Dog Domestication

Scientists generally agree that dogs genetically diverged from wolves between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago. However, the circumstances from which dogs became domesticated are disputed. Until this past July, geneticists and archaeologists believed that dogs were domesticated on two separate occasions: one domestication evolved into Eastern breeds and the other into Western breeds of dogs. However, recent genetic evidence suggests dogs were domesticated only once, and that the East/West split occurred after domestication.

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In July of 2017, a study was published which studied several dogs’ genomes (genomes are the map of all of an organism’s genes). This genetic evidence lead the researchers to believe that there was a single domestication event. “We really don’t know where dogs were domesticated and as far as we can tell it happened once,” Pontus Skoglund, geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. “The researchers estimate that dogs and wolves diverged genetically between 36,900 and 41,500 years ago, and that eastern and western dogs split 17,500–23,900 years ago. Because domestication had to have happened between those events, the team puts it somewhere from 20,000 to 40,000 years ago.” (Nature.com)

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One earlier theory suggested that dogs may have begin to evolve alongside farms, developing the ability to digest grain. This theory indicates that wolves who could digest the grain stored on the farms were later domesticated by the farmers. However, the genetic evidence from the dog genomes studied this year suggests that they evolved the ability to digest grain after domestication. The ability to digest grain is marked by the number of copies of the AMY2B gene. The researchers found that dogs who lived thousands of years after domestication still did not have the genetic markers for the ability to digest grain, strongly suggesting that the previous theory (that wolves became able to digest grain, and were then domesticated by farmers) to be untrue.

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Archaeologists still believe that dogs were domesticated twice, due to archaeological evidence. In time, I am confident more research will be conducted, and a clearer picture drawn so that scientists can pin down what truly happened thousands of years ago. However, one thing is clear–dog has been man’s best friend for a very long time.

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Did you enjoy this post? What future science topics would you like to read about? Let me know in the comments below! Share this post via Facebook or Twitter, and as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Sources:

Science stuff:

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/dog-domestication-happened-just-once-ancient-dna-study-suggests

https://www.nature.com/news/ancient-genomes-heat-up-dog-domestication-debate-1.22320

Photos: http://www.animalbehaviorcollege.com/blog/a-short-history-of-canine-origins/

https://www.timetoast.com/timelines/evolution-of-dogs

http://www.playbuzz.com/plrjiv10/wolf-or-dog

http://dog-milk.com/the-atlantics-the-origin-of-dogs-video/

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Destination: Knoxville, TN, USA

Knoxville: A quick look

Language: English is the official language of Tennessee
Currency: USD
Drinking Age: 21*
Public Transportation: There is a trolley and a bus system
Passport: No (for US citizens)
Vaccines: Routine

*Fun fact, you only have to be 18 to be a bartender in Tennessee!

Before you leave:

  1. Keep in mind that a lot of stuff closes in Knoxville the week between Christmas and New Year’s. If you plan a trip at this time know that some stores, museums, and other attractions may be closed.
  2. Stay with Airbnb! Knoxville has many cheap Airbnb options. I am in no way affiliated with Airbnb; I am such a satisfied customer that I’m encouraging you to give them a try simply because they are that great.
  3. If you’re interested in the night life, note that Knoxville is fairly casual. Even in clubs folks wear their denim shorts and nice tops.

Once you get there:

You will likely have to drive to get around Knoxville. If you’re flying in I would recommend renting a car. I’ve been to Knoxville many times as I have family there, but we always find something new and fun to do. Here are a few of my recommendations.

  1. Market Square/Gay Street

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    Knoxville’s market square is right in the heart of downtown. There are a ton of restaurants, bars, and shops. Plus there is almost always an event going on. Live bands play frequently and festivals are common.

  2. Knoxville Zoo

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    The Knoxville Zoo is big enough to keep you busy, but small enough to cover in a day. With a variety of exhibits, it’s fun for the whole family.

  3. World’s fair grounds + Sunsphere

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    The Sunsphere has become a Knoxville landmark, and is an essential spot to visit. While you’re there, you can take a walk around the world’s fair grounds, and see the hundreds of countries’ flags.

  4. University of Tennessee

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    Knoxvillans bleed Tennessee Vol’s orange. You can get UT merch at any and every Walmart, Target, or gas station in the Knoxville area. The campus is beautiful, and worth strolling around.

  5. Bud’s Gun Shop and Range and Smoky Mountain Knife Works (Sevierville, TN)

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    If you enjoy huntin’ and fishin’ and all that jazz, you should head up to Sevierville and check out Bud’s and Smoky Mountain Knife Works. Bud’s Gun Shop and Range is the largest gun shop in Tennessee, and also has an indoor shooting range. Right next door is Smoky Mountain Knife Works, which is basically just a huge souvenir shop. It’s worth a visit though, just for the very Tennessee feel. You can also visit the National Knife Museum, which is located inside the knife store.

  6. Wonderworks (Pigeon Forge, TN)

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    Sort of a combo science museum/kids museum, I can guarantee this place is a blast for kids and kids at heart. An indoor ropes course is included in the price of admission. You can also ride the “Earthquake Cafe” which simulates an earthquake.

  7. Pinnacle Overlook at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (Middlesboro, KY)

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    The Pinnacle overlook is on the corner of Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky. It’s located in the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, which we entered from Kentucky. The overlook is a short hike up a mountain, and has spectacular views of the Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee mountains.

  8. Abraham Lincoln museum (Harrogate, TN)

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    The Abraham Lincoln museum features artifacts from President Lincoln’s life as well as tidbits about his life, a small gift shop/bookstore, and a little dress-up area for children. It’s a small museum, but totally worth the visit.

  9. American museum of Science and Energy (Oak Ridge, TN)

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    If you enjoy playing with science, this is the place for you. It features many different interactive exhibits and is fun for the whole family.

Restaurants/Bars to try:

Blue Coast

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Blue Coast Grill & Bar might be my favorite bar in Knoxville. They have average priced drinks but excellent service. They offer “animal hour” specials from 10-11pm.

Downtown Grill and Brewery

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This place has good food and tons of beer options. If you’re overwhelmed by the beer selection, try out their beer sampler!

Chivo Taqueria

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Chivo has great drinks, great food, and a relaxed atmosphere.  They have a wide variety of tequilas, and a generally well-stocked bar.  The food is southwestern style, and you can get the typical quesadillas, tacos, etc.

Sapphire

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Sapphire is a bit fancier than I usually go for, but they have a super fun cocktails and shooters, including the “Pop, rock, and drop it” which features pop rocks on the rim and local honey.

Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern

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Suttree’s doesn’t have a huge selection*, but their drink prices are low. Best of all, they have an arcade!

*To be fair we visited the bar in the back with the arcade games, and not the main bar in the restaurant area

 

Knoxville is a fun city, with tons to do whether you’re 2, 22, or 42. There are a variety of attractions that appeal to a variety of interests. I didn’t even touch on the art museum, Dollywood, or the Ripley’s museum, to name a few nearby attractions, simply because I haven’t visited them (yet!).

Have you visited the Knoxville area? Did you enjoy it? What were your favorite attractions and restaurants? Let me know in the comments below! Did you enjoy this post? Share via Facebook or Twitter, and as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this.

Links:

Wonderworks photo: https://smokymountainsbrochures.com/coupons/wonderworks/

UT photo: http://tennessee.edu/campus-guide/

Bud’s photo: http://www.wsmv.com/story/26820795/largest-gun-store-in-tenn-opens-in-sevierville

Smoky Mountain Knife Works photo: https://smokymountains.com/attractions/smoky-mountain-knife-works/

Blue Coast photo: http://www.restaurantnews.com/blue-coast-grill-bar-market-square-knoxville-tn/

Downtown Grill photo: http://knoxbrewery.com/

Chivo photo: http://www.utdailybeacon.com

Sapphire photo: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g55138-d829425-Reviews-Sapphire-Knoxville_Tennessee.html

Suttree’s photo: https://www.yelp.com/biz/suttrees-high-gravity-tavern-knoxville

Earthquake Cafe photo: http://www.smokymountainvacationinfo.com/smoky-mountains/blog/

All other images are the property of The Globetrotting Scientist.

