Thursday, June 7, 2007

Mechanisms of Adaptation

Evolutionary adaptations are the result of the competition among individuals of a particular species over many generations in response to an ever-changing environment, including other animals and plants. Certain traits are culled by natural selection favoring those individual organisms that produce the most offspring. This is such a broad concept that, theoretically, all the features of any animal or plant could be considered adaptive. For example, the leaves, trunk, and roots of a tree all arose by selection and help the individual tree in its competition for space, soil, and sunlight.

Biologists have been accused of assuming adaptiveness for all such features of a species, but few cases have actually been demonstrated. Indeed, biologists find it difficult to be certain arose by selection and hence can be called adaptive or whether it arose by chance and is selectively neutral. The best example of an evolutionary development with evidence for adaptation is mimicry. Biologists can show experimentally that some organisms escape predators by trying to be inconspicuous and blend into their environment and that other organism imitate the coloration of species distasteful to predators. These tested cases are only a handful, however, and many supposed cases of adaptation are simply assumed.

On the contrary, it is possible that some features of an organism may be retained because they are adaptive for special, limited reasons, even though they may be maladaptive on the whole. The large antlers of an elk or moose, for example, may be effective in sexual selection for mating but could well be maladaptive at all other times of the year. In addition, a species feature that now has one adaptive significant may have been produced as an adaptive to quite different circumstances. For example, lungs probably evolved in adaptation to life in water that sometimes ran low on oxygen. Fish with lungs were then “preadapted” in away that accidentally allowed their descendants to become terrestrial.


Douglas said...

Hi Suray, I have bookmark this page. Very helpful. Thanks.

Suray said...

Thanks Douglas. I really appreciate it.

Buck said...

Are you gonna adapt yourself to be a mutant bro?

Suray said...

[to Buck] of course not!

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