Variation and selection

Well hey, another little leftover from the Carnegie I should have mentioned before.

There are of course a multitude of ways of presenting ideas in museum exhibits. This one is not only well done (showing the natural variation present in a selection of specimens of one species alongside male and female differences and by extension a little of the diversity and variation seen between species) but has a little resonance for me as it combines two other displays I have seen and commented on before. Tokyo has a nice cabinet showing the diversity seen in a single species (mentioned here, but not shown I’m afraid) and Oxford commented on the diversity of beetles with this lovely effort.

In all three cases the message is simple, but a profoundly important part of biology as a whole and the mechanics of evolution specifically. Communicating that quickly, effectively, simply but with maximum impact and interest is a real challenge and whoever came up with these various cabinets deserves much credit for having done so.

6 Responses to “Variation and selection”


  1. 1 Zhen 06/05/2012 at 3:42 pm

    I love beetles. I wish we had some of those big beetles here in New York.

    • 2 steve cohen 06/05/2012 at 4:03 pm

      My first apartment in NYC had beetles every bit as big as those!

      I once dropped a phone directory on one trying to kill it and it just crawled away unharmed!

      • 3 Zhen 07/05/2012 at 3:12 pm

        I guess my area just lacks big beetles, or I don’t know where to look for them. I bet there are giants in central park.

  2. 4 Robert A. Sloan 06/05/2012 at 5:51 pm

    Wow. I’m a bit stunned these are all the same species. That’s incredible. Thanks for posting about this and sharing the photo. I knew beetles had a lot of variation but this really shows it so well!

    • 5 David Hone 06/05/2012 at 5:58 pm

      Well they are not *all* of the same species. The two huge block in the middle are 2 species, and then the rows at the top and bottom are from others. Sorry if that’s not too clear.

    • 6 Mark Robinson 07/05/2012 at 3:44 am

      Just to clarify – the top row depicts variation within a family (look to be scarabs), next three rows are variation within a single species, next three are (different) species variation again, and last row is variation between the sexes – the larger, more ornamented being the males.

      Was disappointed to not see any quotations from JBS Haldane. :-)


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