It’s the 50th anniversary of the Ant Farm, and inventor Milton Levine is still tickled about the impact his toy has had on millions of kids, reported AP on MSNBC. The charm of Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm was in “creating a whole world that you can see,” a world of creative and industrious ants. Moms didn’t mind too much as long as the ants stayed confined. Serendipitously or not, Philip Ward (UC Davis) published a primer on ants in Current Biology.1 “Ants are one of evolution’s great success stories,” he began, but while his article had a lot to say about ant evolution, the actual evidence he presented seemed equivocal or imaginary. Some excerpts:Because they are fully social, ants do not tell us a great deal about the transition from solitary to eusocial behavior…. Regardless of the details of this sequence of events, which of course was played out long ago [sic], contemporary ants offer abundant opportunity for comparative studies of colony life after the eusocial threshold has been crossed.The point to emphasize is that since their divergence from a common ancestor [sic] in the Cretaceous, some ant lineages – such as the iconic army ants and leaf-cutting ants – have evolved [sic] quite complex societies while others, such as the ‘primitive’ [sic] bulldog ants of Australia, have remained at a much less advanced level. The factors responsible for such heterogeneity in the rate of social evolution [sic] have been little explored, and will require a careful analysis of ecological and phylogenetic influences.Ants are treated as a single family, Formicidae, in the order Hymenoptera, a large and diverse group of holometabolous insects…. Apocritan Hymenoptera exhibit a unique reorganization of the body parts in which the middle tagma [a functionally integrated set of body segments] is composed of the thorax plus abdominal segment 1, while the posterior tagma comprises the remaining abdominal segments. It is unclear how this evolutionary novelty arose, but one apparent consequence is that additional constrictions, involving abdominal segments 2�4, evolved [sic] in some apocritans, giving them exceptional dexterity of abdominal movement.Ants differ from social bees and wasps in one important respect: the workers of ants are entirely wingless. This places constraints on their foraging behavior and has probably spurred the evolution of complex chemical communication systems [sic], such as trail and recruitment pheromones, designed for terrestrial (as opposed to aerial) movement.There is little doubt that ants are a monophyletic group. They share a distinctive suite of morphological features, including geniculate (elbowed) antennae, a prognathous (forward-projecting) head, a characteristic configuration of the foretibial antenna cleaner, modification of the second abdominal segment to form a node-like petiole, and several unique exocrine glands. Yet the closest living relatives of ants have not been unequivocally identified. Several other families of aculeate Hymenoptera, in a subgroup known as the Vespoidea, have been touted as possible sister groups of ants including Tiphiidae, Bradynobaenidae and the combination of Vespidae plus Scoliidae. It is a measure of the incompleteness of our phylogenetic knowledge that none of these alternatives has particularly strong support. In many respects the summary cladogram published by Fredrik Ronquist in 1999, which depicted most vespoid families emerging out of an unresolved bush, still applies today.The fossil record helps to explain this impasse. Most families of aculeate wasps appear rather suddenly in the early Cretaceous, suggesting that there was a rapid burst of diversification once the sting had evolved. Ants make their appearance a little later, about 100 million years ago [sic].A more extensive series of fossil ants has now been documented from the Cretaceous. The fossils range in age from about 78 to 100 million years, and they include some undoubted crown-group taxa. Among the more spectacular finds are additional well preserved specimens from New Jersey amber, including representatives of the modern subfamily Formicinae, as well as fossils from Canada, Eurasia, and southern Africa. This taxonomic diversity and geographic spread indicates that crown-group ants arose some time before this period, perhaps as long ago as 120 million years. [sic]One might expect that the phylogenetic relationships among living representatives of Formicidae have been reasonably well clarified. In fact many uncertainties persist here too, and this is an area of active investigation and debate. Morphological studies have been helpful in circumscribing the major lineages (subfamilies) of ants, but the relationships among them have largely eluded confident resolution.Molecular data, in the form of DNA sequences from multiple nuclear genes, are just now being applied to the problem. Such data confirm the monophyly of nearly all of the subfamilies, but they also reveal a number of novel and unexpected groupings.Another insight