Why Evolution is True

| 142 Comments

I hope Jerry Coyne will forgive me that my frequent thought as I was reading his new book, Why Evolution Is True(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) was, “Wow, this sure is easier to read than that other book.” That other book, of course, is Coyne and Orr’s comprehensive text on Speciation(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), which is a technical and detailed survey of the subject in the title, and that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend to anyone who wasn’t at least a graduate student in biology. We all have our impressions colored by prior expectations, you know, and Jerry Coyne is that high-powered ecology and evolution guy at the University of Chicago whose papers I’ve read.

The new book is simple to summarize: just read the title. It’s aimed at a lay audience and answers the question of why biologists are so darned confident about the theory of evolution by going through a strong subset of the evidence. It begins with a discussion of what evolution is, then each subsequent chapter is organized around a class of evidence: fossils, embryology and historical accidents, biogeography, natural selection, sexual selection, speciation, and human evolution. If you want a straightforward primer in the experiments and observations that have made evolution the foundational principle of modern biology, this is the book for you.

Why Evolution is True makes an almost entirely positive case for evolution; it has an appropriate perspective on the current American conflict between science and religious fundamentalism that avoids dwelling on creationist nonsense, but still acknowledges where common misconceptions occur and where creationist PR, such as the Intelligent Design creationism fad, has raised stock objections. It’s a good strategy — the structure of this book is not dictated by creationist absurdities, but by good science, and creationism is simply noted where necessary and swatted down efficiently. It’s a more powerful tool for it, too — creationists can lie faster than anyone can rebut them, so the best strategy is to focus on the real evidence and force critics to address it directly.

You all really ought to pick up a copy of this book if you don’t already have a sound understanding of the basic lines of evidence for evolution (or, if you do, you could always get Speciation to get a little more depth). I recommend it unreservedly. Oh, except for one little reservation: it won’t be available until January. Go ahead and put it on your Amazon pre-order list, then.

142 Comments

PZ,

I agree that Coyne and Orr’s Speciation book is a tough read, but as textbooks go, it is definitely one of the better written ones.

(or, if you do, you could always get Speciation to get a little more depth).

That amount of depth would probably go way over my head… :p

When something evolves, does it evolve one atom, one molecule, or a group of molecules at a time? Where do the molecules come from?

Just curious.

Hi, bobby.

novparl said: Just curious.

Liar.

novparl said:

When something evolves, does it evolve one atom, one molecule, or a group of molecules at a time? Where do the molecules come from?

Just curious.

Magic. Everyone knows that! :)

OK, do you have a legitimate question?

I think it would be fun for PT to collaborate on a deadpan Darwin-bashing review of this book and then send it to UNCOMMON DESCENT. “It’s not like we don’t see you folks coming.” I could probably write a better hatchet job than they could. Maybe I will when I get my hands on it.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Henry J said:

That amount of depth would probably go way over my head… :p

I was thinking of Gould’s master text on evolution in this context. Such books don’t merely get you in over your head, they are tied to your ankles with a chain before you’re thrown overboard.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

1. Yes

2. You eat, don’t you?

novparl said:

When something evolves, does it evolve one atom, one molecule, or a group of molecules at a time? Where do the molecules come from?

Just curious.

iml8 said:

I think it would be fun for PT to collaborate on a deadpan Darwin-bashing review of this book and then send it to UNCOMMON DESCENT. “It’s not like we don’t see you folks coming.” I could probably write a better hatchet job than they could. Maybe I will when I get my hands on it.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Ah, Greg, you actually think UD will wait to read the book before they write their review? Casey’s probably got the whole thing done, barring a few cases of [insert page number or quote here].

Dale Husband said:

OK, do you have a legitimate question?

“Why did the chicken cross the road?”

Let’s see:

Ken Ham: “Did you see it?”

Michael Behe: “The chicken was irreducibly complex and so could not have crossed the road without help from a Designer.”

