Facebook and Frameshift

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Facebook
I don’t know about you, but I timidly joined facebook last fall to begin my journey in learning how this social networking resource might be of use both personally and professionally.  

Happily, I have discovered that there are educational relevant uses for facebook!  I will write a extended blog post on how I use it with students in the near future but today I read something on my facebook home page that I thought I should pass along.

As a member of facebook, one can join groups and follow updates on other people’s pages.  Some of these people happen to be practicing scientists or others on the periphery of the science community.  One individual I happen to follow is Carl Zimmer.  Most of you are familiar with Carl’s collection of quality books.   If you aren’t a member of facebook, you can follow his blog via his website (which links to the Discover’s blogsite – my how connected things are – if you have your own website you can add it with an RSS feed – maybe KABT should consider this).  

Well, the cool thing about reading Carl’s blog is that you are kept up-to-date on his insights into the active world of science, and don’t have to wait a year or two for such insights to be integrated into his next book.

Frameshift

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In one of his posts from yesterday, Losing Teeth, but Keeping Genes, he reviews a recently published article Molecular Decay of the Tooth Gene Enamelin (ENAM) Mirrors the Loss of Enamel in the Fossil Record of Placental Mammals from the online journal PLOS Genetics.    Here is the gist of the story from Carl:

Their results were pretty much what they expected, but they’re still pretty amazing. There were no frameshift mutations in ENAM among the mammals with teeth. But 17 out of 20 species without teeth or enamel had at least one. In all 20 enamel-free species, a stop command (known as a stop codon) was present. These genes are shot.

I am certain that you all teach about “frameshift” mutations.  The two resources above could become additions to your bag of supplemental tricks that make such concepts come alive for your students.  They can also help in your integration of evolutionary biology throughout the curriculum, and to supplement topics like “adaptation, pseudogenes, purifying and neutral selection, molecular clocks, and radiation and convergent evolution”. 

Enjoy reading, and maybe I’ll see meet you in facebook someday soon!

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About Eric Kessler

I am a high school biology teacher at Blue Valley North High School where I have taught freshman Biology and Honors Biology, Field Biology, Zoology, and AP Biology for the past 15 years. I am sponsor of the Environmental Club and our molecular modeling S.M.A.R.T. Team program. I am also the current treasurer of the Kansas Herpetological Society. Although I like most things biological, I have specific interests in the natural history of KS endemics (the outdoors) and things molecular. I am a pretty avid reader, I enjoy maintaining my website, and taking photographs. I plan on having students blogging and creating podcasts by the end of the year.