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The Darwinian Tourists are Alexandra Viertler and Telma G. Laurentino of the University of Basel.

Every two years, the Salzburger Lab at the University of Basel goes on a field trip to one of the greatest places on earth to study evolution: Africa’s Lake Tanganyika. The evolution researchers Alexandra Viertler and Telma G. Laurentino joined the most recent excursion and transformed their travel journal into a digital comic book.

E o Darwin nunca disse isso… cada primata no seu galho!

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Já todos ouvimos a expressão “o homem descende do macaco!” No entanto, sem clarificar cientificamente o que é o “macaco” nesta frase, ela tende não só a ser mentira, como a fazer tremer de horror biólogos evolutivos e antropólogos.

Quando falamos em evolução humana estamos a referir-nos ao processo evolutivo que resulta em nós: o Homo sapiens anatomicamente moderno. No entanto, é preciso não esquecer que também nós somos primatas e a nossa história evolutiva está traçada na mesma ramada da árvore da vida que contem os Lémures, os Társios, os macacos do novo mundo (Macaco-capuchinho, Mico-leão) e do velho mundo (Babuíno), e os grandes símios (Gorila, Orangotango, Chimpanzé).

spoiler alert: F#&k yeah!

Science is, at it’s core, all about discussion. Thus, controversy has always accompanied the evolution of biological knowledge.

Understanding the roots of controversy and the historical context of ideas is important because it brings clarity to definitions of contemporary concepts and reinforces the important notion that science is eternally preliminary.

That said, let’s dive into some biology drama (if you just want the gossip, jump to the end).

On Lamarck’s rumored dumbness, Darwin’s confusion, stinky giraffes & IKEA furniture:

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In high school, I was taught Darwinism as an opposed theory to Lamarckism, practically devoid of historical context. School manuals and exam questions made it seem that both theories were contemporary and antithetical. …

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One of the many fantastic fields of alpine flora, with the Alps in the background, Guarda. Photo: Telma G. Laurentino

The first “Evolutionary Biology in Guarda” workshop took place in 1988.
I had the pleasure of being part of the 28th group of young biologists who spent a week taking refuge in the internet-free Alps to learn how to construct clear projects in order to test hypotheses on evolution.

Everywhere you look: the Alps

Upon arrival, I was in awe. Guarda was the loveliest village I had ever visited. You might know it from Selina Chönz’s classic Swiss children’s story “A Bell for Ursli”. I assure you, it is as wonderful as Alois Carigiet’s illustrations.

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“Migration is beautiful” — street art on Feldbergstrasse in Basel. We’re all descendants from migrants, if not in our recent past, in our ancient past as a species. There are currently around 244 million people that live outside their country of birth. (Image: Telma G. Laurentino)

We’re currently around 7,5 billion of opposite-thumb-possessing-primates and one of the most adaptable species on planet earth. As fascinating as we are, intolerance and ignorance towards human diversity are still widespread. I think that we should put ethnocentrism aside and celebrate what evolution gave us. It is more what we share than what makes us different! Anthropology, population genetics, and development knowledge show that, and I want to share some with you.

Adaption is key

The human biological and cultural diversity arises from our remarkable adaptability, and it’s nothing but beautiful — both poetically and scientifically speaking.

Over time, we have evolved more than 6000 languages, which can vary radically in sound, meaning, and syntax. We display a beautiful myriad of phenotypes (observable characteristics), from the fascinating amount of colors and tones that the human skin can adopt, to the more than 520 dances we dance. Despite all this diversity, we share a significant part of our human existence. …

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Image: Telma G. Laurentino

I have been fascinated by biodiversity and nature since I can remember, so I took that passion and dedicated my life to the study of evolution. My quest started in Portugal and is currently unfolding in Switzerland, at the Zoological Institute of the University of Basel. Here, I’m doing a PhD on the genomics of natural selection on this cute little fish: the Three-spined stickleback, and it is my belief that the world could be a better place if everyone could see the beauty in evolution!

Sounds either militant or naive, but read me out. Let me share with you some facts and ideas that have the power to debunk misconceptions that harm us all, as a species, and as tenants of this planet. …


Telma G. Laurentino

I’m a Portuguese Nature lover and I dedicated my life to the study of evolution

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