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  • Specimen of the Week 259 : Bird of Paradise

    By Jack Ashby, on 30 September 2016

    Less bird-of paradise skeleton. LDUCZ-Y1696

    Less bird-of paradise skeleton. LDUCZ-Y1696

    If natural selection can be summarised as “survival of the fittest”, how is it that some animals have evolved features that seem to be rather unhelpful to their survival? Deer antlers, peacock tails and babirusa tusks do not help an animal to stay alive. Darwin asked a similar question in The Origin of Species, and also came up with an answer – sexual selection.

    Sexual selection is a sub-set of natural selection, where the driving force is not on the animal to survive, but instead to have the most descendants. It is the mechanism by which species evolve weapons that help them fight off rivals; ornaments that make them more attractive to the opposite sex; or behaviours that ensure sexual encounters result in more or fitter babies. One of the best examples of absurdly ornamented animals are male birds-of-paradise. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 202: The preserved coconut crab

    By Will J Richard, on 24 August 2015

    Hello! Will Richard here. Turning my mind (and now yours) to specimen of the week once again. And it’s back to the world of invertebrates, but certainly not microscopic ones. In fact, this invertebrate is bigger than most animals full of backbone. If we use the “Richard theoretical comparison of interspecies violence” (RTCIV) (something which I’m hoping will soon be adopted by the wider scientific community) I’m not sure I could beat it in a fight. This week’s specimen is…

    LDUCZ-H272 Coconut crab (Birgus latro)

    LDUCZ-H272 Coconut crab (Birgus latro)

    (more…)