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Tommy Leung
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Of Pigs, Chimps, And Dinosaurs
[Brace yourself, this is a long read]
It seems like ever since mid-2013, not a month goes by without hearing about what I would call "PigChimpMan theory" of human evolution. This "theory" has been lurking around for a while in its own obscure corner of the internet, but it initially came to the attention of a wider online audience via PhysOrg back in July 2013. However, the idea was well and truly launched like a dysfunctional bottle rocket in November 2013 into the mainstream when it was publicised by that bastion of rigorous science journalism, the Daily Mail. Subsequently, it had spread like a pandemic swine flu across other media outlets.

(BTW, I'm not going to link to those pages directly and give them the hits, but if you wish to see them, they can easily be found via a quick Google search)

But we're not here to talk about that, as the ridiculousness of that theory has been thoroughly addressed by +PZ Myers 
http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/07/02/the-mfap-hypothesis-for-the-origins-of-homo-sapiens/
And it was also addressed on episode 420 of Skeptic's Guide to the Universe (http://www.theskepticsguide.org/podcast/sgu/420).

To say that the originator of the "PigChimpMan theory" has some odd and misguided notions about evolution would be an understatement and it is not on the basis of the "PigChimpMan theory" alone. No, lest you think we are talking about a one-trick wonder, fear not - he also has a website call Macroevolution Dot Net (once again, I'm not linking directly for reasons stated above). This is where he has published many other "theories", though admittedly most of them appear to simply be a variation on a very simple theme, namely "X did the nasty with Y and ended up with Z"

Okay, some #realtalk  here - cross species hybridisation does happen - for example, a mule is a hybrid between a donkey and a horse, and there are also hybrids between domestic cattle and American bisons, and even hybrids between false killer whales and dolphins.

He claims that such hybrids lend support for his "PigChimpMan (and other similar) theory". However such hybrids are often sterile and only occur between species which are closely related - often from the same genus. The "PigChimpMan theory of human origin" is based on a faulty, slippery slope assumption that since hybridisation between closely related species is possible, then species across entirely different orders can readily hybridise. Just because two closely related species can form hybrids does not mean animals from entirely different orders (or entirely different classes as you'll see below) can produce reproductively viable hybrids. Basically, just because there are mules running about doesn't mean that Manx cats came from a rabbit humping a cat.

Oh, I forgot to mention that didn't I? That the creator of Macroevolution Dot Net thinks that Manx cats http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manx_(cat) are actually cat-rabbit hybrids? Just FYI. But cross-order hybridisation is nothing comparing with his proposed origin of the monotremes (platypus and echidnas) which involve birds hybridising with mammals. Yes. Your read that right. He thinks that the echidna exists because a hedgehog got it on with a kiwi. Don't take my word for it - go to his website and check it out for yourself.

But it doesn't end there (it never does), let me present his "They look kinda alike to me" theory of evolution. He has some very strange ideas about dinosaur evolution which I am sure scientists like +Michael Habib or +John Hutchinson or +Darren Naish or just about anyone else who have at least some interest in and background knowledge about dinosaurs would find, well, questionable to say the least. For example, did you know that according to Macroevolution Dot Net, pangolins evolved from stegosaurs?

His "theory" pretty much amount to "Pangolin looks kinda like a Stegosaurus. An anatomically inaccurate Stegosaurus from an old kids book about dinosaurs I came across. And if I ignore just about everything about both animals. Therefore, I think pangolins are actually descended from dinosaurs and Stegosaurus is a mammal" Go check it out for yourself - I seriously, seriously cannot make this stuff up even if I tried. He thinks that pangolin plates are homologous* with the plates of Stegosaurus and that the tail spikes on the thagomizer of the stegosaur tail actually belong on the feet and were homologous to the pangolin's claws.
*A homologous structure is a one which is found in different species that share a common ancestry; for example, our arms are different from the wings of a bat - both have been modification for different purposes in our respective lineages - but they share a common basic architecture from a common ancestor.

He also claims that:

"The modern giant armadillo is so similar to the ancient ankylosaurs that it is only reasonable to suppose it is descended from them."

According to his theory, thyreophoran dinosaurs are in fact mammals. Well, I guess by that logic, one can claim that it is only "reasonable" that dolphins are descendants of ichthyosaurs, right? Right? Well...when he is not busy trying to claim one group of reptiles are mammals, he is also trying to claim that one group of mammals are in fact reptiles. The mammals in question are the cetaceans - whales.
 
While he is not exactly claiming that dolphins are evolved, modern ichthyosaurs, he does think that whales had evolved from mosasaurs. The mosasaur were a group of extinct marine reptiles which are related to modern monitor lizards and snakes that lived during the late Cretaceous period (http://www.oceansofkansas.com/about-mo.html) and they are essentially a lineage of lizard-type reptiles that had adapted to the aquatic environment.

Despite extensive fossil AND molecular evidence for the actual evolutionary origin of whales, he still cite his "They look kinda alike to me" theory of whale evolution, while being unfamiliar with something call convergent evolution (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convergent_evolution) whereby divergent groups of organisms have independently evolve very similar forms as they lived in similar ecosystems/environment and were subjected to similar evolutionary selection pressures.