William Dembski: “I don’t have to connect your pathetic chicken tracks.”

Henry Morris: “Chicken tracks have been found alongside dinosaur footprints.”

Richard Dawkins: “The chicken is merely a survival machine for its genes, and the actions it takes are to ensure the successful propagation of those genes.”

Can’t think of any more for the moment. Help would be appreciated.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Is it just me, or did “novparl” post the same drive-by comment in at least one other previous thread, then disappear without a trace? DNFTT!!

iml8 said:

“Why did the chicken cross the road?”

Can’t think of any more for the moment. Help would be appreciated.

Stephen J Ghould: The question “why” is not in the magisterium of science. Let us respect NOMA.

Neil Shubin: The chicken is really a fish. It is technically crossing the river, except the world has changed and the river has become a road.

Sarah Palin: To escape a blast from my 22 gauge shot gun.

Jared Diamond: In New Guinea it would have been a bird of paradise, not chicken, and it could not have crossed the road because there are none in the New Guinea high lands.

Bobby Jindal: Because this side of the road is Louisiana, it crossed the road/state lines to get better education.

PvM: ‘While it is good that chickens are crossing roads, it is always helpful to remember the words of St Augustine…’

Colonel Sanders: “I missed one?”

LOL :) Been watching yo’all yell at brick walls for some time now. Haven’t laughed this hard since the first of the flatfish post! Have fun. Keep up the good work.

John Ostrom: “That’s really just a highly modified dinosaur crossing the road.”

Charles Darwin: “To propose that the chicken, with all its inimitable contrivances, could cross the road seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.”

T.H. Huxley: “I unhesitatingly affirm my preference for the chicken!”

Gregor Mendel: “It came across and got into my pea plants.”

Casey Luskin: “The failure to properly define the term ‘road’ is a fatal flaw that renders the argument fallacious.”

J.B.S Haldane: “Evolution could be disproved by the presence of chickens in the PreCambrian.”

Phillip Johnson: “The issue cannot be assessed in an impartial fashion as long as scientific materialism remains the established dogma.”

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Are these two Coynes (Jerry and George, not Tom) worth more that 10cents - a paradigms

Michael Roberts said: … a paradigms

Oh, somebody just got to put in his two bits … and get a nickel back.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Why evolution isn’t true:

1. Evolution predicts that genetic complexity is gained gradually, but specific genetic material for creating advanced features appeared “long before” in organisms that supposedly evolved millions of years earlier:

“Long before animals with limbs (tetrapods) came onto the scene about 365 million years ago, fish already possessed the genes associated with helping to grow hands and feet (autopods) report University of Chicago researchers … The capability of building limbs with fingers and toes existed for a long period of time, but it took a set of environmental triggers to make use of that capability… ‘It had the tools,’ he said, ‘but it needed the opportunity as well.’” http://www.scientificblogging.com/n[…]genetic_data_ overturns_long_held_theory_of_limb_development

“A recently sequenced genome of sea urchin (see Fig. 1) represents another very clear example of a seemingly excessive genetic complexity. As mentioned above, the relatively simple sea urchin has about 24,000 genes, same as more complex vertebrates. Though sea urchin lacks eyes and, of course, brain, it has six opsins, belonging to several families found in humans, Drosophila, Scallops and other groups. While the presence of the opsins could be explained by their possible function in a simple light sensing, sea urchin has the entire set of orthologs of major genes involved in the eye development … Therefore, it appears that information on the eye development is encoded in the sea urchin genome, while no eye is actually developed, and thus the genetic information seems to be excessive.” http://www.machanaim.org/philosof/n[…]l_genome.htm

“Another surprise came from a complexity of components of the immune system in sea urchin. In addition to an extremely well developed system of the innate immunity, these animals possess genes encoding major components of the adaptive immune response … Yet, sea urchin does not have antibodies, and possibly lacks adaptive immunity in general. Genes that are seemingly useless in sea urchin but are very useful in higher taxons exemplify excessive genetic information in lower taxons.” http://www.machanaim.org/philosof/n[…]l_genome.htm

