A katydid talks to evolution

Starting today, posting will be light for a while as I’m embarking on the Great Southern Evolution, Atheism, and Barbecue Tour. I plan to resume regular posting around February 11, but am hoping that Greg and Matthew will step into the breach.

Here’s another from the “true facts” series of videos: “True facts about leaf katydids.” The dialogue is amusing, but the photographs and videos are amazing.

Leaf katydids are, to me, the paradigm of natural selection, for they show how close selection can take an animal toward an “optimum” phenotype. It’s not often that we can see how close selection in nature has taken an animal towards “perfection,” and there are many factors preventing the attainment of that perfection: the availability of the right mutations, constraints on development that prevent perfect mimicry because those genes have other roles in the organism, and so on. And in most cases humans can’t even discern what the “optimum” really is. At least in cases of mimicry like this, we know what the optimum is (precise mimicry of a leaf to protect one from predators) and can see that those other factors haven’t been important.

Some day I’ll do a post on cases in which natural selection has taken organisms almost right to their optimum.

h/t: Michael

15 Comments

  1. Marcoli
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    NSFW Katydids!

  2. Dominic
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    I had to look them up as I was unfamiliar with the name – bush-crickets to UK readers. Here’s a recent genetics article on them that is way beyond me!
    The mitochondrial genome of the quiet-calling katydids, Xizicus fascipes (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae: Meconematinae)
    Yang, Ming Ru ; Zhou, Zhi Jun ; Chang, Yan Lin ; Zhao, Le Hong
    Journal of genetics, 2012, Vol.91(2), pp.141-53

  3. Winnie
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Here are more pics of leaf mimics. Don’t miss the peacock katydid. http://conservationreport.com/2008/11/08/can-you-see-me-animal-camouflage-leaf-mimics/

    • Dominic
      Posted February 1, 2013 at 7:06 am | Permalink

      Thanks for that – terrific!

      • marycanada FCD
        Posted February 1, 2013 at 7:19 am | Permalink

        Thanks for the link.

  4. Posted February 1, 2013 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    “Katy lies
    You could see it in her eyes
    But imagine my surprise
    When I saw you”

    Steely Dan – Katy Lied album

    The album cover has a big katydid on it : )

  5. marycanada FCD
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    “Some day I’ll do a post on cases in which natural selection has taken organisms almost right to their optimum.”

    Looking forward to that.

  6. gbjames
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    lol

  7. Alice Wonder
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    For future post on mimicry – the Yellow-eyed Ensatina mimicry of the California / Rough-skinned Newt is pretty damn good.

  8. Kevin Alexander
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    When perfect mimicry is achieved…well I guess we’ll never know.

  9. Diane G.
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Leaf katydids are, to me, the paradigm of natural selection, for they show how close selection can take an animal toward an “optimum” phenotype.

    Katydids, stick insects, many mantids, homopterans that look just like thorns…so many wonderful examples just in the Insecta!

    Fun post. :)

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 1, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      Sub (And WP is the paradigm of annoying.)

  10. HaggisForBrains
    Posted February 2, 2013 at 3:44 am | Permalink

    Can’t wait for the sequel: “What Katydid Next”

    I’ll get my coat…

    • Arctic Ape
      Posted February 3, 2013 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      New Scientist already did that pun years ago (and you know they would) when they featured an article on Australian katydids and one scientist couple studying them. As it happened, the woman was named Cathy.


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