If you want to read up on the non-unhinged theory about evolution of whales, this Wikipedia article has a good collection of links and references you can look up and read at your leisure: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whale_evolution

Oh, one more little thing - he also has this annoying habit of repeatedly following and unfollowing people on Twitter to try and get them to follow him back. +Steven Hamblin called him out on this, to which he claims that it was "an accident" (he has also deleted all his tweet correspondence with Steven), but others have mentioned that they have been subjected to the same "follow-unfollow" cycle from him.
https://twitter.com/BehavEcology/status/402239297069129728
https://twitter.com/BehavEcology/status/402246415226658816
https://twitter.com/BehavEcology/status/402253272641064960
https://twitter.com/BehavEcology/status/402255907670609920
I think I'm currently in the third or fourth "follow" cycle from him, though I suspect this post might terminate that altogether.

To lighten the mood a bit after this very long post/rant, I would like to propose a new genre of internet literature call "Macroevolution Dot Net Fan fiction" (I think I have just invented the worst kind of fan fiction). Here are some potential title to start off with, but feel free to make your own.

Loris = Monkey + Owl hybird
Ambulocetus = Otter + Crocodile hybrid
Sea cows = descendants of placodonts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placodont)

Then again, he is probably working on those very ideas right now...
Sharing for +ScienceSunday 
#sciencesunday   #pseudoscience   #evolution   #evolutionarybiology   #scienceeveryday   

Accompanying photo is "The Listener" (2013) by Patricia Piccinini. You can see the rest of her artwork here: http://www.patriciapiccinini.net/
Photo was taken by Ars Electronica and used here under Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Original here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/arselectronica/9415769898/
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Worth noting that the Skeptics Guide to the Universe chose the "man-chimp-pig" story as one of the worst science failures of 2013, alongside such luminaries as "vaccines make you gay" and "bigfoot DNA". Lots of angels singing in this choir: http://www.theskepticsguide.org/podcast/sgu/441

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My Parasitology Papers - Free To Download
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a researcher in possession of a reasonable number of publications, must be in want of yet another social media profile... So I finally decided to set up an account on +ResearchGate, so if any of you want to download my papers on parasitology and stuff, that is a good place to bypass the paywalls and get them for free.
#scienceeveryday  
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Different Webs For Different Wasps
It is guest post time at the Parasite of the Day blog! This is the sixth in a series of guest posts that have been written by students from my Evolutionary Parasitology class this year. This particular posts was written by Rebecca-Lee Puglisi and it is about three different parasitoid wasps. Some of you might have come across the news of a new study on a parasitoid wasp that commandeer spider to weave a web for them, but did you know that they are many species of such parasitoids, and they all cause their hosts to weave slightly different types of webs? Find out more in the post below.

#scienceeveryday  
This is the sixth post in a series of blog posts written by students from my third year Evolutionary Parasitology unit (ZOOL329/529) class of 2015. This particular post was written by Rebecca-Lee Puglisi about not one, but TH...
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Poor spider; I also pity chrysalids as they can't escape from parasitic wasps that are sucking their juices to make even more wasps eggs. Like this one recently featured on Ask an Entomologist [ http://askentomologists.com/2015/08/20/why-is-this-chrysalis-always-dripping/ ]
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Creeping Into The Minds Of Creepy Crawlies
I recently spoke with science writer +Jason Bittel about host-manipulating parasites that commandeer their hosts for their own ends. Here's the piece he wrote about the the marvellous/malevolent ways that some parasites make their hosts do their bidding.

#scienceeveryday   
Somewhere in Japan, a wasp swoops onto a spider and jabs it with a stinger. The wasp’s venom paralyzes the spider for 10 to 15 minutes, during which the wasp secretes a tiny egg. By the time the spider wakes up, it is doomed. Soon, a larva will hatch from...
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Tanks
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Butterfly Blemishes
It is guest post time at the Parasite of the Day blog! This is the third in a series of guest posts that have been written by students from my Evolutionary Parasitology class this year. This particular posts was written by Aimee Diamond and it is about Ophryocystis elektroscirrha - a protozoan parasite that infects Monarch Butterflies. But the butterflies have a secret for keep their scales free from parasite-induced blemishes - it has to do with what they eat as caterpillars...

#scienceeveryday  
This is the third post in a series of blog posts written by students from my third year Evolutionary Parasitology unit (ZOOL329/529) class of 2015. This particular post was written by Aimee Diamond and it is on how the Monarc...
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A Wasp, A Spider, And A Tangled Web
It's guest posts time over at the Parasite of the Day blog! Some of you might recall that this time last year I featured some guest posts written by students from my ZOOL329 Evolutionary Parasitology class - well, it's happening again this year! During this month I will be presenting a series of guest posts on the blog, all of which have been written by students who did my Evolutionary Parasitology class. To kick things off, here's a post by Alison Cash on a paper published in 2001 about a parasitoid that uses its spider host to weave a tangled web.

