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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."


  1. Hi David,
    I just picked you off the map at UK & Eire Nat Hist Bloggers to see what is happening in your neck of the woods, or levels. Wonderful starling photos, which remind me of displays I have seen at dusk above the ruined pier at Brighton. We also have birds nesting in our loft every year, squeezing in under the eaves, first sparrows who then get turfed out by swifts, with occasionally bluetits finding a window of opportunity although a couple of years ago they got wiped out by a local sparrowhawk. Scabious and burnet moths is a familiar combination here too, on Bembridge Down just up the road. I will be back when having more time to read, all the best, Rob

  2. Hi there Rob,
    Good to hear from a visitor to this blog which I have neglected a little recently. So much to write about , so little time to do so! Sounds like you have some good countryside to ramble in. Anything interesting and worth a photo I would be pleased to receive by email ( shown on the blog somewhere)and to publish.
    Best wishes,