Ready! Set! Go!
If Biological success is a game, the duration of the game is from creation to eternity, and the winner is one who not only stands the test of time, but scores high on multiple facets, guess who would be the referee of the game? None other than Mother Nature, a strict, competent and an impartial referee indeed.
This perhaps is the simple translation of a popular saying in Biology “The survival of the fittest by Natural selection”. Although this saying has largely been attributed to the great Biologist, Charles Darwin, in his famous book, “Origin of the species”, there are some schools of thought, which attribute it to Herbert Spencer. Regardless of the origin of the saying, pardon the pun the saying is true.
In the beginning, there were many kinds of animals. Some survived, some did not. Some did not even make their presence known. Some ruled mighty and high, but fell after a certain time. The mighty dinosaurs were a great example. . They were the kings of the earth in the Mesozoic era, but did not survive beyond. What caused them to fail?
The answer lies in their capacity to adapt. While conditions were good for them, they were mighty, strong, and for the most part, heavy. When things turned adverse, they were not able to adapt their shape and size, and therefore their habits. They could not survive in alien territory and finally faced extinction. Adaptation, of any kind is the tool of survival, and the better the adaptation, the better the chance to survive, and succeed.
To narrate Biological success in story form:
Fishes were the first formed vertebrates. They lived in bountiful supply of water. They had gills to breathe in the dissolved oxygen in the water and fins to facilitate movement. All was well, until the water started drying up. Big lakes became small ponds. Strips of land separated the ponds. Those fish which knew only swimming could not cross over, and they died. Some fish learned to crawl on their fins, gasped some oxygen from the air and somehow made it to the next pond that had more water. They survived! During the course of evolution, these fish gave rise to the next generation of animals: the amphibians .The frog, with the thin skin, breathe both with gills and lungs, which could swim in water and could hop from pond to pond. These new kind of animals knew how to survive. Things were fine until it started to dry up some more. The frog with its thin skin had to stay near water, where it could be moist. But there was so much to explore beyond that pond! So, some of the frogs developed a thick skin, which would not allow moisture to evaporate and made it further into the woods. Those became the Reptiles. Some of them grew into large dinosaurs. Unfortunately, that is where they ended, because the ability to adapt, and change with the environment stopped. Some of the other Reptiles gave rise to Aves, the birds, which hollowed their bones and explored the air space above and the mammals, which live on or under ground.
Adaptations are not limited to external physical features alone. A cow has four sections in its stomach, so it can chomp up the grass as fast as it can, go away from the sight of a predator and bring it up and slowly chew on it. A Bat may be blind, but its sense of hearing is so keen, it uses it as its navigation system. The huge whale lives in the sea,
But it has a protective layer of blubber, to keep itself from freezing at times in the cold water. The nocturnal cats have night vision to catch their hapless prey and avoid being hunted by day. The Chameleon changes its colors to blend with its background and creates its camouflage. The adaptations of insects are so many, no wonder it is the most successful group of animals, and the largest populated too.
The list could go on and on, but the underlying factor is that in order to survive and succeed, animals need to adapt. Then, they need to fine tune their adaptations, so they can be the best fitted to not only survive, but also succeed.