#scienceeveryday  
Those who have been reading this blog for a while realise that August is the month when I featured some guest posts written by students from my Evolutionary Parasitology  (ZOOL329/529) class.  One of the assessment I set for ...
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Dinosaur Fleas (Maybe)!
It is guest post time at the Parasite of the Day blog! This is the seventh (and final for 2015) in a series of guest posts that have been written by students from my Evolutionary Parasitology class this year. This particular posts was written by Maxine Walter and it is about some fossil insects from the Mesozoic period which might have been fleas of dinosaurs. Find out more in the post below.

Next month, it's back to writing my usual posts about newly published and interesting parasite papers which you might have missed, and/or not as widely covered by the usual news and media outlets - so stay tuned!

#scienceeveryday  
This is the seventh and final posts in a series of posts written by students from my third year Evolutionary Parasitology unit (ZOOL329/529) class of 2015. This particular post was written by Maxine Walter and it is about the...
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Saber-toothed crotch cricketr
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Alice Ant And The Curious Carnivorous Caterpillar
This is a piece which I drew for a radio segment here: https://soundcloud.com/abcnsw/creepy-but-curious-carnivorous-caterpillars where I talked about carnivorous caterpillar.
There are over 160000 species of known moths and butterflies and most of them are herbivorous. In fact, caterpillars are very specific about what plants they munch on - some only ever feed on a single species of plant throughout their development, and few have a host plant range of more than three plant families.
But there is a tiny percentage of caterpillars that have evolved to be carnivorous, about one percent of all know lepidopteran (moths and butterflies) are actually carnivores. They have all evolved to be that way through different paths - some of them from associating with ants and their aphid livestock, others through becoming isolated and evolved into a predatory niche in the absence of other carnivorous insects. To find out more about the fascinating story behind carnivorous caterpillars, you can listen to the radio segment I recorded yesterday on ABC New England for their segment "Creepy but Curious" here: https://soundcloud.com/abcnsw/creepy-but-curious-carnivorous-caterpillars

#scienceeveryday  
Earlier today, I recorded yet another episode of ;Creepy but Curious ;- a monthly radio segment that I have been doing on the local radio since 2013. And with every segment that I do, I als...
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Thanks +Cyran Severin!
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Migrating Butterflies Maligned By Parasites
It is guest post time at the Parasite of the Day blog! This is the fifth in a series of guest posts that have been written by students from my Evolutionary Parasitology class this year. This particular posts was written by Kate Ives and it is about a study looking at how a little parasite might mess with the migratory journey of the Monarch Butterfly.
This is the fifth post in a series of blog posts written by students from my third year Evolutionary Parasitology unit (ZOOL329/529) class of 2015. This particular post was written by Kate Ives and it is about how a parasite ...
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The Scoop On Hyena Poop
It is guest post time at the Parasite of the Day blog! This is the fourth in a series of guest posts that have been written by students from my Evolutionary Parasitology class this year. This particular posts was written by Courtney Hawkins and it is about a study looking at a tapeworm that you'd find when you starting digging up shit on the spotted hyena... 

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This is the fourth post in a series of blog posts written by students from my third year Evolutionary Parasitology unit (ZOOL329/529) class of 2015. This particular post was written by Courtney Hawkins and it is about hyena p...
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Sick Bunnies
It is guest post time at the Parasite of the Day blog! This is the second in a series of guest posts that have been written by students from my Evolutionary Parasitology class this year. This particular posts was written by Brenda Cornick and it is about an outbreak of Encephalitozoon cuniculi - a deadly single-cell parasite that infects rabbit and among other things, cause them to look like they were animated by Shaft animation studio.

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This is the second post in a series of blog posts written by students from my third year Evolutionary Parasitology unit (ZOOL329/529) class of 2015. This particular post was written by Brenda Cornick and it is about an outbre...
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Poor Bunny.
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When It Pays To Be Quiet
Resharing this as I was reminded of it the other day - about this time last year I was on the radio talking about how crickets on Haiwaii evolved to be silent in response to a parasitoid fly that homes in on the male cricket's chirping. For more stories of weird and wonderful nature, check out my Creepy but Curious collection here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/collection/0fFFg
 
Silence Of The Crickets
Listen to the segment here: http://goo.gl/whxs7T
Earlier today, I was on the local radio for their Creepy but Curious segment. This time I was talking crickets, parasitoid flies, and evolution - a story of how field crickets introduced to the Hawaiian islands lost their song, but in turn gained a new lease on life.
#scienceeveryday   #biology   #evolution   #parasitology   #entomology   #cricket   #scicomm   
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Evolutionary biologist, parasitologist
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Parasitologist, Evolutionary Biologist, Researcher, Lecturer
Introduction
Parasitologist and evolutionary biologist who also happen to write for a blog about parasites, and likes to draw things sometimes.

I am a biologist who conduct studies on various ecological and evolutionary biology aspects of parasitism/symbiosis. I also write for the Parasite of the Day blog, which I co-administrate with its founder, Susan Perkins of the American Natural History Museum.

Outside of my professional field, my favourite thing to do is drawing - some of which (but not all) are inspired by my scientific work. My drawings can be found on my dA account.
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