guppy evolution


One of the best parts of Stephen Colbert’s ‘The Colbert Report” as his regular feature – “The Word”. Today’s word is – “Evolution”. The response to failure that has evolved deep in our minds is itself a process driven and guided by failure. As Tim Harford describes in his commentary on adaptation…

  • Biologists have a word for the way in which solution emerge from failure: evolution. Often summarised as the survival of the fittest, evolution is a process driven by the failure of the unfit…Evolution is effective because, rather than engaging in an exhaustive, time-consuming search for the highest peak – a peak that may not even be there tomorrow – it produces ongoing ‘works for now’ solutions to a complex and ever-changing set of problems…Professor Endler’s guppy experiments [showing that guppies with lots of colours live in areas where there are fewer predators since colours make them easier to spot] are a modern classic in evolutionary biology, and a striking example of how a population adapts to a new problem…It was a decentralised process, because no guppy planned the response. And it was driven by failure: some guppies were eaten, while others went on to produce future generation of well-adapted baby guppies.”