evolution according to futurama

By Alison Campbell 19/06/2011

One of my students sent me the link to this video (obviously thinking I could do with a bit of light relief from marking!): Futurama’s take on evolutionary arms races :-)


Cartoonists’ license aside,there’s a kernel of scientific content in here: evolutionary arms races aren’t all that unusual. In fact, it’s been suggested – in the “Red Queen” hypothesis – that such an arms race, between eukaryote organisms & their parasites and pathogens, may have driven the evolution of sexual reproduction. Your immune system acts as an agent of natural selection on pathogens and parasites: it may well detect and destroy or repel almost all of them, but those with a heritable trait that allows them to survive your attacks will survive and that useful trait (useful from the pathogen’s point of view!) will spread. This in turn generates new selection pressure on the host, and so on. Sexual reproduction, with its potential to throw up huge amounts of genetic variation in each new generation, may have given an edge in terms of producing genetic recombinations that allowed those indivduals with them to better fight off the bad guys :)

(On looking further, I found that Family Guy had their usual irreverent take on the subject as well, including a dig at Young-Earth creationists while they were at it…)

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