A clever new hypothesis about insect mimicry

Wow! The moth is stunningly similar to the wasp! Mimicry is amazing.

Why Evolution Is True

Over the years I’ve written here about several kinds of mimicry. The most common subjects have been Batesian mimicry, in which the evolutionary scenario involves three species: an easily identifiable and noxious or toxic model, a predator that learns (or has evolved) to avoid the model (signal receiver), and an edible mimic that evolves to resemble the model. You can easily see how an edible species would leave more offspring if it accumulated mutations that made it resemble the model, for it would be avoided by the predator more often. Here’s one example: a harmless and edible fly that mimics a bee, almost certainly to avoid bird predation:

pennsylvania-butterfly-keynote-001 Source: The Nature Observer’s Journal

The second form of mimicry I’ve often discussed is Müllerian mimicry, in which a group of easily identifiable species, all of them toxic or unpalatable, evolve to “converge,” or resemble each other. Such mutual…

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I completed STP bike riding!

It has been almost two days since I passed the finish line at the Holliday park  in Portland, 5:02 pm Sunday. I am still recovering from the tiredness and excitement of this adventure.

I got some random email about “summer fun things to do in Seattle” in my mailbox one month ago, and this event aroused my interest instantly. Biking from Seattle to Portland in two days, with 10,000 other riders, sounds fun! I have been traveling between Seattle and Portland for hundred of times over the last few years to visit family. I love both cities. And I also enjoy the views very much every time when I sit on a bus and appreciate the sunsets from the side window. So why not try biking once?

BUT I have not biked longer than 10 miles for almost 5 years. Especially over the last 3 years, I have not touched a bike! I registered it anyway. I cleaned my bike from the heavy dust in the garage and I made a training plan for the last month before the ride. Em..Everything sounds great, right? But the fact is that I ended up not carrying out any of those major trainings over 10 miles (so as what most plans’ destiny is). I biked between my home and campus for a few times, 6-7 miles total. That’s it.

The night before the ride, a friend invited me to play video games, which is hard to refuse. I played until midnight or so. When I finally lay down on my bed, I realized that after 6 hours, I will be on my way to Portland. How fun! The excitement kept me awake until 2-3 am or so.

Most parts of the ride went smoothly. I completed 108 miles and camped at Chehalis the first day. I had some pains from my joints in the legs after the first day, but which was not too severe to stop me from keeping pedaling. The only challenge was sleep, again. Because I drank 6-7 bottles of those sport drinks provided by the sponsors of this event, which kept me awake until 2-3 am.

The morning ride in Chehalis was absolutely beautiful. The sun just arose, and the sunlight was still very soft and in golden color, which depicted the profile of mountains far away. The crops in the field became golden waves once a breeze came through. Some of those fields also had thin mist over them. So that those little houses, which stand in the middle of fields, are also bathed with soft mist and sunshine. No cars, no noise. The birds songs are the only vivid sound that remind the riders that this is the exciting start of a new day.

I really wanted to just stop and enjoy this whole picturesque countryside scene. But I could not, because 95 miles was awaiting. The second day is hillier than the first day. I found that I have some advantage on all the uphills because of my skinny build. But my advantage is gone immediately on the downhill next to it. People with a heavier build passed by me like a breeze.

I rest for 45 minutes, the longest break I took, before the last 30 miles. I thought it was going to be tough with the heat in the afternoon and all the lactic acid built in my muscles. But out of my expectation, it was actually easier than before because the road condition was so good, that I can keep at a relatively fast speed easily. I saw Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and I saw Mt Hood. And finally the scene of the city of Portland came to appear when I cross St. Jones bridge. Hooray! The finish line is just a few miles away! Now I am sure I made it, STP.

Big crowd gathered at the finish line. People were cheering and applauding. There were music, beer, flowers, etc. I felt really good when I passed the sign “FINISH” and welcomed by the people there. The hard job is done.

To me, a biking novice,  it is a big accomplishment.


Start! Lake Washington


First rest stop














My research is on the news!

In the Evolution meeting last week at Portland, I was fortunate enough to be selected as a finalist to compete for the W.D. Hamilton Award.

