You want a useful, practical, obvious example of evolution in action? Try this summary of corn evolution.
Very nice. I like the point that it is possible to get big changes just by recombining the genetics that is already present, without having to wait for a mutation. This lets you gradually accumulate variations over time that don’t necessarily change the form of the species much, but then when conditions change the variability that has been accumulated can be rapidly reshuffled to make big changes fast. I expect that a similar analysis could be made for the dozens of different crops that were derived from the Brassica genus – cabbage, turnips, kohlrabi, mustard, broccoli, cauliflower, the list goes on and on and on . . . They were apparently all derived from crossing and selecting just three ancestral species. I regularly get a seed catalog for “winter gardening” from Territorial Seeds, and it’s amusing to look at the pages and pages of highly distinct crops that are all, say, Brassica oleracea.
An interesting addendum is the etymology of the word “teosinte”. It comes from Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs, and part of the Uto-Aztecan family of languages) and is made up from the words “teotl” and “cintli”.
The -tl or -tli are just noun suffixes (the former is used when the root ends in a vowel; the latter for a consonant), so teosinte breaks down into “teo” “cin” and “tli”.
“Teo” means god; “cin” means corn (the domesticated, “engineered” kind). So, “teosinte” is “God’s corn”, or “corn of the gods.”
Hmmm. Maybe the Indians knew where they got their maize from.
I’ve always found it amazing that people were willing to eat teosinte and slowly process it into a more useful foodsource.
“God created the sea, the Frisian the coast.”
– saying from the German North Sea coast
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