Lessons in limb lability

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BioMedCentral continues to be a source of found poetry: today's mail alerts me to John J Wiens, "Estimating rates and patterns of morphological evolution from phylogenies: lessons in limb lability from Australian Lerista lizards", continuing the proud tradition of last week's odor plume flux.


  1. Roo said,

    February 25, 2009 @ 12:59 pm

    Biologists have the best sense of humour. I'm guessing that "lessons in limb lability from Australian Lerista lizards" was intentionally alliterative: you see quirky stuff in biology journals all the time. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Lazar said,

    February 25, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

    "Limb Liability" sounds like a good crime novel. Or rather… a bad one.

    [(myl) But in this case it's "limb lability". ]

  3. David Marjanović said,

    February 25, 2009 @ 6:46 pm

    Hah! That's nothing! Take a random volume of Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting abstracts and have a glance at the headlines…

    Or consider another paper by the same John J. Wiens and two coauthors, published in Systematic Biology in 2005: Ontogeny Discombobulates Phylogeny: Paedomorphosis and Higher-Level Salamander Relationships. A very, very useful paper, I should add.

  4. Nathan Myers said,

    February 25, 2009 @ 7:40 pm

    It was from biologists that I learned I am (and not just I, but you, too, are) secondarily venomless. I thank them every day.

  5. dr pepper said,

    February 25, 2009 @ 7:52 pm

    Wait– does this mean that at some point in our evolution we had poison glands but then lost them?

  6. David Marjanović said,

    February 26, 2009 @ 2:03 pm

    The poison spur of platypus* and echidna has been found in several fossil mammals all over the phylogenetic tree, so some think the spur and the poison gland are the normal state of affairs for mammals, and marsupials + placentals just happen to have lost them.

    However, the spur can occur without the poison gland, and the poison gland itself doesn't fossilize, so who knows.

    * I've been told the correct plural is platypuzzesses. ;-)

  7. Nathan Myers said,

    February 26, 2009 @ 9:37 pm

    I want to clarify that what I appreciate is not so much knowing I had envenomed ancestors, but rather that it allows me to use the expression "secondarily venomless" in personal conversation. (The post was, therefore, on topic here.) But are those of us who have since redeployed venom glands "tercerily envenomed"? Google doesn't seem to like that word.

  8. David Marjanović said,

    February 27, 2009 @ 5:26 pm


  9. Nathan Myers said,

    March 2, 2009 @ 8:57 pm

    Ah, of course, thank you. Amusingly, Google doesn't like that one either.

    So, are "those of us" considered tertiarily envenomed? And them what lost it again "quaternarily venomless", or just careless?

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