Education through travel… Evolution and natural selection

Brad Frankel

Jul 4, 2016 | News, South Africa, Travel

Evolution and natural selection are pivotal topics in understanding animal adaptation and basically everything animal!

I love animals, so these blogs will be about everything animal. I’m going to write about the topics that got me really excited to lecture and the subjects that students talk about for their assignments. These blogs will be for all who love learning about animals but it will also act as a learning resource for students studying Animal Management, Behaviour, Biology, Communication, Conservation, Environmental science, Geography, Ecology, Marine Biology, Wildlife and Zoology there I think that’s all the subjects covered.

There is no better place to start other than at the very beginning. Learning about evolution and understanding natural selection.

The truth of the matter is that we are still searching for the precise start but science is ever more the consistent body providing the answers. Evolution is fact, our and all other species ancestory is traceable therefore making it fact. But is it groups, organisms or even genes that evolve?

Natural selection will favour individuals who utilise their ecology to the disadvantage of others and those who’s behaviour allows for them to be the best predator evaders or best prey catchers and so on. But it’s all about adaptation and how an animal’s behaviour adapts to its environment. I think the best way to understand anything is to be able to give examples. How can we understand the reproductive behaviour in lions? Female lions synchronise their oestrus cycle when a new male takes over because it allows for an increase in cub survival rate. When these cubs mature they’ll probably leave this pride in a group which naturally increases their chances of survival. Born together, survive and fight together there’s always safety in numbers. In order to produce one offspring that reaches adulthood it is said that lions can copulate up to 3000 times. Females opt to mate repeatedly with all male members of the coalition and its thought the reason for this is to increase paternity uncertainty which results in more protection for the cubs, e.g all the males are unsure who the father is, so all offer their protection. Finally, when new males take over a pride why do they kill the young? It is thought that by killing the young they will have a better chance of mating with the females. Females come into oestrus 24 months after successful births but if their offspring die then then come into oestrus much quicker, approximately 9 months which gives the new take over males a much better chance of passing on their genes. So infanticide will occur by natural selection. Before I went to South Africa I always thought lions were pretty lazy, simple animals but in truth they are super efficient and quite complicated. When you start to learn why an animal behaves a certain way you only then really start to understand it.

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