July 14, 2014 | David F. Coppedge

Animal Physics: Shocking but True

Geckos cling with electricity, and electric fish have shocking genes – just samples of recent reports about how animals master laws of physics.

Electrifying feet help geckos keep their grip, an article in New Scientist says.  For the first time, researchers have found that static electricity is the dominant force in the gecko walk over the atomic van der Waal’s forces previously theorized.

Scorpions are master architects at air conditioning, Science Daily reports.  Their little dens provide airflow and temperature balances that help them survive both heat and cold. At the bottom of their complex burrows, a “cool, humid chamber, where evaporation water loss is minimal, provides a refuge for the scorpions to rest during the heat of the day.”

Ditto for trapdoor spiders:  Air conditioning is a specialty of trapdoor spiders, PhysOrg says about surprised scientists who found a beautifully camouflaged trapdoor in the midwest.  Some burrows can be 30 cm deep.  “By having such a deep burrow they can keep the temperature and humidity at a constant level throughout the year.”

Morpho butterflies have master optics, an article in the BBC News suggests.  Researcher’s reaction to the beautiful optics of the butterfly’s structural colors, which she hopes to imitate in the lab: “You start with the small creatures you see around you and that gives you this life-long love and curiosity to pursue these interests in later life.”  The products of this bio-inspiration may be cosmetics and bomb detectors.

Amazing FactsQuick guide to peacock spiders, another colorful critter, is provided by Current Biology.  The males of this genus do colorful dances for the females, dazzling their eyes with colorful fantails of structural color.  Not only that: “specialized structures in their primary eyes have allowed them to approach the physical limit of optical resolution for their compact size.”  Want to feel inferior?  “Salticid color vision is much better than ours, more similar to that of birds, with as many as four evenly spaced channels, including a UV-sensitive photoreceptor (humans have only three and no UV sensitivity).”  The dances of these tiny spiders are both humorous and remarkable (see video on Live Science).

A frog’s jump is not as simple as it seems, an article on Science Daily begins.  “Australian scientists have discovered that different species adopt different jumping styles depending on their environment.”  The shape of the frog’s pelvis plays a role in its jumping ability.

Birds co-operate within a communal nest to achieve a common good, an article on PhysOrg begins.  Weaver birds in Africa build the largest communal nests of any bird.  The massive nests, able to accommodate hundreds of birds, can weigh several tons and last for decades.

Scientists Find the Shocking Truth About Electric Fish, an article on NewsWise begins.  It says, “electric fish have used to convert [sic] a simple muscle into an organ capable of generating a potent electrical field.”  Science Magazine, looking into the genomics of this phenomenon, explains it by “convergent evolution of electric organs.”  Indeed, NewsWise points to a half dozen independent discoveries of electricity in fish, using the same genetic toolbox, according to the evolutionary explanation.  “Their taxonomic diversity is so great that Darwin himself cited electric fishes as critical examples of convergent evolution, where unrelated animals independently evolve similar traits to adapt to a particular environment or ecological niche.”  The evolution story, though, tends to distract attention from the amazing physics of the phenomenon.  (Another case of “extremely rapid convergent evolution” was reported in a Current Biology paper about crickets, but in this case it involved loss of function—mutated hind legs no longer able to produce sound.)

When things look too good to be true, we say the devil is in the details.  When things turn out even better than they already appear to be, we should say God is in the details.  When it comes to evolutionists, both apply: God is in the detailed design of their bodies and minds, but the devil in the details of their world view.



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