|Evolution in the News - April 2012|
|by Do-While Jones|
Who tells the better tale—Kipling or Time Magazine?
We have to give credit to Jay Leno for this idea. From time to time he does a comedy bit called, “Last Meal or Value Meal?” He presents the audience with a ridiculous menu, which is either a death-row inmate’s request for his last meal, or a value meal from a fast food restaurant. The audience has to indicate by applause if they think it is a last meal or a value meal. The audience is usually evenly divided.
We read a one-paragraph explanation of how zebras evolved stripes in the “Health & Science” section on page 15 of the February 20, 2012, issue of Time magazine. It sounded so much like one of Kipling’s Just So Stories for Little Children that we wondered if our readers could tell the difference.
So, we did some research to discover Kipling’s fanciful explanation for how zebras got their stripes. It turned out that his story, How the Leopard Got His Spots, contains explanations for how the leopard, zebra, and giraffe got their distinctive markings.
We wanted to print the two stories side-by-side to see if you could tell which was which. Sadly, the talking animals in the Kipling story would have been a dead give-away. (But Kipling’s belief that the natives are less highly evolved than white people could have fooled some people into thinking that Kipling’s story was the actual evolutionary explanation.)
So, to avoid contaminating the test with talking animals and racial bigotry, we extracted Kipling’s explanation and substituted it into the Time article. Here are both stories, presented in an order determined by the flip of a coin.
One of the most distinctive patterns in the animal kingdom may owe its existence to its evolutionary history. A new study shows that zebras first evolved in the forest, where stripes provided camouflage protecting them from predators. That may explain why zebra embryos start with dark skin but develop narrow, alternating black and white stripes before they're born.
One of the most distinctive patterns in the animal kingdom may owe its existence to the lowly horsefly. A new study shows that the voracious insect, which delivers painful bites and transmits disease, is most attracted to solid-colored hides. That may explain why zebra embryos start with dark skin but develop narrow, alternating black and white stripes before they're born.
Which is the “truth” and which is the tale? Should we tell you? Or should we make you look up both stories on the Internet? Isn’t it obvious which one is correct? Are you really sure? How much longer can we string you along? Isn’t it cruel for us to keep you in suspense like this? What kind of fiendish writer would take advantage of your doubts and make you second guess yourself like this? You really want us to tell you the answer, don’t you?
OK. We will tell you. Story 2 is the “truth” according to Time magazine. But, admit it! You weren’t really sure, were you?
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