There’s More To Elephants Than You Think

You are probably familiar with elephants…

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Yeah, these guys:

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You were probably taught that there are two species of elephants, Asian elephants, and African elephants. You were also most likely taught that they’re distantly related to Wooly Mammoths.

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It’s true that for years the family Elephantidae was believed to have two extant (currently living) species: Elephas maximus (the Asian elephant) and Loxodonta africana (now known to be the African savanna or bush elephant).

However, in recent decades it has been discovered that African elephants actually fall into two species, Loxodonta cyclotis (the African forest elephant) and Loxodonta africana (the African Savanna Elephant).


(Top photo: African forest elephant; bottom photo: African savanna elephant)

Recently as of 2001, morphological comparisons of skull measurement and molecular tests were performed on nearly 300 elephants, and distinct differences were found between the two kinds of African elephants

The forest elephant differs from the savanna elephant in several distinctive ways, including:

  • Ear shape
  • Tusk anatomy
  • Distinct skull morphology

This lead scientists to often classify the forest elephant as a subspecies, L. a. cyclotis.

However, there was much controversy and these differences were often ignored.

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By using previous data gathered from mitochondrial DNA analyses, scientists have found that the closest living relative of the extinct woolly mammoth is the Asian elephant.

(Top photo: Asian elephant; bottom photo: Wooly Mammoth)

It is now believed that the two species of African elephant actually diverged from one another in the more distant past than Asian elephants diverged from the extinct genus Mammuthus (including Mammuthus primigenius, the woolly mammoth), meaning that African elephants are far less closely related than scientists once believed.

The mtDNA (Mitochondrial DNA) analysis suggests that wooly mammoths and Asian elephants diverged 5.8–7.8 mya (million years ago).

MtDNA analysis also suggests that the 2 species of African elephant diverged earlier; about 6.6–8.8 mya.

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Through DNA analysis scientists discovered a lot of new information about elephants. They realized that African elephants actually fall into not one, but two species. They learned about the extinct woolly mammoth, and its connections to the extant Asian elephant. Finally, scientists concluded that African elephants diverged from one another in the more distant past than Asian elephants diverged from wooly mammoths.

Do you like elephants as much as I do? What do you think about these discoveries? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Did you enjoy this post? Share via Facebook or Twitter, and follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Sources:

African Elephant photo 1: https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/species-spotlight-african-elephant

Asian Elephant photo 1: http://elelur.com/mammals/asian-elephant.html

Wooly Mammoth photo 1: http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/animals/woolly-mammoth/#woolly-mammoth-standing.jpg

Elephant family photo 1: https://iso.500px.com/baby-elephant-photos/

Nadin Rohland, David Reich, Swapan Mallick, Matthias Meyer, Richard E. Green, Nicholas J. Georgiadis, Alfred L. Roca, Michael Hofreiter “Genomic DNA Sequences from Mastodon and Woolly Mammoth Reveal Deep Speciation of Forest and Savanna Elephants” Plos Biology

Alfred L. Roca, Nicholas Georgiadis, Jill Pecon-Slattery, Stephen J. O’Brien “Genetic Evidence for Two Species of Elephant in Africa” Science Magazine

At-Home Genetic Testing–What Information Should Companies Be Able to Provide?

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When asked about your origins, do you tell others you’re 50% German and 20% Irish and a little bit Polish, Dutch, and French? Have you ever wondered exactly where your family is from? For around $200 you can unlock the secrets of your own genetics. Many online services including 23andMe, Ancestry.com, Orig3n, and others offer kits to test your genes. Simply spit in a tube and send it off with the fee and they’ll send back stats about your roots. Pretty cool, right? But what about the other information they can provide? Your risks for certain cancers, diseases, and other disorders could be given to you in hard numbers. But what do you do with that information?

