28 June 2009

Greetings from Glasgow!

As Day 1 of the conference draws to a close, I thought I would post a quick update. I spent most of the day in the Evolution of Evolution: What would you tell Darwin? symposium in honor of Darwin's 200th birthday, though I caught a few biomechanics talks in the afternoon. In between talks and the welcome wine trail event, Per, Rhea and I walked through the city, trying to find a building you can see from my hotel room window that I jokingly dubbed the Fairy Tale Castle. We found it--and found out that it was actually the main university building, which you can see pictured to the right (sorry for the quality--I have a cheap camera). I'm quite jealous of the students at Glasgow University!

This is what the entrance looked like. Sadly, it was behind a locked gate--it's apparently not open on Sundays.

Highlights of the day:
  • Seeing Rosemary and Peter Grant again and getting an update on the finches through their symposium talks: the effects of La Nina droughts on G. fortis have been completely reversed on Daphne Major due to the establishment of a population of G. magnirostris!
  • Seeing Bret Tobalske again; he talks tomorrow in the same session Rhea and I are talking in.
  • A talk on the evolution of whales by Michael Berenbrink about how to physiologically solve the problem of holding your breath for hours at a time. It turns out that whales--and other diving mammals and even birds--increase the solubility of myoglobin in their muscle tissue by evolving myoglobin with a higher net positive charge. In other words, mutations to amino acids that decrease the net charge of the protein appear to be favored in diving animals. This then allows them to keep more myoglobin in their muscle, which can hold onto large amounts of oxygen during long dives. Very neat!


  1. Sounds like you are having a great start of the conference!

  2. Indeed! Wish I could have participated myself!