to emerge from molecular phylogenetic analyses of ants is that there has been profound morphological convergence in some aspects of worker morphology, to the extent that it misled earlier phylogenetic inferences. For example, a constriction between abdominal segments 3 and 4, and the formation of a second node-like structure (a postpetiole), has evolved repeatedly [sic] in ants.The new phylogenetic estimates, combined with fossil-calibrated [sic] molecular dating analyses, suggest that the history of ants involves a series of sequential diversifications: evolution of sphecomyrmine and poneroid-like lineages in the early Cretaceous, about 100�120 million years ago, followed by a more exuberant diversification of formicoids beginning about 100 million years ago and continuing into the Paleogene…. In short, while the stem lineages of modern ant subfamilies were present before the K�T boundary, the ecological dominance and range of diversity that we associate with modern ants did not arise until later in the Tertiary, about 60�70 million years after ants first evolved. [sic]Several commentators have argued compellingly that the social behavior of ants is responsible at least in part for their evolutionary success [sic] and ecological dominance. Eusociality confers marked advantages in terms of resource acquisition, defense against enemies, and buffering of environmental variation. The division of labor and flexibility of task allocation that are the hallmarks of advanced social insects enable them to meet contingencies and exploit opportunities much more efficiently than solitary insects. But this cannot be the entire story. Even among social insects ants are especially notable for their abundance and diversity, so additional factors must be invoked to explain their particular prominence.One can imagine that if formicoids had not evolved [sic], ants would be perceived as a modest group of tropical wingless wasps (with no vernacular term reserved for them), as opposed to the near-ubiquitous ecological dominants that we know today. But, then again, maybe another poneroid would have stepped in to fill the void. (Emphasis added in all quotes.)One of the “spectacular finds” Ward mentioned was a formicoid ant found in Cretaceous New Jersey amber.2 More were announced in 2005 in New Jersey and Canada.3 For all practical purposes, these ants in amber look entirely modern, so any division into “primitive” or “advanced” seems a judgment call. Prior to this find, formicoids (those that produce formic acid as a defense) were thought to be much more recent. This also means that in the evolutionary scheme essentially modern ants evolved in the age of dinosaurs, survived the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous, evolved little for 60 million years, then exploded into a diverse and widespread group 40 million years ago. For the essentially parallel appearance of all the ant groups, see this phylogenetic diagram from the Tree of Life website. See also our related story on army ants from 05/06/2003. In addition to his evolutionary speculations, Ward provided some “gee-whiz” facts about ants sure to fascinate ant farmers. There are about 20,000 species inhabiting a range of habitats from deserts to tropical rain forests:They impose a strong ecological footprint in many communities in their varied roles as scavengers, predators, granivores, and herbivores. In some tropical forests the biomass of ants exceeds that of terrestrial vertebrates by a factor of four, and their soil-turning activities dwarf those of earthworms. There is a word for ‘ant’ in most languages, reflecting their ubiquity and distinctiveness to humans. The ecological dominance and conspicuous social behavior of ants have long engaged the attention of natural historians. In terms of their species diversity, relative abundance, ecological impact and social habits, ants emerge as one of the most prominent groups of arthropods.Perhaps they also join spiders as arthropodal challenges to evolutionary theory (see 10/21/2005, 05/25/2005, 09/13/2001). Ants have complex sticky feet 09/27/2001, 06/05/2001) and navigate with intricate software (09/12/2001). We learned last year that ants are also adept hang gliders (02/09/2005), and just two months ago that they are better teachers than chimpanzees (01/11/2006). They also teach us humans the value of industry. An early natural philosopher, Solomon, advised, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise, which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” (Proverbs 6:6-8). See also Aesop.1Philip S. Ward, “Primer: Ants,” Current Biology, Vol 16, R152-R155, 07 March 2006.2Grimaldi and Agosti, “A formicine in New Jersey Cretaceous amber (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and early evolution of the ants,” PNAS, published online before print November 14, 2000, 10.1073/pnas.240452097. See also our 11/14/2000 entry.3Engel and Grimaldi, “Primitive New Ants in Cretaceous Amber from Myanmar, New Jersey, and Canada (Hymenoptera: