Totally for real this time. This here article, facebook'd to me by Chris Clarke, is pretty cool. Marshalling new and old genetic evidence, they show convincingly that the Galapagos island of Santa Cruz (aka Indefatigable) hosts not one but two genetically and geographically distinct populations of tortoises. This means one species (or subspecies, depending purely on opinion) (Chelonoidis porteri is the species version) gets Officially Split, with the newly identified Eastern population dubbed Chelonoidis donfausti (or C. nigra donfausti). 'kipedia link
The coolest part of the article to me, though, was their Fig. 2, showing a phylogenetic tree for all specimens of Galapagos tortoises that have been sequenced to date, including lots of museum specimens:
Which, ignore the nighbor-joining expercise on the right and check out the beeyootiful tree on the left there. Clades marked in red and orange are the two populaitons from Santa Cruz, and you can see how different they are in context.
As I sez to Chris on Facebook I sez "why no map of the islands with that tree mapped on there?" I sez and then I sez "Now I have to do it myself" I sez and then "also shell shapes oughta be mapped on that tree there too" sez I.
So here's my map [click to N-large]:
Where the amoebas enclose nested genetic clades according to the tree. Island by island, there have evidently never been tortoises on Genovesa
and Marchena, hence the Xs. Tortoises are extinct on Floreana, Santa Fe,
Pinta, and absent-and-maybe-extinct-but-maybe-never-really-there on
Rabida (small) and Fernandina (new), hence the slashes.
Here's a simplified version of the big detailed tree, showing populations by island with color coding corresponding to the map [clickable]:
...where X marks extinct taxa and the circled S, I, and D tags refer to Saddle, Intermediate, and Dome-shaped carapaces, as per the Intro from the article at hand here.
For reference, slightly different lists of recognized species (or subspecies) are here ('kipedia text and photos, here (text), and here (map) [differ mainly in recognizing or not the populations on the 4 other volcanoes of Isabela].
And so but if we naively and foolishly but heuristically take the genetic data at face value, then the tree plus map means that:
1. There are two main groups of GTs; one (1) comprises populations from Santiago and Volcano Wolf, the northernmost volcano of Isabela (where the new pink iguana species was found not long ago...uh... link), and the second (2) is everybody else (green lines on map). That split represents a very early dispersal event. The northwestern Wolf/Santiago clade is in relatively new territory, but seem to represent an ancient lineage. (Galapagos tortoises probably evolved on islands that are long gone to the southeast).
2. Clade 2 separates nicely into two clades corresponding to eastern (2E) and western (2W) areas. The convincing thing about the article at hand is that the two populations on Santa Cruz belong to separate branches of this split. The newly named species (or subspecies) is marked with a star.
2A. Dome-shaped carapaces look to have evolved separately in the two Santa Cruz species (or subspecies). That, or saddle shapes evolved at least 6 times independently. Maybe a nice example of eviolutionary convergence.
3. Within the eastern clade 2E, samples referred to Santa Fe are most distinct. That's interesting because Santa Fe's purported population is listed in the references linked above as "disputed" and "of doubtful existence," apparently deriving from but a few bone fragmen ts. But if the DNA is that different, one's doubt dissapates a bit. The green coding of the speciment numbers in Fig. 2 of the article at hand means data from museum specimens that were previously reported; I have not dug back to find where.
4. Pinta island tortoises were most closely related to the once-relict-but-now-a-thriving-conservation-success-story torts from Espanola, way the hell down at the totally other end of the archipelago. [the last Pinta Island tortoise, the well-known Lonesome George, is specimen # abiLG in the tree. I have photos of him alive in 2009 someplace.]
5. Over in the western clade 2W, tortoises from the little island of Pinzon are most distinct. One of the 'kipedia articles linked above sez that there is yet a third distinct tortoise population on Santa Cruz, in the northwest, and that they are closest to Pinzon animals, which would be cool.
6. The disputed population from tiny Rabida looks like a transplanted Isabela tortoise, and the specimens attributed to the various volcano-based species (or subspecies) of Isabela are all pretty well jumbled together in this analysis. Maybe should be lumped back into C. vicina as on the linked map.
7. The "doubtful" population from Fernandina is interesting. It's from a single specimen (1906) and no other evidence of tortoises has ever been found there. Here it looks genetically distinct, but closest to the tortoises from southwest Santa Cruz. Except that the Santa Cruz animals are dome-shaped and the speciment allegedly from Fernandina is said to be saddled. And Santa Cruz is clear over on the other side of Isabela and Pinzon from Fernandina. WTF.
All in all, some satisfylingly tidy stories of vicariance, and some puzzles too. It's complicated.
Cdr. Charles "Trip" Tucker III is a chimera-character. I'm prety sure he's designed to combine the homespun Southern charm, best-personal-friend-o-the-cap'n role, and emotional-homunculus-on-the-right-shoulder trope-purpose of McCoy with the more cynically targeted appeal-to-young-women function of Chekov*, wrapped up in Scotty's old crew-slot.
Unfortunately he comes across to me mostly like a Pensacola frat-boy. Since I already know he gets the girlwoman Vulcaness in the end, that's kind of a drag.
* even to me, tuning in to the second-season primetime premier the night before my 8th birthday, it was clear that Chekov was a Russian Davy Jones.
I just learned that Dick Cheney received a heart transplant a few weeks ago.
They say he had suffered "at least five" heart attacks, the first at 37 yoa. Many of us have always suspected, however, that his real cardiac problems were similar to The Grinch's:
3, maybe 4 sizes too small?
In any case, the guy's heart was so dead that for almost 2 years he was a cyborg, with an implanted pump doing the work that his left ventricle couldn't. No pulse.
here's the device:
I forget where I got this pic; maybe the NY Times.
Now it's all been pulled out and he walks yet among the living with somebody else's heart.
But it's the end of a beautiful metaphor.
Absoluely critical moment:
Season 2, Ep. 1: Amok Time @ ~20.00:
Kirk [of Spock, to McCoy; and defying direct Starfleet orders]: I owe him my life a dozen times over: Isn't that worth a career?!
He's my friend.
According to Bob Murphy et al. the desert tortoise ought to be split into at least two species, called Gopherus agassizi (California/Nevada/Utah) and G. morafkai (Arizona and, for now, Sonora and Sinaloa).
My reaction to most taxonomy papers is basically The Dude's:
But as opinions go, I guess Bob Murphy's is a good one.
I am happy they used the opportunity to coin a new North American tortoise name to honor Dave Morafka; he was a good guy.
Look for serious conservation/political fallout from this one.
UPDATE: oh dear. Google Earth has updated to the post-landrape landscape.
Well, rest assured that both photos now (4/21/2012) show early stages of the planned landrape construction and so pretty soon, I guess, with further updates at G**gle's end, the contrast will go the opposite way.
Ivanpah Valley, north of I-15. Then, via Google Earth:
So that's two years, 175.76 subThreads, 135,539 comments.
Year Two alone accounted for 144.76 of the subThreads and 107,490 of the comments (= 79%).
Here's the overview:
Fig. 1: [click to enlarge] Comment count for the first two years of Pharyngula's Endless Thread. The colorful vertical lines mark each of the first 50 or so subThreads, but I gave up on that shit. Red threadmarkers with adherent vestigial green threads mark anastomoses. The pink threadmarkers are the 1- and 2-year marks. Somewhere in there in light blue are the parallel subsubThreads CXXVb and CLXIIb.
Up, up up. It's a long way from last year for damn sure.