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6 Posts tagged with the natural_selection tag

Prof. Mel Greaves FRS, Institute of Cancer Research


Friday 5 December 12 noon,  Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)


All cancers share the common feature of being clonal expansions of mutant cells that, over years or decades, disseminate within and between tissues, hijacking essential normal functions. But cancers differ widely in their tissue of origin, underlying mutational spectra, time frame of progression, pathological impact and clinical course. The systematics or classification of cancer subtypes therefore poses a considerable challenge with biologists, histopathologists and oncologists applying differing criteria.


Over recent years, a new conceptual framework has emerged that makes biological sense of all the diversity. This views cancer as a process of somatic cell evolution driven by mutational diversification and natural selection or adaptation within the specialised ecosystem habitats of the body. The implications of this new vision for diagnosis, prognostication and control of disease are very substantial.


More information on attending seminars at


Dr Jim Costa

Executive Director, Highlands Biological Station,  Highlands, NC, USA and

Professor of Biology, Western Carolina  University, Cullowhee, NC, USA


Wednesday 30th July 2014 16.30–17.30


Flett Events Theatre - Exhibition Road Entrance


All welcome!


Alfred Russel Wallace was the last of the great Victorian naturalists, and by the end of his long life in 1913 he was also one of the most famous scientists in the world, lauded by leading learned societies, British royalty and US Presidents alike. Against all odds—lacking wealth, formal education, social standing or connections—Wallace became the pre-eminent tropical naturalist of his day. He founded one entirely new discipline—evolutionary biogeography—and, with Darwin, co-founded another: evolutionary biology. Yet today Darwin's name is universally recognised, while Wallace is all but unknown.



In this lecture, Jim traces the independent development of Wallace's and Darwin's evolutionary insights, exploring the fascinating parallels, intersections and departures in their thinking. Drawing on Wallace's 'Species Notebook'  (the most important of Wallace's field notebooks kept during his southeast Asian explorations of the 1850s) he puts Wallace's thinking into a new light in relation to that of his more illustrious colleague. He also examines the ups and downs of Wallace's relationship with Darwin, and critically evaluates the misleading conspiracy theories that Wallace was wronged by Darwin and his circle over credit for the discovery of natural selection. Tracing the arc of Wallace's reputation from meteoric rise in the 19th century to virtual eclipse in the 20th, Costa restores Wallace to his proper place in the limelight with Darwin.


About Jim Costa

Jim’s research ranges from insect social behaviour to the history of evolutionary thinking. As a recent fellow-in-residence at the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin, Germany, Jim completed two books about  Wallace. On the Organic Law of Change (Harvard, 2013) is an annotated transcription of the most important field notebook kept by Wallace during his explorations in southeast Asia, providing new insights into the development of Wallace's evolutionary thinking in the 1850s. In the companion volume Wallace, Darwin, and the Origin of Species (Harvard, 2014) Jim analyses Wallace's ideas and arguments about evolution in the notebook period in comparison with those of Darwin, and examines the relationship between these two giants of evolutionary biology.


The annual Wallace Lecture is organised by the NHM’s Wallace Correspondence Project -


rB>C @50 - The Golden Anniversary of Hamilton’s Rule (or helping your relatives is good for you)


hosted by the NHM in collaboration with UCL, the CEE and Imperial College London



Darwin's birthday Party 2014 picture.jpg



The nocturnal social wasp Apoica pallens – Darién, Panama (photo Sandy Knapp)



Wednesday, 12 February 2014, 4:00 pm

Flett Lecture Theatre, The Natural History Museum

(reception follows)



Our topic this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the original 1964 paper in which W.D. (Bill) Hamilton first articulated what is known as Hamilton’s Rule (i.e. that helping your relatives makes evolutionary sense, even if it doesn’t benefit you directly )



Laurent Lehmann (Université de Lausanne, Switzerland) - Hamilton’s 1964 legacy: the rule that rules them all and the myth of inclusive fitness maximization


This talk will present the key steps to derive the rb-c>0 rule and discuss the two results obtained by Hamilton in his 1964 paper: (1) an equation describing allele frequency change under natural selection expressed in terms of phenotypic cost and benefit and a genealogical concept of relatedness; and (2) a result about the maximization of inclusive fitness. The first result has been extended to all conditions and provides the rule that rules them all. The second result applies only under narrow conditions and points to a mismatch between Hamilton's aim for inclusive fitness and what has been proved over the last 50 years.



David Haig (Harvard University, USA) - All-inclusive fitness: the enduring legacy of W. D. Hamilton


W. D. Hamilton’s concept of inclusive fitness revolutionized the way we think about social interactions. Individuals were shown to have an interest in each other’s well-being to the extent that they shared common genes. His insights have had unexpected medical applications to understanding conflicts within genomes between genes inherited from fathers and genes inherited from mothers and to understanding how sibling rivalry can be expressed in the mother’s womb during the early stages of pregnancy.