This is the first talk I ever give in a large conference! My advisors, friends, and roommates helped me a lot in preparing for this talk. They gave me many valuable suggestions on how to clearly explain every slide and coherently tell a story. It is amazing how things seem obvious to me could have so many different interpretations and could easily cause confusion.

The talk was in a very big hall – it was a little intimidating. But the audience was very friendly and I knew that many of my friends are sitting there, which made me feel comfortable. I felt the whole talk went smoothly as planned, and I enjoyed the feeling of telling my story to a group of curious audience. At the poster session that night, somebody came to me and said, “I am a fishery biologist, has nothing to do with pollination, but I understood every thing in your talk.” This remark truly made me feel great!

Although I did not get the final award, I had an honorable mention from the SSE (Society for the Study of Evolution) Hamilton award committee. And what’s more, a journalist from Science News was interested in my research and she wrote a small piece of news about it, https://www.sciencenews.org/article/hawk-moth-flowers-pollination-conflict





The best joke I heard today

A Short History of Medicine

I have a headache:

2000 BC: Here, eat this root.
1000 AD: That root is heathen. Here, say this prayer.
1850 AD: That prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion.
1940 AD: That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill.
1985 AD: That pill is ineffective. Here, take this antibiotic.
2011 AD: That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root.

A heartbroken photo

A man carries a child into a makeshift hospital after Tuesday's attack in Idlib province.

This is a photo from CNN’s report http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/04/middleeast/idlib-syria-attack/index.html. I am too sad to say more about this photo per se.

People make irrational decisions when they are in a hysterical conditions, like wars. A was itself is bad enough, So I am not too surprised if it get worse, e.g. chemical weapon.

Millions years of evolution plus thousands years of social development lead us to what we are now (which is not easy), so that we are a distance from hunger, violence and brutality, and could enjoy the rationalism, freedom, and pursue what we like. However, if people take it for granted without delicate care of what we are enjoying, things can go wrong so easily. A war immediately brings us back to millions of years ago, but even more brutal and devastating, with the intelligence and technology advancement we accumulated (ironically enough).

When humanity is gone, ugly is the rest.

Blessings to who are suffering.



Watching speciation in action (for 40 years!)

There are many meaningful things to do in one’s lifetime. How about watching the arise of a new species in real time?


A British couple spent half a year on Galapagos island to study Darwin’s finches for over 40 years (since 1973)! The process leading to scientific discovery can be tedious and can take a long time. However, it is also fun and meaningful if you have a good cause. I can imagine how satisfying and exciting it can be if the evolution mechanisms can be clearly illustrated from the micro scale (mutations, protein function changes, etc.) to macro scale (fitness, ecology, etc.). While I am writing the post, the natural world is evolving, and while I am doing my PhD, the natural world is evolving!

This is the introduction of the couple from Wikipedia:

“Peter Raymond Grant FRS FRSC and Barbara Rosemary Grant FRS FRSC are a British couple of evolutionary biologists at the Princeton University who hold the position of Emeritus Professor. They are known for their work concerning Darwin’s finches on the Galápagos Island named Daphne Major. The Grants have spent six months of the year each year since 1973 capturing, tagging, and taking blood samples of the finches on the island. It has been their life work to show that natural selection can be seen within one’s lifetime, even within a couple of years. Darwin originally thought that natural selection was a long, drawn out process. The Grants have shown that this is sometimes incorrect and that these changes in populations can happen very quickly.”

The original Science perspective provides more interesting evolution examples. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/355/6328/910.full

The secret of zebra stripes solved—or so scientists say

This piece is very interesting! I am very much amused by the last picture.

Why Evolution Is True

Over the past five years I’ve written several posts on the long-standing and vexing question, “Why on earth do zebras have stripes?” (See posts here, here and here.) If you’ve read those posts, you’ll know about the experiments that seemed to settle the issue, or at least that gave a good indication of the evolutionary forces that promoted the evolution of this striking pattern.

One clue is shown below: a figure from a paper that I described in an earlier post (my emphasis). The top part shows the distribution of various striped equids in Africa (the green and orange are unstriped Asian equids) and the bottom shows range maps of two groups of biting flies: tabanids (horseflies) and Glossina, the tsetse fly; both of these carry equine diseases and also promote infections and blood loss. As I wrote at the time (my emphasis):

Here’s the association between the historical (not present!)…

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