Formicidae),” BioOne, doi: 10.1206/0003-0082(2005)485[0001:PNAICA]2.0.CO;2, American Museum Novitates: No. 3485, pp. 1�23. See also a similar find in Geologica Acta, about the oldest known ant: “Although its characters are those of modern ants, it does not fit in any recent ant subfamilies.”If anyone can find any value whatsoever in Ward’s evolutionary speculations, please write in and explain. If you subtract the assumption that evolution is a fact, and remove the fictional diagram of millions of years, and erase the supposition that everything evolved from something else by common ancestry, the actual empirical facts speak loud and clear: ants are complex and amazing animals that appeared suddenly on earth and fulfill a variety of important roles in the ecology. Why does anyone need to be told that they evolved from stinging wasps, evolved their distinctive features several times (05/28/2003), and figured out their complex foraging and navigating skills (the envy of robotics experts) on their own? How is this speculation helping science? It serves nothing but to prop up the dead corpse of Charlie at the head of a traditional evolutionary parade. Worse, it distracts attention from the wonders of nature that should inspire us to observe, study, and think. Send your local Darwinist a gift and support an industrious entrepreneur: send Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm with a sticky-note saying, “Prov. 6:6-8.”(Visited 15 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0
(Visited 395 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0 A spirit that works in mysterious ways. Biologists cannot nail it down, but insist it can turn bacteria into biologists.You could give Natural Selection (NS) a different name, and it would be as useless for explaining nature as NumbSkull, the spirit that explains everything according to a mythical caveman community. NumbSkull make mammoth come. NumbSkull make sky rain. NumbSkull make fire hot. Like NumbSkull, natural selection—or selection for short—is the default explanation for every observation. This ghostly spirit with mystical powers, able to take an RNA molecule and evolve it into a biochemist, works miracles, given millions of years. Don’t believe it? Incensed at this assault on a powerful scientific consensus? Shocked at blasphemy against the great Darwin? Let facts be submitted to a candid world.(Note: read previous entry posted 10 Jan 2019 about “Clarifying the Claim” and “What to Look For” in scientific explanations using the idea of natural selection. In the following examples, you will find lots of bluff and bluster written in the dialect of Jargonwocky, but nothing of substance. In some cases, you will see failed predictions of NS: surprising results that contradicted expectations.)Natural selection in the womb can explain health problems in adulthood (Medical Xpress). This article shows that the PhD’s at Columbia University don’t even understand their own theory. NS has nothing to do with childbirth. There’s no innovation, no origin of species here. They’re talking about inheritance of cells that survive embryonic development within the human species! “Rather than being programmed by the environment, random differences in gene expression may provide some embryos with a survival advantage, in particular when conditions are harsh.” Oh good grief. Conditions are always harsh, especially for Mom, but each one pops out as Homo sapiens sapiens.How do complex animal signals evolve? (PLoS Biology). Author Chad M. Eliason uses “selection” 20 times. He argues about whether traits evolve more by natural selection or by sexual selection (Darwin’s 1872 hypothesis for traits that cannot be explained by natural selection). This provides him with endless forms most beautiful for storytelling: when NumbSkull’s explanations fail, bring in his consort SexySkull. Scanning the paper for instances of selection, one finds Eliason embroiled in the scientific controversies about how these pseudo-forces work and interact. Can any reader find anything that is solid, demonstrable, or measurable here? No; it’s all guesswork. For instance, after admitting how complex animal adornments are, he shows that selection can explain opposite things:signal traits are a classic system for studying how sexual selection works because of the increased strength and constancy of sexual selection compared to natural selection  and the greater potential for rapid trait divergence if traits and preferences are genetically linked . The idea that sexual selection drives signal diversity, as first emphasized by West-Eberhard , has been an important yet controversial idea in biology. For example, Seddon and colleagues  showed that sexual selection promotes trait divergence during speciation, while recent theoretical work  suggests that sexual selection might instead limit signal divergence in some contexts. This disagreement might arise, in part, from our lack of understanding of how signals are produced or whether and how signals are evolving under natural and/or sexual selection. A third explanation for disagreement over the role of social selection in driving signal diversity might be our lack of understanding of the interrelationships between different aspects of complex signals.Which, being translated, says, ‘It could be this, or it could be that, or it could be something else, but there is disagreement, so we have a lack of understanding.’ Thank you, O great NumbSkull, for the wisdom you bestow on us clueless evolutionists.Darwin’s finches choose parent lookalikes as mates (Nature). Here we go with Darwin’s finches again. Spurgin and Chapman say,A preference for mating with similar individuals can have a key role in speciation. Research on Darwin’s finches suggests that individuals might use the likeness of their parents as a guide for choosing mates.But if that is true, based on recent work by the Grants who have wasted their careers looking for evidence to support Darwin’s theory in finch beaks, then the behavior of mate choice is opposite the mythical forces of natural or sexual selection. Birds who mate with birds that look like their parents are not going to evolve; they are going to stay the same. There’s no speciation or innovation here. “Sexual imprinting” would bring evolution to a standstill. The authors revert to futureware to keep their dream alive: “Disentangling the roles of inherited and learnt mate preferences, and their consequences for speciation, is a key challenge for the future.” All that work for nothing? Peter and Rosemary Grant could still rescue their careers by explaining birds with intelligent design. That’s a lot more useful and interesting than tiny millimeter changes in beak size within subspecies that can still interbreed or hybridize.Limits of long-term selection against Neandertal introgression (PNAS). Archaic DNA expert Svante Pääbo and friends use the word selection a whopping 51 times in this paper. Does it help? Well, sort of. It helps undermine selection by showing that NumbSkull keeps NS from working! (Remember: purifying selection and negative selection, if they do anything at all, preserve or destroy genetic information: they do not lead to innovation or speciation.) Browse all 51 instances; there is no innovation, no positive selection, no speciation. The authors don’t come to any trustworthy facts to make a case for selection, that ghost of a mysterious agent behind evolution.Together, these demonstrate that the actions of selection against Neandertal sequence are not fully captured by the models presented here. Although it is beyond the scope of this work, it may be possible to leverage distributions of Neandertal ancestry in studying the action of selection in noncoding sequence. Challenges associated with such work include the uncertainty of the DFE [distribution of fitness effects] of mutations affecting noncoding sequence, and their dominance coefficients, potential epistatic effects of regulatory mutations, as well as the fact that a single deleterious mutation can affect a region falling into multiple functional categories at once.Epistatic effects and pleiotropy can undermine any potentially beneficial mutations by causing damage elsewhere, like the proverbial worker who finally gets the ends to meet, only to see it come apart in the middle. The only possible thing selection is doing is operating a tug-of-war: the spirit of negative selection trying to get Neanderthal DNA out of the human genome, fighting the spirit of purifying selection trying to keep it in. It’s all subjective, foggy, and uncertain. How is copious application of Darwin Flubber helping us understand biology?The evolution of sex determination associated with a chromosomal inversionJargonwocky (Nature Communications). Wade through the jargon of this paper if you must, but the upshot is another scenario using ‘selection’ as a magic wand. Their hypothesis suggests that “a new male-determining gene evolved in the inversion in response to selection against impaired male fertility in a hybridized population” of stickleback fish. Whoopee; more purifying selection. As usual, this hypothesis scores high on the perhapsimaybecouldness index. There’s nothing measurable, nothing certain, nothing trustworthy. There’s no innovation, positive selection, or origin of species. You could take the word ‘selection’ out of the paper completely and not lose anything of value for biology. This new hypothesis (actually “suggestion”) seems hardly better than its predecessors – and look what the authors have to say about them! We clarify thoughts in brackets.Extensive theoretical studies have proposed several hypothetical models for the evolution of sex determination systems, such as genetic drift [which is just chance!], pleiotropic benefits [for example? Pleiotropy is more likely to cause damage than benefit], sex ratio selection [circular], and sexual antagonism [the war of the sexes does not create innovation]. Most of these models emphasize the importance of natural selection on fitness differences that are directly caused