I love creative science analogies, which is why I'm digging this story about a lecture given by Bob Paul, a biology professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland. Paul attempts to explain some of the basic concepts of evolutionary theory using candy. For instance, the Mars-made Snickers bar and the Nestle-made OhHenry! bar can be thought of as examples of convergent evolution—unrelated species developing similar traits in response to similar environmental pressures. Some of his examples get a little too convoluted, but this one—an explanation of how two groups of the same species can turn into two different species—is delightful.
Paul also discussed one of Darwin's major discoveries on his way to publishing The Origin of Species. After noticing 13 finch species on the Galápagos Islands (west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean) and the different environments on each of the islands, Darwin proposed that an ancestral finch species, spread over all of the islands, began to diverge into several new species.
This occurred as each ancestral population developed distinctly different traits on each island to adapt to the selection pressures over evolutionary time.
Paul used this phenomenon (known as allopatric speciation) to explain the evolution of Hershey Kisses and Snow Caps, both with a similar shape but the latter with a sugar-covered top.
Beginning as one population of Hershey Kisses in an open plain with a mountain range, the candies were separated after a major environmental change caused the advancement of a glacier southwards that met with the mountain range, separating the population of Hershey Kisses across an impassable line of mountain and ice.
As the northernmost population began to adapt to cooler temperatures by selecting for a trait for "fur" (the sugar coating), the southernmost population maintained their furless structure.
Once the glacier receded, allowing both populations to intermingle again, they were two different species unable to successfully reproduce with one another.
Submitterated by candycritic
Image: Some rights reserved by Dawn Huczek
In the late 1960s and 1970s, the mind-expanding modus operandi of the counterculture spread into the realm of science, and shit got wonderfully weird. Neurophysiologist John Lilly tried to talk with dolphins. Physicist Peter Phillips launched a parapsychology lab at Washington University. Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill became an evangelist for space colonies. Groovy Science: Knowledge, […]
In a lead editorial in the current Nature, John Wilbanks (formerly head of Science Commons, now “Chief Commons Officer” for Sage Bionetworks) and Eric Topol (professor of genomics at the Scripps Institute) decry the mass privatization of health data by tech startups, who’re using a combination of side-deals with health authorities/insurers and technological lockups to […]
The Wall Street Journal reports that storytellers—people with a natural inclination to craft concise yet compelling narratives without rambling—were found to be hot by science. Feels good to be a writa. The results were the same across all three studies: Women rated men who were good storytellers as more attractive and desirable as potential long-term […]
Having to pack and drag your stuff through security can put quite the damper on your vacation plans. Thankfully, we’ve got your back with one way to make traveling more painless: the Jumper Overnighter Travel Bag.This compact bag is so lightweight that you can effortlessly carry it, and fit it into any overhead compartment. But just […]
Learning is a 24/7/365 proposition, and it never ends. And if you’re truly serious about leveling up your skill sets and career prospects, get a subscription to Stone River Academy’s massive course collection. This offer normally is worth over $1,400, but is now available for just $89 in the Boing Boing Store.A respected name in information technology […]
Home audio has taken some big leaps forward in recent years–not just in terms of sound quality, but also in the style department. The FRESHeBAR Leather Soundbar, now 56% off in the Boing Boing Store, is proof.The FRESHeBAR comes packing almost all the options you’d ever need for a home sound system, including Bluetooth streaming capabilities.The unit’s 90 […]