Day 2: Form & Function
Today think about the reasons why organisms are the way they are. What do their traits do for their survival and reproduction?
For instance, the predominant function to which the form of a bird’s bill is matched is feeding. Look at a bird’s beak and you can guess correctly what it eats. We’ll start with a story about that, and then move on to how form fits function in insect parts, bird wings, spider webs, and cryptic color patterns. Natural selection is the process by which body parts, physiology, and behavior all become fit to specific purposes.
Reading: “Flexible Feeders (Summers 2004)”
Video: “How Bird Wings Work (Smarter Every Day)” (3:59)
Video: “Amazing Spider Baffles Scientists With Huge Web (BBC)” (3:15)
Video: “Can Cuttlefish Camouflage in a Living Room? (BBC)” (3:04)
Go outside and look around at the organisms you see today, and again reflect, this time on their traits. Why are they the shapes they are? Why are they the colors they are? Why do they move (or not move) the way they do? The study of the reason why organisms are fashioned the way they are is a relatively recent science. There are many questions that have still not been answered. We are not sure why tree leaf shapes are the way they are, for instance, nor why they change colors before falling in autumn. Naturalists like you may eventually answer these questions, as they already have thousands of others.