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When these tests first came out, they handed you an armload of information, but no means to interpret it. The FDA realized that this information was causing people unessescary panic, so they froze the ability to provide information about genetic predisposition to diseases, only allowing companies to provide the public with their family history of origin. This past April (2017) the FDA partially lifted this ban, allowing 23andMe to provide you with your risk for 10 diseases. According to CNN, these diseases are: “Parkinson’s; late-onset Alzheimer’s; celiac disease; a movement disorder called early-onset primary dystonia; a disorder that elevates your risk for lung and liver disease called Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency; a blood clotting disorder Factor XI deficiency; an organ and tissue disorder called Gaucher disease type 1; a red blood cell condition known as G6PD; hereditary hemochromatosis, an iron overload disorder; and hereditary thrombophilia, a blood clot disorder.”

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While it’s amazing that this information is available to you at a low cost, what do you do with it? So you find out you have a 90% of developing Alzheimer’s. There is no cure, no treatment, nothing you can do about it. I would highly recommend talking to a genetic counselor. They can discuss with you what these numbers mean, and what you can do about it. Always keep in mind that your results are not a diagnosis. Even a high risk of a disorder does not guarantee that you will develop it.

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Genetic testing is an amazing scientific advancement. If you can afford it, I would recommend getting your genes tested. You can learn so much about your family history and yourself. Just be aware of the accuracy of the tests and what to do with the information you receive. Happy learning!

Did you like this post?  Have you ever gotten your genes tested?  Tell us about it in the comments below!  Share via Facebook or Twitter, and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Resources:

http://www.fox5atlanta.com/health/fox-medical-team/261335319-story

http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/06/health/23andme-fda-approval-genetic-disease-test-bn/index.html

