Category Archives: adaptation

Stick insects can disperse like plant seeds: in bird poop

One of the striking observations about life on oceanic islands—those islands, like Hawaii and the Galapagos, that arose, bereft of life, from volcanic activity below the sea—is the prevalence of native birds, insects, and plants, and the paucity of native reptiles, mammals, and amphibians. (Continental islands, like Great Britain, that were once connected to larger […]

Why exaptation is an unnecessary term in the science of form

by Greg Mayer The most important finding of vertebrate comparative morphology and paleontology is that most of evolution is the gradual, adaptive, modification of pre-existing structures (or, better, pre-existing developmental programs, which result in the structures).  The point about pre-existing structures is very important– the history of evolution is to a great extent the history […]

Readers’ wildlife videos

Because I’m having trouble braining this morning (I haven’t yet made my latte with three shots of espresso), I’ll eschew the laborious process of making a readers’ wildlife post, and instead present you with two treat videos by reader Tara Tanaka from Florida. The first shows a pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) making a cavity; Tara has […]

The cockeyed strawberry squid

The strawberry squid (Histioteuthis heteropsis), also known as the cock-eyed squid, is famous (as you can also tell if you parse the Latin binomial) for the huge disparity in the size and form of its two eyes. That’s evident from this gif: Now, before you watch the explanatory video below, or read Wire‘s recent piece on its […]

A new and bizarre shape-shifting frog

Instead of going to church today, we can have our special Alain de Botton-Approved Religion Substitute by worshiping at the church of Our Lady of Natural History. There is in fact a wonderful new discovery about frogs, one described in a new paper in the Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society by Juan Guayasamin et al. […]

Readers’ wildlife photos

We’ll start with three raptor photos from Stephen Barnard in Idaho, and then proceed to the cats. First we have a Swainson’s hawk (Buteo swainsoni): Then a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis): And a Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus): Reader John sent some cheetah photos and notes (indented): Following your recent call for photographs I decided to dig out […]

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 […]