Deceit in Nature

As a species, we can be quite hard on ourselves. Nature is often separated from Homo sapiens and put on a pedestal of purity and goodness while we lament our species’ wickedness. I’m not going to touch that philosophical debate with double-layered lab gloves on, but I’m here to tell you that, as humans, we’re hardly the pioneers of deceit and cruel treachery. I’ll save war, murder, and rape for another post (with triple-layered gloves), but today I want to show you some of the fascinating ways nature has us beat with how underhand and brilliantly sneaky it can be.

The fundamentals of life come down to survival and reproduction. If you survive long enough to reproduce, you pass your genes on. If you don’t, you’re an evolutionary dead end…literally. Consequently, any adaptations that increase the ability of organisms to survive (avoid predators, catch prey, save energy, etc) and reproduce (avoid angry rival males, kill angry rival males, woo females, efficiently invest energy into making and raising babies, not accidentally kill your babies, etc) are selected for and propagated. There are no morals or rules of conduct in nature, so this leads to a wide array of ridiculous behaviors that would certainly be frowned upon in human society.

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Bizarre Animal Courtships: The Power of Sexual Selection

In preparation for Valentine’s Day, humans across the world are investing in chocolates, flowers, lacy garments, and, for those who have read 50 Shades of Grey, perhaps a few additional supplies. For some of us, it’s the perfect excuse to stuff our faces with chocolate and sulk over singledom. In my case, I sat around craving chocolate and randomly announcing disturbing aspects of animal mating behavior to my resigned friends and family. In honor of this lovey-dovey holiday, I present a blog on how the epic battle to get laid has led to the development of some extremely peculiar methods of winning over a potential mate and competing with rivals.

The struggle is real, ladies and gents, and you’re not alone!

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Microbial Biological Warfare: Antibiotic Resistance

Did you know we might be moving into an era where antibiotics are obsolete? Just earlier this week there was an article in the U.S. News describing an outbreak of ‘Totally Drug-Resistant’ Tuberculosis in South Africa. In light of this increasingly urgent problem, this post is dedicated to antibiotic resistance!

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What is antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic resistance (AR) is a naturally occurring phenomenon that arises through biological and chemical warfare between microbes. DNA analyses have found proof of antibiotic resistance in 30,000 year old sediment samples, but it’s likely that the battle between antibiotics and resistance has been going on for millions of years [7]. Bacteria and other such organisms are constantly competing for resources (or eating each other), turning the world around us into a slaughterhouse of biological warfare. It’s all very exciting, but most of us humans are completely oblivious to it.

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Valentine’s Day in the Animal Kingdom: Tough Love

Warning: This blog post contains descriptions of animal sexual behavior, in more detail than you probably ever wanted to read.

              In honor of this week’s holiday, I thought I’d break away from diseases and delve into some of the more bizarre romance that occurs in nature (the alternative would have been to write about STDs. Trust me, this subject is better). You thought being single on Valentine’s Day was bad? Try being in a relationship as one of these creatures!

Sexual Cannibalism

Image              There is no truer expression of love than offering up one’s body in sacrifice for a romantic dinner. No? Well, red back spiders might disagree with you! Sixty-five percent of mating encounters end in cannibalism for this species [1]. What is truly bizarre, however, is the fact that the male willingly offers himself up: during copulation, the male spider performs a somersault to present his abdomen to the female’s fangs! He even undergoes special muscle contractions of the abdomen to move his vital fluids out to ensure he survives as long as possible during his consumption [1,7].

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