biology zoology blog benno meyer rochow selection detection

Selection Detection

The fittest survive, but what does that mean?

Even now there are still people who do not fully understand the tenet of the survival of the fittest and believe it has something to do with winners and losers of a combat and physical strength. However, that even the smallest individual could be the fittest individual perhaps under conditions of a food shortage or an availability of shelters best suitable for small individuals and that an individual which is weak, but smarter than others could become the “fittest” through the process of selection is something that needs to be emphasized. To explain natural selection, zoologists often use the example of the white and dark specimens of the peppered moth Biston betularia in England: the originally rather rare dark variety became increasingly more common as industrial pollution increased and the whitish tree trunks of birch trees turned grey with soot. When pollution levels subsided and the environment became cleaner again, it was the lighter coloured variety that gained the upper hand once more.

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Hot and Scalding

Some organisms manage to harness extreme heat

We all know that dragons and other mythical beasts are frequently given the power of fire-blowing or fire-spitting, but I also know that fire and life don’t mix well and can therefore categorically rule out the existence of fire-producing creatures (with the exception of fire-blowing circus and stage acts). What I am less certain about, however, is what I am supposed to make of stories I heard in rural France, spending 7 months in Moulis, namely that gas production by cows in crowded and badly ventilated stables is said to have been responsible for the occasional explosion. OK, cows produce methane, but who would ignite it? Stranded and decomposing whales on a tropical beach build up gases inside their body due to bacterial activity and can, indeed, explode, but generating fire? No. —>

Dung beetle story australia entomology insect

A dirty job – but one that has to be done

How dung beetles saved Australia…

Everybody knows that herbivores feed on plants, carnivores on meat and omnivores gobble up everything. Fewer people would be familiar with the term fungivore (for an animal feeding only on fungi) or know what a xylophagous diet consists of (wood) or that oophages consume only eggs and embryos. Continue reading