Category Archives: adaptation

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 […]

A free journal issue on experimental evolution

Biology Letters is offering free access to its latest issue on “experimental evolution,” an issue edited by Thomas Batailon, Paul Joyce, and my friend Paul Sniegowski. You can see the table of contents at the link above, and here are the free articles: Feature Articles Introduction – As it happens: current directions in experimental evolution […]

Free articles on the genomics of adaptation

The Proceedings of the Royal Society (B) has a special issue on the genomics of adaptation that it’s making available for free to everyone. You can see the contents here; they include these articles, which can be accessed directly from my links. Introduction: The genomics of adaptation by Jacek Radwan and Wieslaw Babik Research article: […]

Giant arthropods, then and now

by Greg Mayer The Naturmuseum Senckenberg in Frankfurt am Main, one of Europe’s great natural history museums, has announced the discovery in Laos of one of the world’s largest known daddy longlegs by Senckenberg researcher Peter Jager. The apparently new species is now being studied by Jager and his Senckenberg colleague, Ana Lucia Tourinho. Daddy […]

Near-perfect camouflage

I don’t know what this insect is, but I’m sure one of my readers does.  But first you have to see it!  It took me a while to spot it, but of course that’s why it has evolved. Have a gander (from’s photos): h/t: Matthew Cobb, as usual!

James Shapiro goes after natural selection again (twice) on HuffPo

I hate to give attention to my Chicago colleague James Shapiro’s bizarre ideas about evolution, which he publishes weekly on HuffPo rather than in peer-reviewed journals. His Big Idea is that natural selection has not only been overemphasized in evolution, but appears to play very little role at all.  Even though he’s spreading nonsense in […]