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Tuesday, February 10, 2009


A visitor to this blog has asked a straight forward question and I have tried to find an answer of sorts. I'm not a zoologist or biologist so I looked on the Internet for some ideas. I typed into Google the simple statement , evolution of wings.The first reference which appeared instantly was to a National Geographic magazine article which I think is a good starting point giving food for thought and which could lead on to a wider investigation on the question posed. So here are the first few paragraphs which develop into seven pages. I found it interesting enough to read it all and so I recommend it to anyone who is curious about how a fin can become a limb and can become a wing.

Here is a link to the full article:

A Fin is a Limb is a Wing
How Evolution Fashioned its Masterworks
By Carl Zimmer
Photograph by Rosamond Purcell

The father of evolution was a nervous parent. Few things worried Charles Darwin more than the challenge of explaining how nature's most complex structures, such as the eye, came to be. "The eye to this day gives me a cold shudder," he wrote to a friend in 1860.

Today biologists are beginning to understand the origins of life's complexity—the exquisite optical mechanism of the eye, the masterly engineering of the arm, the architecture of a flower or a feather, the choreography that allows trillions of cells to cooperate in a single organism.

The fundamental answer is clear: In one way or another, all these wonders evolved. "The basic idea of evolution is so elegant, so beautiful, so simple," says Howard Berg, a Harvard researcher who has spent much of the past 40 years studying one of the humbler examples of nature's complexity, the spinning tail of common bacteria. "The idea is simply that you fiddle around and you change something and then you ask, Does it improve my survival or not? And if it doesn't, then those individuals die and that idea goes away. And if it does, then those individuals succeed, and you keep fiddling around, improving. It's an enormously powerful technique."

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Wildflower meadow campaign

I took this photo in a local wildflower meadow. I think this is a Field Scabious being mobbed by Six Spot Burnet moths. It shows clearly just what we will lose if we don't protect our local meadows.

You might find it of interest to see what we offer for inclusion in the next issue of our Somerset Wildlife Trust magazine which is issued three times a year.

Heart of the Levels Group.

Last time I wrote: Our local Council is to be congratulated on agreeing to keep part of a wildflower meadow as a nature reserve. It turned out I was too optimistic and now it is not clear how it will look after this local County Wildlife Site.

We have 18 Parishes in our area and we would encourage all members to take an interest in how their own Council meets its responsibilities to protect wildlife and biodiversity. The County Council and District Councils can give plenty of advice if asked. Our 500 local members can make a difference.

At our last public meeting we were treated to a wonderful presentation of photographs of moths and butterflies and the fascinating range of caterpillars which exist everywhere but usually escape our notice. John Bebbington, Secretary of the Somerset Moth Group and a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society combined detailed photography with his extensive technical knowledge.

Offers of help in running our group are always welcome, that includes acting as our eyes and ears!

Saturday, February 07, 2009


You may have seen some of the TV programmes on BBC on the subject of Charles Darwin.

If like me you are interested in learning more about the work of Darwin it may be a help to use this link to the OU / BBC series of programmes. You will be able to order the poster of The Tree of Life and register for emails to let you know about future events. It links in to the OU/ BBC even wider range of events and OU courses.

It includes programmes exploring the debate between the scientific and religious points of view on this subject.

Tomorrow , Sunday 8th, is this programme , see below, which looks at the work done on evolution in England and France at about the same time in history.

Radio 3

The Origins of The Origin
(Sunday Feature)

8 February, 9.30pm Radio 3