The back wall of the house where we spend each summer is lined with plants that have been among my favorites since my childhood—hollyhocks (Alcaea, most often A. rosea, Family Malvaceae). The stems grow tall enough to project above the rain gutters. The buds at the top give way to open flowers below, and then to maturing fruits near the bottom. Every morning bumblebees arrive to frolic in the flowers, flitting from one to another. A garden paradise awaiting a close look!
Many birds are clad in brilliant plumage, especially in springtime. The color patterns in the plumage are highly specific and are used by the birds as social signals or for camouflage. To a biologist, the feathers themselves raise a host of questions. Read More
Both living things and the non-living world consist of molecules. The molecules that make up each one of us are largely the same as those that make up every other person and animal on the planet. Molecules make up everything in the world of our experience.
“Autumn is a season of great beauty, but it is also a season of decline: the days grow shorter, the light is suffused, and summer’s abundance decays toward winter’s death. Faced with this inevitable winter, what does nature do in autumn? She scatters the seeds that will bring new growth in the spring—she scatters them with amazing abandon.”
Sensitivity to light is so universally useful that many kinds of animals have evolved eyes. The structure of the eyes of diverse animals, however, varies considerably, and with this variation come differences in what information about the world the eyes can capture and convey to the brain. Thus, the role of vision in the lives of different animals cannot be assumed to be similar to our own experience. Let’s look at some examples.