Radiometric dating made easy

05-Mar-2020 15:32 by 7 Comments

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While studying sea snakes in Taiwan, Liu noticed that the numbers of sea snakes they observed among tidal pools and shallow waters declined sharply in the day or so prior to Typhoon Morakot in August 2009 (Fig.2); only one individual snake was spotted on the evening prior to the onset of the typhoon, compared to 20 or more per site on other dates.

Still, I want to give it a go, as I thought it might be interesting to write the occasional book review, and this is an easy one to start with.

I agree that this is worthwhile, not just from the perspective of refuting creationism, but also as an endeavour in its own right; the science is fascinating in any case, it is always worth knowing on what evidence a scientific consensus is built, and (outside of undergraduate evolution textbooks) the evidence for evolution is not often presented succinctly in one place. Logically structured, it takes us on a tour of the various types of evidence that show evolution in action (or the ghost of evolution past), dealing with creationist misconceptions along the way.

Artificial selection, fossils, biogeographical patterns, developmental evidence, genetic and morphological parallels and divergences among species, relations between predators and prey, the ever popular ‘bad design’ of features such as the vertebrate eye (easily comprehensible under an evolutionary account) and more; all are discussed using up-to-date evidence, alongside explanations of how the evidence itself is collected and understood.

The study authors speculate that the snakes make use of cavernous spaces in the local volcanic rock, which would allow them to find safe places to breath while sheltered from the worst of the weather, but the danger inherent in undertaking coastal fieldwork during a cyclone means that it will be difficult to test any such hypotheses.

In any case, further observational work will be required to confirm that sea snakes really do anticipate stormy conditions and seek shelter, and to see if this is a general response of sea snakes to extreme weather, or simply an adaptation displayed by a local population.

And of course, nothing described above requires snakes (or any other marine creatures) to have psychic powers.

I have just finished reading The Greatest Show on Earth.

As well as directly damaging habitats such as coral reefs, the strong winds, high waves, and storm surges could threaten mobile organisms with injury or stranding.

In environments that are regularly subject to such perturbations, animals might be expected to seek shelter in rough weather, and sheltering behaviour would be most effective if it began prior to the onset of dangerously rough conditions.

I’ve agreed to write regular pieces on marine biology for The Twenty-First Floor, a site devoted to science and scepticism in Scotland.

This is particularly appropriate, because I will shortly be moving to Scotland to take up post-doctoral position.

It seems unlikely that they move into deeper water to avoid the worst of the storm, because they might be vulnerable to large predators in open water, and breathing at the surface in cyclone conditions might be difficult even some way offshore.

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