Fibonacci Pigeons!

Since I must post any pigeon related humor I run across—especially if there is a science angle to it—I present the following, Fibonacci Pigeons:10306175_684865348292743_3363294143001162433_n


A “Darwin fish” of a different sort

A little in-joke…

Up close and personal with mountain gorillas

I shared this on Facebook a while back, thought I’d post it here as welleasy content… Seriously though, if you’re not amazed by this then there is something wrong with you.

I love the part were Daddy silverback pulls the young gorilla away from the funny looking hairless ape. I can almost hear him saying; “stay away from that, you don’t know where its been!” Click here for more on the mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei).

Inside Nature’s Giants – Polar bear

This is the latest in the wonderful Inside Nature’s Giants television series (U.K.) and while it unfortunately (at least as far as I’m concerned) spends more time on environmental issues than anatomy, it is still definitely worth watching; so here you go, enjoy:

The amazing Australian Peacock spider

Isn’t he gorgeous? He’s an Australian peacock spider (Maratus volans) and the photo is by Jürgen Otto. He has a whole gallery of even better photos of this spectacular little arachnid that you’ll want to check out.  However what you really have to see is his video of the dance the males perform to attract the females (you might want to watch it on YouTube for the slightly larger format):

Absolutely wonderful images that demonstrate how apt the common name for these little spiders is. Thank you Jürgen for sharing them.

[Hat tip to Jerry Coyne.]

Does being the “fittest” mean eliminating the less fit?

Creationists often portray natural selection —usually citing Herbert Spencer’s expression, “survival of the fittest”— as being a matter of the strong subjugating or eliminating the weak, usually tying it to eugenics, racism and ultimately (of course) to Adolf Hitler.

Here is a fun cartoon by Jay Hosler (author of Drawing Flies) that amusingly illustrates that this is at best an extreme oversimplification of the how natural selection actually works (click on the image for a larger version).

So if you really want to ‘win’ the evolutionary race, the way to do it is to “make love, not war”.

Of course it does sometimes happen in nature that organisms attempt to directly eliminate competition for resources—lions killing hyenas (between species), older larger bird chicks pushing younger siblings out of the nest (within a species)— but it is usually through the more indirect method of simply leaving more offspring and thus eventually dominating the environment. That way the competition fizzles out and goes extinct on its own rather than being directly attacked in any way.

Also such “might makes right” caricatures of natural selection ignore the fact that cooperative behavior within species can also lead to increased “fitness” as is seen in social species like ourselves as well as between different species as is the case with mutualistic relationships; the Yucca plant and some species of Yucca Moths for example.

Then there is the problem that creationists are trying to project the is-ought fallacy onto evolution. The idea being that though the process of natural selection sometimes leads to behavior that we would normally consider cruel or immoral, since it is natural, it is therefore good and we should encourage it.

However the mere fact that we observe something to happen in nature in one context does not mean that it is something upon which we would want to model our own behavior. In fact our success as a species in largely due to the fact that we don’t model our behavior on what we see in nature, or allowing nature to take its course.


Index to Creationist Claims – Claim CA002 and Claim CA002.1

Evolution and Philosophy – Does evolution make might right? by John S. Wilkins

[Hat tip to NCSE on Facebook for the cartoon]

More from Inside Nature’s Giants

Two more episodes from the excellent television series Inside Natures Giants are now available for viewing on YouTube. As I wrote in a previous post, this is a fascinating zoology program wherein the bodies of various large animals are dissected to demonstrate the details of their anatomy. This is combined with discussions of the living animals and their natural history with occasional incites from Richard Dawkins about evolutionary biology.

First of the newly available episodes is a two for one in which both a lion and tiger are examined, contrasted and compared. Here is part one of four:

A play list for the rest of the parts can be found here.

In my previous posting on this series I wished for them to focus an episode on something like a giant squid so as to show something on invertebrate anatomy and my wish has come true. Here is part one of five:

I couldn’t find a play list for this episode so here are individual links to the different segments: part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5.

As before I really cannot speak more highly of this program. It is fascinating television for anyone with even the slightest curiosity about the natural world and a absolute must see for anyone interested in biology, zoology and evolution.

Gush, gush, gush!

[Thanks to P.Z. (squee) Myers over at Pharyngula for the heads up on the squid episode and to the WhyEvolutionisTrue YouTube channel for hosting the videos!]

Night of the Tenebrionids!

My back yard is overrun with tenebrionid beetles (genus Eleodes), aka stink beetles. This is in Southern California, early May 2010. My wife Kathy is behind the camera making comments from the peanut gallery.

Here is a picture of a larger version I took a couple years ago:

This was a good sized female who was a little worse for wear (note the dent in her elytron/back). She was ovipositing in a dirt road.

Cetacean Intelligence

Here are a couple of great videos that I encountered via different sources within minutes of each other. Both demonstrate cooperative hunting and problem solving in toothed whales  (Odontoceti). The first, pointed out to me by my mother, is a beautifully photographed and (as always) nicely narrated by David Attenborough, clip of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops) working together to create silt nets by hitting their tail flukes on the sea floor which they use to corral fish into a tight group.

The second is a CNN clip that comes via Jerry Coyne’s blog Why Evolution is True and it shows killer whales (Orcinus orca) working together to wash seals off of sea ice.

Fascinating stuff!