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Dear Evolution: Letters of Gripe and Gratitude


By Mara Grunbaum and Ferris Jabr

Dear Evolution,

Let's start with the wings: did you really have to turn them into flippers? Don't get us wrong—we appreciate the swimming and diving talents. But couldn’t you have come up with some kind of compromise so that we could still fly? Maybe a 2-in-1 special, a wing/flipper hybrid? After all, there are fish that can fly. Some squid can fly. And they don't even have feathers. We know we're not alone in being flightless, but you made ostriches, emus and cassowaries total badasses, what with their powerful legs and deadly claws. We're more like large tuxedoed kiwis.

At least kiwis get to roam lush New Zealand. We're stuck on the coldest, driest, windiest continent on the planet. We live in Earth's deep freezer—way at the back, with the pack of peas encrusted in ice. Speaking of ice, where are our retractable keratin crampons? That doesn't seem like a particularly complicated adaptation. You showed a lot of foresight with snowshoe hares and you found the time to decorate gecko feet with bazillions of sticky microhairs. Can we get a little traction too? We're pretty good at waddling, but we still slip and fall over—a lot.

Finally, there's the matter of our voices. There seems to be something of a musical imbalance in the bird world. Thrushes, finches, warblers, Lyrebirds and the like—you gave them all your acoustic gifts. What about the rest of us? Considering that we live somewhere so barren—where the only ambient sounds are calving glaciers, furious frigid gusts and the creepy distended whistles of Weddell seals—it would be really nice to entertain ourselves with some songs. Unfortunately, our best attempts at melody sound like a car struggling to start.

We may live at the bottom of the world but we think it's time you moved us to the top of your priority list.


Emperor Penguins


Dear Evolution,


No love,



Dear Evolution,

Send help. Soon.


Angora Rabbit



Dear Evolution,

It’s rather odd, you know. Considering how important reproduction is to your whole raison d'être and whatnot, one would think that you'd make it as pleasant as possible. And yet so often it's such a ghastly affair. All that belly-swelling and nutrient-sharing and hatching through odd orifices—I dare say it's all most undignified.

So I find it quite delightful that when it came time to delegate within my species, you placed the burden of childbirth on the fairer sex—by which, of course, I mean the males. It's just such a relief not to be troubled with it. All I have to do is perform a lovely mating dance and then inject him with my ovipositor; then he's the one who carries the precious little parasites around and forcibly expels them from his abdomen when the time comes. It's no fuss for me at all. I don't know why the females of other species put up with all that nonsense, honestly.

It was just so terribly thoughtful of you. And this way I have much more time to party.

With undying gratitude,

Lady Seahorse


Dear Evolution,

How you doin'?

Birds of Paradise


This post was brought to you by Mara Grunbaum, creator of WTF, Evolution?, and Ferris Jabr, associate editor at Scientific American.


Image Credits:

Giraffe: cjuneja, via Flickr

Angora rabbit: Betty Chu, via Wikimedia Commons

Seahorse: Nick Hobgood, via Wikimedia Commons

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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