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Biodiversity Blog

David M. Hillis is the Director of the Biodiversity Center. He is a Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas, a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow, and has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and to the National Academy of Sciences. He also owns and operates the Double Helix Ranch.

What's In a Name? Tummy Toads, Gastrophryne olivacea

Gastrophryne olivacea02   Photo: Stanley Trauth 2007 (wikipedia) A few years ago, I built several ponds near my house at the Double Helix Ranch, hoping that frogs would colonize them and I could enjoy the sound of frog calls outside my window. Several different species have come and bred there including Strecker's Chorus frogs (Pseudacris streckeri), Grey ...

What's in a Name? Texas Flowers

Picture1Commelina erecta flower. The genus name Commelina honors the three Commelin brothers. The specific name erecta refers to the erect form of the plant. Photo by David M. Hillis. Ever wonder how species get their scientific names? The scientist who describes a new species selects the name. As long as the name follows a few basic rules, and is uniqu...
The Father of Texas Botany

The Father of Texas Botany

   Ferdinand Lindheimer from Goethe im Lichte der Verebungslehre - 1908 Texas botany would not be what it is today if it weren’t for a German immigrant by the name of Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer. His name adorns many Texas plants and animals, and he is widely considered the “Father of Texas Botany.” Lindheimer (1801 – 1879) was a Germ...

To Egg or Not to Egg: That is the Evolutionary Question

oviparity P.p.2   A young lizard crawls over the eggs of its brethren. (Photo: Yin Qi) The old riddle “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” is not much of a riddle to biologists. The shelled amniote egg, which is familiar to many of us as chicken eggs, evolved about 325 million years ago. The wild ancestors of chickens, in contrast, only appe...