Category Archives: adaptation

The grasping reflex of babies: a vestigial trait?

This is the type of post I originally intended to publish on this website, and the only type of post, for the website was created, at the behest of my editor at Viking/Penguin, to support my book WEIT. My idea then was to post a bit of cool evidence for evolution every few weeks or so. Then things got […]

Why are there no more large flying birds?

by Matthew Cobb As is well known, Professor Ceiling Cat can’t be doing with Tw*tter. Here’s yet another example of why he’s wrong, and should learn that that micro-bl*gging site is not just for knowing what celebrities had for breakfast or for launching cyber lynch mobs. I was listening to Radio 4’s ‘Tweet of the […]

An unusual antipredator defense

Yesterday, reader Roo sent me the Torygraph‘s photo of the day, which is an assassin bug. The caption is below (I’m not sure why they use the past tense): These ruthless Assassin bugs hid from potential predators using a camouflage cloak – made from the bodies of ants they had killed. The deadly insects paralysed […]

No. 2, The Killdeer

by Greg Mayer Ground nesting birds are more vulnerable to predation of both themselves and their eggs because the ground is accessible to a larger variety of predators than are nests built in trees. There are a number of ways of dealing with this. One is for the bird, its eggs, or both, to have […]

E. O. Wilson mistakenly touts group selection (again) as a key factor in human evolution

As most of you know, Edward O. Wilson is one of the world’s most famous and accomplished biologists.  He was the founder of evolutionary psychology (known as “sociobiology” back then), author of two Pulitzer-Prize-winning books, one of the world’s great experts on ants, an ardent advocate for biological conservation, and a great natural historian. His […]

Ducky orchids and insects

When I first saw these pictures I was startled, for the resemblance of this Australian orchid (Caleana major) to a flying duck is amazing. In fact its common names are the “flying duck orchid” and the “big duck orchid”. Kuriositas has the botanical details: The duck orchid is a perennial but blooms in late spring […]

The assassin bug: aggressive mimicry of prey

I’m shamelessly stealing this story from Alex Wild’s great Scientific American website, Compound Eye. His latest post describes a paper from the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (link below) by Wignali and Taylor, who show that assassin bugs from Australia (Stenolemus bituberus; these are true bugs in the order Hemiptera) kill spiders by entering […]

Still moar mimicy

I am off to Augusta today to discuss the (in)compatibility between science and faith. If you’re there and have a book, don’t forget the secret word. In the meantime, reader George sent me a superb case of mimicry, posted on Neatorama’s Facebook page. I’ll leave it to the readers to identify it:

How the pebble toad rolls

The best part of being an evolutionary biologist is learning about the endless ways that animals adapt to their existence and environment.  (The classic aphorism is “Natural selection is cleverer than you are.”) And here’s a behavior completely new to me: the escape behavior of the pebble toad, Oreophrynella nigra, from Bolivia and Guyana. The […]

The amazing mimicry of frogfish

I have a penchant for cases of mimicry, not only because they served as some of the earliest evidence for natural selection in Darwin’s time, but also because they show how far natural selection can achieve “perfection”—that is, how far do developmental and physical constraints prevent the evolution of an “optimum phenotype.” The answer is […]

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