Bumblebees stole Granny’s bonnet!

To many people, the word Columbine will conjure up images of the tragic high school massacre, which took place in Columbine, Colorado, in 1999.  Columbine is however, a rather attractive perennial flower, with the latin name, Aquilegia vulgaris L. This plant has been cultivated for centuries by gardeners and a variety of different hybrids of various…

Darwin’s finches: evolving into the future

A recent paper published in the journal Nature, reports the results of sequencing the genomes of all fourteen of the so-called Darwin’s finches, found on the  Galápagos islands (1). These, now famous bird species evolved from a common ancestor as recently as 1.5 million years ago (possibly 2.3 mya) according to previous mitochondrial DNA dating, adapting to…

The ancient lineage of insects

A recent paper published in the journal Science presents a reconstruction of the insect phylogeny (their ‘tree of life’ as it were) based on a gargantuan analysis of their DNA (1).  The huge team (I counted 101 authors!) of researchers studied the genomes – and the amino acid sequences they code for – from insects and other arthropods in…

Predation on butterflies

Many butterflies we see happily flying around are not perfect specimens! Far from it; they often have chunks missing from their wings; presumably as a result of some lucky escape from a pecking bird. Such imperfections often only become noticeable in photographs, as these two examples show. Yet these are survivors; their camoflague, or behaviour,…