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Understanding Population Genomics: Beckett Sterner Explains Lineages

May 16, 2018

ASU was well-represented at the 2018 Pacific meeting of the American Philosophical Association. Biology and Society PhD student Kelle Dhein presented a poster on biological information in social insects and faculty member Beckett Sterner gave a talk titled "Evolutionary Species in Light of Population Genomics." Philosophy professor Brad Armendt also chaired a session on skepticism and several ASU philosophy PhD students volunteered for the conference.Kelle Dhein


Dhein's poster gave a first report on his dissertation research into the value that attributing meaning to living systems has for biological research. Many species have surprisingly sophisticated abilities to navigate long distances. Some species of eusocial ants, for example, are able to cut a straight line back to their nest after a long and meandering journey in search of food. It's easy to talk as if ants somehow had information about their distance from home, but does this play a lasting and irreducible role in biological explanation and reasoning? 


Sterner presented on a new application of a recent formal model of biological individuality he developed to evolutionary species. After an excellent commentary from University of Utah professor Matt Haber, Sterner explained his work APA Logoas showing how the concept of evolutionary lineages is ambiguous in important ways that impact our ability to make sense of recent results from population genomics. He used his formal model to define two different kinds of lineage and to show how one can exist nested within the other while maintaining its evolutionary independence. Ultimately this work should help disentangle scientifically important units of evolution from existing constraints on naming species for groups with complex patterns of hybridization, like this case in neotropical fishes.


More Information: Beckett Sterner (beckett.sterner@asu.edu)

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