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Adaptation, the clincher

We live with the belief that the fittest and finest outlive nature’s vagaries. But the reality is that adaptation, not power, is the most potent insurance towards survival and procreation. While the mightiest, a la dinosaurs, may face extinction resisting change, the tiny twig will survive to blossom another time by making allowances for the storm to pass.

columns Updated: Sep 03, 2013 01:17 IST
Rajvir Singh

We live with the belief that the fittest and finest outlive nature’s vagaries. But the reality is that adaptation, not power, is the most potent insurance towards survival and procreation. While the mightiest, a la dinosaurs, may face extinction resisting change, the tiny twig will survive to blossom another time by making allowances for the storm to pass.

I was recently witness to a stunning example of adaptation inside nature’s artistic milieu. At a friend’s farm, I was beholden with a view which had all but receded from the deepest stratum of reminiscence.

The veritably unexpected sighting of some architectural marvels of nests created by weaver birds by braiding threads, drawn from the abundance of blades of sugarcane stems all around. Not on a tree, not astride a bush, not even inside an abandoned structure; the contraption was rooted to one of the three strands of an electric line, running through the fields.

What caused further amusement was the deed of using only the lower-most line for the purpose. This, to my mind, must have been to ward off historical predators from harming their newborns.

We, as humans, must take a lesson from this. Other than technology and adaptability, another thing that can save us the day is our social behaviour.

And there is news to cheer the do-gooders among us. A study by two evolutionary biologists from Michigan State University says evolution does not favour the selfish, it “punishes them”. It is indeed a welcome endorsement of belief long held, transporting it from the realm of speculation to one of reality. The study further says, “For a short time and against a specific set of opponents, some selfish organisms may come out ahead. But selfishness is not evolutionarily sustainable.” The scientists are emphatic in their view that evolution will punish you if you are selfish. It is time we took note and made amends to hallmark co-operation and support as bywords for our behavioural patterns for the sake of human race.