by, or indirectly associated with, a novel locus [chance] as a driving force [chance is not a force!] promoting transitions in sex determination systems. Despite the extensive theoretical work, possible empirical evidence is currently available only, to our knowledge, from a case study for the sexual antagonism hypothesis [the war of the sexes as Creator?], in which novel sex determiners evolve near sexually antagonistic genes by resolving intralocus sexual conflict [what? Ghost whispering wrapped in jargon]. Accordingly, the mechanisms that lead to transitions in sex determination systems remain mostly unknown. In particular, it is of fundamental importance to understand the factors that destabilize an existing sex determination system and drive the evolution of a new system. [Destabilization is observable; evolution of a new system is the problem at issue!]After all these years of appealing to NS, now they tell us: it leaves them clueless! Natural selection theory has done nothing to bring understanding! The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind, somewhere out there in futureland.That’s about all we can take for today. This gets so tiring looking for some beef in the Darwinburger, but somebody has to do it to prove that NS theory is useless. Every paper starts sounding the same: high perhapsimaybecouldness index, speculation, storytelling, futureware, and NO concrete case of anything improving by waving Humpty Darwin’s magic wand of selection. We still haven’t heard from any supporters of natural selection as valid science. Come on. Give us your best shot. Just be prepared for some critical analysis, because we have a lot of experience in distinguishing baloney from beef.
5 April 2012 South Africa already has one of the world’s highest mobile banking user rates, and this is set to accelerate, thanks to a 100% mobile phone penetration rate and an innovative banking sector that is pushing hard to reach a large, still unbanked segment of the country’s population. In an interview with local paper Business Day this week, the CEO of First National Bank’s (FNB’s) Cellphone Banking Solutions, Ravesh Ramlakan, said the mobile phone was the future of retail banking in South Africa. Ramlakan told Business Day that the increasing convergence between cellphone and banking technology for communication, shopping and banking meant the days of customers using their branch for their banking needs were numbered.Rapid uptake by previously unbanked Business Day quoted a recent survey by professional services company KPMG which found that consumers in countries with large unbanked populations were adopting mobile payments as a quick and reliable way to transfer money. “The success story most commonly referred to was the M-Pesa money transfer service launched in Kenya by cellphone company Safaricom, which in South Africa has been copied by Nedbank in partnership with Vodacom,” Business Day reported. Last month, in an interview with the same paper, Peter Schlebusch, personal and business banking CE for South Africa’s second-largest retail bank, Standard Bank, predicted that the country’s banking sector would gain an extra 8-million previously unbanked customers over the next five years. The government has been pushing the banks to widen financial inclusion among poorer South Africans, and the banks have responded by developing various least-cost models to provide services to customers with low and irregular incomes. But whatever the model, the mobile phone is increasingly the implementation tool of choice, especially when it comes to reaching people in remote areas where it is not viable to build a branch.Nebank’s M-PESA solution Early in 2010, Nedbank and mobile operator Vodacom teamed up to launch M-PESA, a solution that enables person-to-person money transfers via mobile phone – even between people without bank accounts. This followed hot on the heels of the launch of a similar product, dubbed Instant Money, by Standard Bank and local retailer Spar. Like Instant Money, M-PESA enables customers, regardless of whether they have bank accounts, to transfer money from person to person using their mobile phones.FNB’s eWallet First National Bank got in even earlier, launching its “eWallet” mobile money transfer solution in 2009. This week, FNB said that one-million eWallets had been created, and over R1.6-billion paid into them, since launch. The eWallet allows FNB customers to send money to anyone in South Africa with a valid mobile phone number. Funds can be transferred instantly, and the recipient receives a text message indicating that funds have been sent to their cellphone. eWallet allows payments to be made into accounts held at all major South African banks, and to nominated beneficiaries, including municipalities and major retail stores. “eWallet is more than just a money transfer solution,” Yolande van Wyk, CEO of FNB eWallet Solutions, said in a statement on Monday. “The recipient is able to withdraw cash at FNB ATMs, buy pre-paid airtime or electricity, send