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May 23, 2008

Shaping up to be a good year

Yesterday I heard the good news that my first paper (with Doug Erwin) on biology and evolution was accepted at Science. Unlike my experience with publishing in Nature, the review process for this paper was fast and relatively painless. I think this was partly because the paper's topic, on the evolution of species body masses, is a relatively conventional one in paleobiology / evolutionary biology / ecology. In fact, people have been thinking about this topic for more than 100 years, going all the way back to E. D. Cope in 1887 who suggested that mammal species had an inherent tendency to become larger over evolutionary timescales (millions of years). This idea went through several reformulations as our understanding of evolution matured over the 20th century. From a modern perspective, we now know from fossil data that changes to how big a species is are not deterministic in the sense that they always get bigger (as Cope thought), but rather changes are stochastic, with both decreases and increases happening with great frequency. The tendency, however, for many kinds of species (including mammals and brachiopods) is that the increases slightly outnumber the decreases (a pattern called Cope's Rule), perhaps because of competitive or robustness advantages from increased size.

Anyway, there's a lot more to say on this topic, but I'll wait until the paper comes out to say it. In general, it's been a lot of fun learning about evolution and ecology, and I hope to do some more work in this area in the future.

posted May 23, 2008 08:20 AM in Self Referential | permalink


Very nice! Congrats!

I'm still struggling and failing to get things into Nature and Science. Maybe eventually... (I actually will be trying again soon.)

I just finished reading the main part of the Nature paper about 15 minutes and am now trying to find the supplementary info. (I guess I need to do slightly less naive googling.)

Anyway, see you at a future conference.

Posted by: Mason at May 29, 2008 08:39 AM

Thanks! It's really a crap-shoot to get anything into these vanity journals, even if it's good (and unfortunately, even if it's bad). My pet hypothesis right now is that a lot of it comes down to being able to write a sexy cover letter.

And, I emailed you the Supp. Info.

Posted by: Aaron at May 29, 2008 04:28 PM