“Despite being developmentally simple–with no organs or many specialized cells–the placozoan has counterparts of the transcription factors that more complex organisms need to make their many body parts and tissues. It also has genes for many of the proteins, such as membrane proteins, needed for specialized cells to coordinate their function. “Many genes viewed as having particular ‘functions’ in bilaterians or mammals turn out to have much deeper evolutionary history than expected, raising questions about why they evolved,” says Douglas Erwin, an evolutionary biologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in Washington, D.C.” http://darwiniana.com/2008/09/20/%E[…]80%99-animal% E2%80%99s-genome-proves-unexpectedly-complex/

http://www.whoisyourcreator.com/com[…]descent.html

2. For the fossil ‘evidence’ ruse created by evolutionary ‘science,’ go to: http://www.whoisyourcreator.com/fos[…]vidence.html

Evolution predicts that all of you will cry, “quote-mining” “straw man” and the new buzz word, “trolling”!

Your thoery would be better served by someone actually providing competing evidence from actual research or observation instead of the impending whinning…

Why evolution isn’t true:

1. Evolution predicts that genetic complexity is gained gradually, but specific genetic material for creating advanced features appeared “long before” in organisms that supposedly evolved millions of years earlier:

“Long before animals with limbs (tetrapods) came onto the scene about 365 million years ago, fish already possessed the genes associated with helping to grow hands and feet (autopods) report University of Chicago researchers … The capability of building limbs with fingers and toes existed for a long period of time, but it took a set of environmental triggers to make use of that capability… ‘It had the tools,’ he said, ‘but it needed the opportunity as well.’” http://www.scientificblogging.com/n[…]genetic_data_ overturns_long_held_theory_of_limb_development

“A recently sequenced genome of sea urchin (see Fig. 1) represents another very clear example of a seemingly excessive genetic complexity. As mentioned above, the relatively simple sea urchin has about 24,000 genes, same as more complex vertebrates. Though sea urchin lacks eyes and, of course, brain, it has six opsins, belonging to several families found in humans, Drosophila, Scallops and other groups. While the presence of the opsins could be explained by their possible function in a simple light sensing, sea urchin has the entire set of orthologs of major genes involved in the eye development … Therefore, it appears that information on the eye development is encoded in the sea urchin genome, while no eye is actually developed, and thus the genetic information seems to be excessive.” http://www.machanaim.org/philosof/n[…]l_genome.htm

“Another surprise came from a complexity of components of the immune system in sea urchin. In addition to an extremely well developed system of the innate immunity, these animals possess genes encoding major components of the adaptive immune response … Yet, sea urchin does not have antibodies, and possibly lacks adaptive immunity in general. Genes that are seemingly useless in sea urchin but are very useful in higher taxons exemplify excessive genetic information in lower taxons.” http://www.machanaim.org/philosof/n[…]l_genome.htm

“Despite being developmentally simple–with no organs or many specialized cells–the placozoan has counterparts of the transcription factors that more complex organisms need to make their many body parts and tissues. It also has genes for many of the proteins, such as membrane proteins, needed for specialized cells to coordinate their function. “Many genes viewed as having particular ‘functions’ in bilaterians or mammals turn out to have much deeper evolutionary history than expected, raising questions about why they evolved,” says Douglas Erwin, an evolutionary biologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in Washington, D.C.” http://darwiniana.com/2008/09/20/%E[…]80%99-animal% E2%80%99s-genome-proves-unexpectedly-complex/

http://www.whoisyourcreator.com/com[…]descent.html

2. For the fossil ‘evidence’ ruse created by evolutionary ‘science,’ go to: http://www.whoisyourcreator.com/fos[…]vidence.html

Evolution predicts that all of you will cry, “quote-mining” “straw man” and the new buzz word, “trolling”!