money to another cellphone, purchase and/or get cash at selected retailers, as well as make once-off payments. “We have seen year-on-year eWallet growth of 143% since January 2011,” Van Wyk said. “Average daily ‘send’ values are in excess of R3-million, double the figures we saw a year ago.” The majority of the funds sent to eWallets originate from metropolitan hubs, and are then accessed across the country, often in small towns such as Giyani in Limpopo province and Ngcobo in Eastern Cape.Mobile innovation award nomination Meanwhile, earlier this year, local mobile services company Oltio was nominated in the “best mobile money innovation” category at the annual GSMA Global Mobile Awards for its payD platform, which turns a user’s mobile phone into a remote point-of-sale device. Oltio is a joint venture company between pan-African mobile network operator MTN and Standard Bank. Through the payD platform, launched in August, consumers can purchase products and services online and use their debit cards to pay for the purchase while making use of their mobile phones to enter their PINs. And in December, Absa Bank conducted South Africa’s first live user trial of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology on mobile phones, partnering with Mastercard to embed the Paypass Tap and Go payment chip on mobile handsets for the trial. This enabled participants to load funds onto their phones through the Absa website or ATMs, and then to pay for goods or services by merely holding their phones in front of NFC-enabled pay points, with the value of their transactions being instantly debited from their stored value.Southern African region The above examples illustrate, but hardly exhaust, the mobile options currently being developed and expanded by South Africa’s banks – and applied not only locally. First National Bank, for one, has seen a huge uptake in its mobile money solutions by customers of its African operations, with cellphone banking transactions growing 150% and eWallet transactions surging by 1 384% year-on-year in December 2011. In February, the bank said that its customers in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and Zambia conducted 2.4-million cellphone banking transactions to the value of R214-million during December last year, up from R986 000 recorded in December 2010. Botswana, which is FNB’s leading subsidiary outside South Africa in terms of cellphone banking activity, saw just over 1.3-million transactions and, in the same month, recorded a 126% increase year-on-year. Namibia recorded year-on-year growth of 155%, Zambia 308% and Swaziland 227%. “Innovation has played a key role in growing cellphone banking across Africa,” FNB’s Ravesh Ramlakan said, adding: “Our ability to adapt the service for use on any cellphone has been an important driver of this growth.” SAinfo reporter
DA eyes importing ‘galunggong’ anew San Miguel Beer turns cold in Game 1 as Magnolia clamps down on defense Private companies step in to help SEA Games hosting “I think it’s more about getting my rhythm, it’s really my injury that’s affecting me because I feel good. I was out 12 days, almost two weeks since I last played long minutes so I’m just trying to get my rhythm,” he said. “I’m gonna bounce back on Game 2.”“He had an off night but I know will be back,” said SMB head coach Leo Austria, who rued his team’s poor shot selection in the loss.The Beermen shot just 37 percent from the field, including 9-of-36 from downtown.ADVERTISEMENT PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games PLAY LIST 02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games02:11Trump awards medals to Jon Voight, Alison Krauss Cayetano: Senate, Drilon to be blamed for SEA Games mess LATEST STORIES Duterte wants probe of SEA Games mess MANILA, Philippines—San Miguel Beer sniper Marcio Lassiter returned from a back injury just in time for Game 1 of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals against Magnolia Wednesday night.ADVERTISEMENT Philippine Arena Interchange inaugurated SEA Games hosting troubles anger Duterte Panelo: Duterte ‘angry’ with SEA Games hosting hassles Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Hontiveros presses for security audit of national power grid MOST READ But his shooting hasn’t. At least not yet.Although his back is fine, Lassiter admitted that he’s still groping for form due to the long layoff.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSPalace wants Cayetano’s PHISGOC Foundation probed over corruption chargesSPORTSSingapore latest to raise issue on SEA Games food, logistics“My back is good. [The pain] is something that I had from the previous games but I feel a lot better. I’m just gonna get my rhythm going for the next games,” Lassiter told reporters after a 99-94 loss.The 31-year-old Lassiter, who played 32 minutes, went scoreless after missing all of his eight shots, including the potential game-tying triple in the last 20 seconds of the game. Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next View comments