10 Women in STEM who Made History

  1. Marie Curie
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    One of my personal favorite scientists is Maria Skłodwska Curie, better known as Madame Marie Curie, is one of the most well-known scientists in history. She was born in Warsaw, Poland (which was controlled by Russia at the time), where she began her studies. Dr. Curie went on to become the first female professor at the University of Paris, the first woman to win a Nobel prize, and is the only person (not just the only woman, the only person) to win a Nobel prize in two different science categories. She was a physicist and chemist who pioneered research in radioactivity (she even coined the term “radioactivity”), and paved the way for women like me to become scientists.
  2. Rosalind Franklin
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    Rosalind Franklin
    was a major contributor to our current understanding of the structure of DNA. Using X-rays, Dr. Franklin examined DNA, and her images helped Watson and Crick to discover the double helix structure, a discovery that earned them a Nobel prize (which was unfortunately awarded after Dr. Franklin’s death, and therefore she was not a co-recipient of the award). In addition to her work with DNA, Dr. Franklin also researched virus structure, for which her co-worker, Aaron Klug earned a Nobel prize in chemistry (again, this was after her death, so Dr. Franklin was not a co-recipient).
  3. Flossie Wong-Staal
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    Flossie Wong-Staal, as the image above states, was the first researcher to clone and map the genes of HIV. Her research was instrumental in the discovery that HIV causes AIDS. She also discovered the function of the genes in the virus. Currently, Dr. Wong-Staal is the chief scientific officer for iTherX, a pharmaceutical company she co-founded.
  4. Barbara McClintock
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    Dr. Barbara McClintock’s biggest achievement is the discovery of genetic transposition, for which she earned a Nobel prize in physiology or medicine. She is the only woman to earn an unshared Nobel prize in that category. Dr. McClintock conducted her research on maize, where she studied chromosomes. Her research led to many discoveries in the field of genetics, including crossing over during meiosis, also known as genetic recombination, the roles of various chromosomal segments, and theories on the suppression and expression of genes.
  5. Valentina Tereshkova
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    On June 16th, 1963, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to go to space. After being honorarily inducted into the Soviet Air Force, Tereshkova joined the cosmonaut corps, and became the first civilian to travel to space. After her cosmonaut career, she attended the Zhukovsky Air Force Academy where she graduated as a cosmonaut engineer; she later earned a doctorate in engineering. Dr. Tereshkova was a prominent member of the communist party, and remained politically active after the fall of the Soviet Union. She is still well-loved and in 2013 expressed her love of Mars and desire to travel there. Dr. Tereshkova was quoted saying “We know the human limits. And for us this remains a dream. Most likely the first flight will be one way. But I am ready.”
  6. Stephanie Kwolek
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    You may not have heard of Stephanie Kwolek, but I assure you, you know her legacy, Kevlar. While working for DuPont as a chemist, she was tasked with developing a new fiber to be used in tires. The mixture she created was almost thrown away, but Kwolek convinced a co-worker it should be tested, and it was found to be incredibly strong, especially considering its weight. This fiber was perfected into what we know as Kevlar, the material bulletproof vests are made from. Her discoveries also led to the rise of the polymer science.
  7. Shirley Ann Jackson
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    In 1973, Shirley Ann Jackson became the first African-American woman to earn a PhD from MIT, and the second African-American woman to earn a doctorate in Physics. Dr. Jackson spent her scientific career as a theoretical physicist, an overwhelmingly male-dominated field. She has contributed to over 100 scientific articles. In 1995, Dr. Jackson was appointed to serve as the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commision by President Clinton, and was the first woman and first African-American to hold the position. In 1999 she became the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and was, again, the first woman and first African-American to hold the position. Since then, Dr. Jackson has become one of the highest paid professors in the United States and serves on the board of directors for over a dozen companies including IBM, FedEx, and the New York Stock Exchange.
  8.  Ada Lovelace
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    Ada Lovelace was a mathematician and computer scientist in the 19th century. She is widely considered the creator of the first computer program. Lovelace created an algorithm to be run on an “Analytical Engine” which would compute Bernoulli numbers.
  9. Mary Jackson
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    In 1958, Mary Jackson became NASA’s first African-American female engineer. After graduating college with a dual degree in math and physical science, Jackson began her career as a teacher at a black school in Maryland (public schools were still segregated at the time). Her first job at NASA was as a mathematician, and after 34 years she had achieved the most senior engineer position at NASA. Throughout her life she tutored high school and college students, and was an advocate for women and other minorities.
  10. Hypatia
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    Hypatia, also known as Hypatia of Alexandria, was a Greek mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher in 300-400 CE. She collaborated with her father and fellow mathematician, Theon of Alexandria. No written work of hers has survived to modern times, however, it is documented that she was head of the Neoplatonist School in Alexandria sometime around 400, where she taught philosophy.

I barely hit the tip of the iceberg with this post. These women contributed so much to the scientific community, as did many, many women like them. I could write ten articles about amazing women in science, but I chose these ten women for their groundbreaking contributions to science and/or for being the first woman to contribute to their field.

Did you enjoy this post? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and share the post via Facebook or Twitter. Want to see more posts like this? Follow me here on WordPress.

 Resources:

http://www.women-inventors.com/

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/five-historic-female-mathematicians-you-should-know-100731927/

http://culturess.com/2016/09/13/10-female-scientists-color-know/

http://www.scientistafoundation.com/brain-break/meet-flossie-wong-staal-pioneer-in-hiv-research

https://selfrescuingprincesssociety.blogspot.com/2016/06/barbara-mcclintock.html

http://bermon.es/esl/quotes/tag/women/

http://www.news.com.au/technology/science/first-female-astronaut-valentina-tereshkovas-mars-plan/news-story/b12ee415bc6efb7e39d34f0b7d8a6160#ixzz2XWZKQD1c

http://www.azquotes.com/author/45405-Stephanie_Kwolek

https://twitter.com/thinkincau/status/555261168076349440

http://www.verifyrecruitment.com/blog/index.php/adas-bicentennial-birthday-200-years-ada-lovelace/

https://www.nasa.gov/content/mary-jackson-biography

http://www.azquotes.com/author/7127-Hypatia

http://izquotes.com/quote/229876