Polar Bears Are an Old and Distinct Bear Lineage

Polar bears, by Alan D. Wilson (naturespicsonline.com: [1]) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons Here’s something for the lovers of cute fluffy white mammals: a new study in science lead by Frank Hailer uses nuclear markers to infer the time at which polar bears split up from their ancestral brown bear lineage. Previous analysis, based on…

The Amazon basin in transition

In a review paper that appeared in this week’s edition of Nature, Davidson and colleagues describe the interactions and feedbacks between land use change, climate change, and a range of more local climatically mediated processes such as water balance, winds and pressure systems and fire in the Amazon basin. I found this a very nice…

Correlation and process in species distribution models: bridging a dichotomy

In a new study led by Carsten Dormann and Stanislaus Schymanski which I coauthored, we look at differences, but also at growing similarities between rather static/statistical/correlative and rather dynamic/process-based approaches to species distribution modeling. I think this is an interesting paper which touches upon a lot of issues that arise from the fact that classical…

The maximal information coefficient

In a paper from today’s edition of Science (Detecting Novel Associations in Large Data Sets), Reshef et al. propose a new measure of correlation which they call the maximal information coefficient (MIC). The authors have their focus on detecting and ranking correlations in large and high-dimensional dataset. They argue that previous measures of correlation lack…

Responses of Late Quaternary megafauna to climate and humans

In a proverbial “mammoth project”, Lorenzen and colleagues report in this weeks issue of Nature on the responses of six Late Quaternary megafauna herbivores (woolly rhinoceros, woolly mammoth, horse, reindeer/caribou, bison and musk ox) to climate and humans. The authors draw on various data sources, in particular species distribution models and ancient DNA, to “reconstruct…

Phylogenetics, models and evolution

I want to highlight two interesting papers coming out last week in the field of phylogenetics and evolution. The first is a paper by Nagalingum et al. who use fossil-calibrated molecular phylogenies to examine the diversification of cycads, and ancient lineage of woody plants. The cycad record dates back at least to the early Permian…