Israel is evolving –on teaching evolution

This is good news. Until now, only the creationist version of science has been taught in our schools, with the exception of final year high school students who elect to take the biology matriculation exam (15,000 per year or so). Starting next year, all middle and high school students will begin learning some aspects of the evolutionary approach –they won’t learn about evolution as it applies to humans –no apes to cro-magnum to…– but they will learn about natural selection, survival of the fittest, and the role that passing on better adapted hereditary traits plays.

In celebration of this, forgive me, evolution of our educational standards and practices, here is a pretty cool story about a rapid-time evolution of crickets in Hawaii happening in our life times. See, there is a kind of fly in Hawaii –a relatively new invader kind of fly –that locates crickets by their chirping and then lays its eggs on them — the larvae then essentially slowly eat the cricket alive. The cricket populations were being decimated by these flies.

In just twenty years (a blink of the eye in evolutionary terms), the crickets on not just one but two Hawaiian islands have gone silent — no more cricket chirps to be heard. They weren’t all killed by these flies — there are still crickets on those islands in abundance but none of the ones there can make a cricket sound. Let’s hear it for the underdogs or, in this case, at least two crickets with different deformities that prevented them from making cricket music and who are now allowing their species to survive and thrive –and divide. Yep two.

As the crickets began to fall silent, scientists thought that crickets that had inherited the new deformity on one island (where the chirping was first noticed to be disappearing and the crickets began to be studied) were migrating to the other island and spreading the songless song of their now valuable genetic deformity –previously a real bad thing in the cricket world as the males (who make the music) use their chirping to attract females to mate. It turns out, however, that the crickets on island A all share a new songless body-type that is completely different from the body type of the equally-songless crickets living on island B.

Wow. Now this opens up a whole new set of behaviours and interesting evolutionary survival tactics to study: For instance, the chirping of the male crickets that we all know and love was what attracted the females to them to be known and loved in the biblical sense (e.g. for pro-creation). If they ain’t got no music man, what are they doing now, what new behavioural strategies have emerged and are being passed down that have proven successful in attracting the girls? Are they the same or are they different on islands A and B? It is quite possible that, in another 20 or 40 or 60 years, these two cricket populations (once the same kind of cricket) will bear almost no similarities to one another.


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