Thursday, April 30, 2015

Peacock Spider

The video below shows the courtship dance (set to music) of an Australian species of spider, which for reasons which will become obvious, is called the Peacock spider. There are a couple of things about this which are amazing. One, of course, is the pattern of the spider's abdomen which looks like it was painted to look like a witch-doctor's mask. The other is the astonishing dance this arthropod, with a brain the size of a pinhead, performs.

Take a look:
The standard model in biology has it that DNA codes for proteins which in turn build tissues and enzymes. Thus, inheritance of physical structure seems explicable in terms of DNA. What's inexplicable is the inheritance of behavior. How do proteins synthesized by DNA produce a species-specific behavior, and how does behavior get transmitted from generation to generation? If there's an answer to these questions I've never come across it. Maybe someone with a deeper understanding of biology than I have can write in and explain it to me.

Meanwhile, I marvel at the behavior found throughout the animal kingdom that's somehow programmed into organisms - from the mass migrations of monarch butterflies, to the waggle dance of bees, to insect metamorphosis, to the nest parasitism of cowbirds, to the border collies' instinctive knowledge of how to herd sheep. How did these behaviors originate and how are they transmitted down the generations? And how can so many purposeful behaviors, which must number in the billions when every species of organism is inventoried, be produced by blind, purposeless serendipity? I suspect there's a Nobel Prize waiting for whoever answers this question.

There's more on the Peacock Spider at Evolution News and Views.