Friday, April 17, 2009

Charles Darwin's Study On Orchids: INTERESTING

­"Most people are familiar with Charles Darwin's activities aboard the HMS Beagle and its famous journey to South America. He made some of his most important observations on the Galapagos Islands, where each of the 20 or so islands supported a single subspecies of finch perfectly adapted to feed in its unique environment. But few people know much about Darwin's experiments after he returned to England. Some of them focused on orchids.

As Darwin grew and studied several native orchid species, he realized that the intricate orchid shap­es were adaptations that allowed the flowers to attract insects that would then carry pollen to nearby flowers. Each insect was perfectly shaped and designed to pollinate a single type of orchid, much like the beaks of the Galapagos finches were shaped to fill a particular niche. Take the Star of Bethlehem orchid (Angraecum sesquipedale), which stores nectar at the bottom of a tube up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) long. Darwin saw this design and predicted that a "matching" animal existed. Sure enough, in 1903, scientists discovered that the hawk moth sported a long proboscis, or nose, uniquely suited to reach the bottom of the orchid's nectar tube.

­Darwin used the data he collected about orchids and their insect pollinators to reinforce his theory of natural selection. He argued that cross-pollination produced orchids more fit to survive than orchids produced by self-pollination, a form of inbreeding that reduces genetic diversity and, ultimately, survivability of a species. And so three years after he first described natural selection in "On the Origin of Species," Darwin bolstered the modern framework of evolution with a few flower experiments. "


10 Science Experiments That Changed the World
by William Harris