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Big Themes

The Theme of Evolution in Animal Movement

All living things on this planet are in a constant battle for survival. They are competing against each other and their environment. This dangerous environment allows animals with certain characteristics to survive and reproduce better than others. This causes animals with certain characteristics to become more prevalent and animals with other characteristics to disappear from the population. This is called natural selection and is how animals' characteristics can change over time and how new species can be created. The differences between the animals on the planet are direct evidence of evolution.

Movement

Animal movement is one such characteristic that can help or hinder animal survival and reproduction. Think about the pronk gait. Very few animals use the pronk gait, but it must have provided an advantage over other forms of gait to be naturally selected for.

Imagine a population of gazelles many years ago grazing. Suddenly, a cheetah appears. Most gazelles have the type of legs that make it easy for them to rotary gallop, while others have legs that allow them to pronk. When the group of gazelles tries to escape, the gazelles that use a rotary gallop often get caught and eaten by the cheetah. The gazelles which pronk high in the air are better at surviving cheetah attacks. These gazelles are then more likely to reproduce. Over time, more pronking gazelles are born. Eventually, all gazelles are pronking gazelles. Think about other animal movements, all the unique movements of animals were probably selected for in a similar way.

Temperature Regulation

Temperature regulation is a key part of homeostasis. Since temperature regulation is so important for animal survival, it is often a reason why certain characteristics are selected for. For example, many animals have different types of fur or hair. These differences were all selected for at some point.

Perhaps at one time there was a group of bears. One of them had a warmer coat than the other bears. This allowed that bear to survive the cold weather better. Over time, many of these heavy-coat-wearing bears appeared. Eventually, the shaggy bears began to live in a colder environment than the other bears and the two populations began to separate. Today, they might be completely different species of bears.

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