Full information including a flyer and map for this event can be found at:


For additional details on attending this or other seminars see


‘Wallace’s eureka moment: The discovery of natural selection’


Dr John van Wyhe, The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum 4 July 16:30 – 17:30, Flett Theatre


As part of the Wallace100 celebrations taking part in 2013, the Natural History Museum will be hosting a monthly lecture series. These lectures are part of the Museum’s participation in Wallace100, an international programme of projects and events celebrating the centenary of Wallace’s death on 7 November 2013. At these monthly events, leading biologists and historians will discuss different aspects of Wallace’s life and work. The series also highlights the significance of the Museum as a focal point for Wallace collections and studies.


The story of Alfred Russel Wallace getting the idea of natural selection in a fit of tropical fever is rightly a famous account of scientific discovery. But what prompted his eureka moment? There have been many theories about Wallace's eureka moment. During his talk, Dr van Wyhe will shed light on these, dispelling many, as he examines the facts and surviving evidence from the time. The truth turns out to be rather different from what we have long believed...


Find out the facts at our revealing talk, presented by renowned Wallace expert and historian of science, Dr John van Wyhe. This is the 6th in our series of Wallace100 lectures.


John van Wyhe is a historian of science who specialises on Darwin and Wallace. He is the director of Darwin Online and Wallace Online. His latest book is Dispelling the Darkness: Voyage in the Malay Archipelago and the discovery of evolution by Wallace and Darwin (2013).


Free tickets need to be booked in advance
Book tickets online
Doors open 16.00


Details of the event can also be found here:


Details of the Wallace100 celebrations can be found here:


Details of Wallace100 events taking place at the NHM can be found here:


Tuesday 7th May - 4.00 pm

Mineralogy seminar room


Another point of view on sexual selection in prehistoric animals

Dr Rob Knell, Senior Lecturer at Queen Mary University of London.


Sexual selection is one of the most important driving forces in evolution and is responsible for a tremendous amount of the morphological diversity that we see today. Many of the most charismatic prehistoric animals also appear to carry traits that could be explained as the result of sexual selection: horns, crests, plates, sails and many others. Nonetheless, palaeontologists have traditionally avoided using sexual selection as an explanation for these features and have preferred mechanical, thermoregulatory or species-recognition based interpretations, probably because it is very hard to produce testable hypotheses about the behavioural significance of such traits when we are unable to observe an animal's behaviour. This conservative approach is likely to lead to a significant degree of misinterpretation - sexual selection is a ubiquitous and powerful force and there is no reason to discount it as an explanation for morphological diversity in the fossil record. I will examine the problem of how we can detect sexual selection in the fossil record and discuss issues such as sexual dimorphism, allometry and how it changes with sexual maturity, apparent cost and diversity as potentially helpful indicators of sexually selected features in extinct animals.



For additional details on attending this or other seminars see


Charles Darwin spent much of his later life at Downe in Kent: thinking, writing and experimenting in an emphatically rural landscape.  But he retained an interest in marine animals, a fascination that developed in his early years at university and during his extended voyage around the world on HMS Beagle.

Professor Phil Rainbow (Keeper of Zoology) has published a keynote presentation in the journal Marine Ecology on the influence of marine biology on Charles Darwin - and the influence of Darwin on marine biology.


Darwin made his first forays into the world of marine biology as a medical student in Edinburgh from 1825 to 1827. He came under the influence there of the Lamarckian Robert Grant, and developed an understanding of the simple organisation of the early developmental stages of marine invertebrates. Yet Darwin could not accept Lamarckian transmutation - a complex set of ideas on evolution that preceded the idea of natural selection.  (Lamarck was a French scientist who, among other ideas, argued that a characteristic [such as larger muscles as a result of frequent exercise] acquired during an organism's life would be passed on to descendants and resulted in evolutionary change: Darwin's later development of natural selection as an explanation for evolution discredited Lamarck's ideas.)


The voyage of the Beagle gave him intense exposure to a wide range of marine environments around the world and led to Darwin's perceptive theory on the origin of coral reefs, an origin still mainly accepted today. This theory was linked closely to the uniformitarianism (gradual geological change over millions of years) of the geologist Charles Lyell, depending on the slow, gradual growth of billions of coral polyps keeping pace at sea level with slow sinking of land to produce an atoll.


Darwin's interest in variation in animals and plants led him to examine many different organisms, both wild and domestic. However, he was aware that his unusual scientific background meant that he had not developed a his reputation on the basis of detailed scientific study in a particular area.  Therefore, from 1846 to 1854 Darwin focused on barnacle diversity and revolutionised understanding of barnacles, producing the monographs Living Cirripedia that are still relevant today.



Capitulum mitella


Darwin's barnacle studies gave him the credibility to pronounce on the origin of species; he found great variation in morphology, and a series of related species with remarkable reproductive adaptation, culminating in the presence of dwarf males. Barnacles laid out an evolutionary narrative before him, and contributed greatly to his qualification and confidence to write with authority on the origin of species by 1859.

PS Rainbow (2011) Charles Darwin and marine biology. Marine Ecology. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0485.2010.00421.x