Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Inspiration #5: Natural Selection

Life is a paradox. The multi-celled organism is a singularity, an entity unto itself. Yet, this "singularity" may be composed of one-hundred trillion cells, each of which is also a living entity unto itself. The body of this multicellular organism is a coop; a community of single cells each collaborating to enable the larger "ONE" an opportunity to thrive. Interestingly, the "ONE" is only a single individual among "MANY" that compose a larger population. Natural selection acts on the "ONE" and influences the evolution of the "MANY." 

What is the essence of life? What motivates the changes that are so omnipresent on this planet? Why is diversity the norm rather than the exception? The answer these questions is not buried in some dogmatic text or religious ideology, it is exposed in plain sight for each of us to discover. Life exists to to reproduce. The variations we observe in an individual will enhance or diminish survival. A deleterious trait today is advantageous tomorrow. Only the environment, with its unpredictability, can influence when a negative characteristic becomes a positive. 

I am inspired by natural selection, and seek to photograph evolution in action. These Masai Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) are competing for access to a female hidden in the bush. As the males trade blows to the body by extending their necks and striking one other with a whip-like movement, only one will have the opportunity to mate today. Heritable traits influence the musculature of the neck, the robustness of the chest, and the capacity to withstand the physical abuse. Individual cells within the "ONE" will die with each striking blow, but the collective will survive nonetheless. Neither male will die today, but one may be honored with the greatest of biological prizes. He may have the opportunity to mate, propagate his genes, and influence the "MANY." I say "may," because the decision is not his alone. The female is the chooser. She will choose to be receptive or choose deny his approach. She guards her precious eggs and will ultimately decide which "ONE" will increase her opportunity to win the game of life, propagate, and influence the "MANY."  

About The Image: Competition, Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. Canon 1DmkII, 300 f2.8IS + 1.4x Converter @ f5.6
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