. Sort of like how everyone continued calling Prince “Prince” even after he changed his name to a squiggle. If only he’d been known as a squiggle first when he released “Little Red Corvette”...

Regardless of the genus name, I love this lizard. This was probably the first parthenogenetic animal that made an impression on me, when I was an undergraduate.

That there were no males in this species – a vertebrate! – was interesting enough. But what made this doubly wild was that while there was absolutely no genetic need for any other individual, these lizards, if given the opportunity, would perform pseudocopulation. That is, if you saw two lizards, they would engage in behaviour that, if you didn’t know they were both female, you would say, “They’re getting some action.” Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.

Now that is the sort of thing that impresses upon an undergraduate how little she or he knows about the natural world.

It makes sense, as so many things do, when viewed from an evolutionary point of view. If these animals evolved from a sexual species, the behaviour may lag behind the genetic changes. Sort of how like the hottest days of the year are usually a bit after the longest days of the year.

There’s a series of papers on this lizard, mainly from the lab of David Crews. He’s authored many other papers on many other species besides Aspidoscelis uniparens, I should say.


Crews D, Fitzgerald KT. 1980. "Sexual" behavior in parthenogenetic lizards (Cnemidophorus). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 77(1): 499-502. http://www.pnas.org/content/77/1/499.short

Color photo by Manrus on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.

15 June 2010

Mystery book

I have no idea what this listing on the Amazon UK site is supposed to be. The listed publisher has a list of books that all seem to be lists of things, with May 2010 publication dates and the same non-cover cover. And weirdly, the “used” copies show up as costing more than the “new” copies. The ISBN number showed up in a search, but the publisher didn’t appear in a Google search.

It feels like there’s a scam of some sort going on here, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what it could be.

02 June 2010

European Crayfish conference

The email I got announcing this conference opened in a way that seemed to me to reflect the nation where the meeting is being held...

To everybody passionate about crayfish!

“European Crayfish: Food, Flagships and Ecosystem Services” will held in Poitiers, France (26–29 October 2010). The conference website is now open. Seating is limited to 110 participants. The registration deadline is the end of June for regular membership. You can continue to register until 20 September, but costs go up after June.

A special issue of Knowledge Management of Aquatic Ecosystems (http://www.kmae-journal.org/) will be dedicated to this conference.

Discussion of the European Inland Fisheries Advisory Commission (EIFAC) crayfish working party will be held at this meeting.

For more information, contact Catherine Souty-Grosset at eucrayfish2010@ml.univ-poitiers.fr.