Thursday, February 26, 2015

Notable Failures in Evolution Through the Ages

The Great Blue Cardinal
Larger than its modern-day counterpart, the Great Blue was also a superior flyer, able to reach high enough altitudes to coast on thermals and to nest in high cliff walls. Each autumn, as the temperatures plunged, enormous flocks of the Blue Cardinal would fly north. Their magnificent indigo plumage stood out gaily against the sleet and ice. This backwards migration proved to be roughly as successful as Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, however, and the Great Blue’s numbers declined rapidly.

The Oblivious Fish
Shaped uncannily like a spring fly, this small fish, an inhabitant of insect-infested mountain ponds, tended to swim near the water’s surface, where it flapped jerkily back and forth for long periods of time above schools of larger, carnivorous fish.

The Wandering Ant
As opposed to most ant colonies’ carefully cultivated trails, allowing multiple workers to return to locations necessary for the colony’s survival, each member of this obscure branch of the Formicidea family struck out on its own. Rarely able to find its way back to the anthill, it was quite powerless to share the good news when it happened upon a fat dead moth or a spilled snow-cone that could have fed millions.

The Speckled Siberian Vole
Much like the oxpecker bird and the African rhino, the relationship between this tiny rodent and the snow leopard was symbiotic. Curling up in the leopard’s warm mouth, the vole ate tiny particles of debris left over from the larger animal’s meals, thus acquiring sustenance. The leopard, in turn, acquired sustenance by eating the vole.

The Dueling Wolves of Romany
A species doomed to extinction by the males' unsustainable territoriality, the alpha wolves challenged each other to duels that, in the pistol and ball era, were calamitous enough but which proved catastrophic in the grenade-launcher era.