Monday, 9 March 2009

I think you'll find mine's bigger than yours.

With all the programmes on the TV and radio about Charles Darwin, 200th anniversary of his birth and also 150 years since the publication of 'On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection', I speculated that these two ducks could have a conversation about how they ended up with beaks like that. The Mallard has a pretty big beak and its scientific name is Anas (duck) platyrhynchos - platus, wide/wide and rhynchos, beak. The Shoveler is A. clypeata - shield, vault of heaven shaped, referring to it bill. Presumably, if you are not a creationist, then it is pretty obvious that these two started from a common ancestor. In the intervening millions of years ducks have diversified world wide with about 113 species in the same family branch as these two and 40 species in the groups of dabbling ducks. The first fossil remains of ducks come from about 40-50 million years ago. This time scale is too difficult for me to actually visualise, it is certainly in a different league to the dog breeding analogy I used a few days ago. Darwin's home, Downe House is open to the public, with virtual tours by David Attenborough and Andrew Marr. It is just about in Kent, although I guess the current boundaries put it into Greater London.

No comments: