This book is about how invertebrate animals function—not just about how they work but also about why they work in the way they do. The term function means ‘the work a system is designed to do’, but in a biological context design is not quite the correct word, for organisms are not intelligently conceived nor are they intelligently selected. The characters we now see associated with organisms are the ones that, having arisen in the first place by chance, have persisted because they are better than others at promoting the survival of their bearers and their ability to reproduce. John Ray (1627–1705) and William Paley (1743–1805) thought that they saw evidence for the work of an intelligent designer in the organisation of living things but Charles Darwin (1809–82) replaced all that with a process based simply on mutation and a ‘struggle for existence’. He called it natural selection. By functional biology then, I mean the search for explanations of the success of particular traits in given ecological circumstances; or why, in other words, those traits which have turned up by chance have then been naturally selected. There is also a very important predictive side to the programme. What traits would be expected to evolve in particular ecological conditions?
KeywordsNatural Selection Horseshoe Crab Intelligent Designer Optimisation Principle Living Thing
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