Your thoery would be better served by someone actually providing competing evidence from actual research or observation instead of the impending whinning…

Of course if the genes needed for future evolutionary developments were lacking in progenitor species (and thus in less modified descendents of those progenitors), the IDists would be saying “see, an intelligence had to step in.”

Find the genes necessary for gradual evolution, and the same people unintelligently conclude that the needed genes were functionless in the progenitors and the result of front-loading.

IOW, they’re just intent on blasting away at evolution no matter how well it explains and fits the evidence. And they never once come up with any sort of design explanation for anything at all, only denials conjured up to save the long-lost “hypothesis”.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

“The idea that the chicken crossed the road is clearly not supported by the evidence … “

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

From his website:

“Examine for yourself what is more scientific - The Theory of Evolution or the Genesis Account of Creation?”

But my opinion is that his post is off-topic - to the bathroom wall with it! Not to mention don’t feed the troll!

Who is Your Creator,

No whining at all, instead I pose my usual query to you:

There are about SEVENTEEN MILLION individual peer-reviewed scientific papers indexed at the National Library of Medicine’s online public database (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez/). Not a single paper refutes evolution, and not a single paper provides data in support of intelligent design or traditional creationism. What is the reason for this?

1. ID/Creationism is based on supernatural (or otherwise untestable) causation, and thus is not science 2. There is a vast global conspiracy that has prevented even a single piece of data supporting ID/Creationism from being published in peer-reviewed scientific literature 3. ID/Creationism proponents are utterly incompetent at performing scientific research

Ben Stein: “The chicken’s crossing of the road was an event that led inevitably to the Holocaust.”

Genie Scott: “To maintain its tax-exempt status.”

P.Z. Myers: “I don’t know about chickens, but if it had been a cephalopod … “

Judge John Jones III: “The attempt to show that chickens could not cross the road was an exercise in breathtaking inanity and a waste of personal and monetary resources.”

Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck: “It crossed the road in its efforts to become a superior chicken.”

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

who is your creator keeps polluting these threads with his debunked claims.

What a fool

Handjobby: “How much information is conveyed by the chicken crossing the road?”

Keith Eaton: “If any of you evolanders had half the understanding of chickshit that I do, you’d know why the turdeating chicken crossed the materialist road”.

FL: “The Bible does not say the chicken crossed the road”

Paul Nelson: “Let me research that and I’ll get back to you with an answer”

Winston Churchill: “Some chicken! Some road!”

Berlinsky: “Mathematically, it’s impossible for a chicken to cross a road. No chicken genome has ever demonstrated any sign of any road.”

Jonathan Wells: “Kettlewell never tested chicken predation on peppered moths. Therefore, peppered moths don’t exist, and can’t have evolved.”

cobby said:

…they have few answers. i have been asking for just ONE study that support NS in Darwinism and they have not been able to produce one. just a bunch of bluffing.

Liar.

NewLurker: Darwinism is evolution by natural selection and mutation, and it’s what creationists hate: the idea that mindless processes can be a creative force, because that neatly does away with any need for God as an explanation.

Therefore, they’ll tell you that they accept evolution (animals changing over time, which is well evidenced) but not Darwinian evolution. They pretend that they’re only doubting it for scientific reasons, of course.

The problem is that it IS hard to evidence natural selection and evolution. Not only does it only happen over huge time scales, but the mathematics of it is very difficult (to me, at least). So creationists use this ignorance to claim that no such evidence exists.

I personally would like to see a convincing explanation of the evidence for evolution by natural selection, but unlike creationists, I’m not going to assume that science is wrong/lying just because of my ignorance.

Indeed, Bobby seems to have strayed away from the facts again.

WWJD Bobby?

Dale Husband said:

cobby said:

…they have few answers. i have been asking for just ONE study that support NS in Darwinism and they have not been able to produce one. just a bunch of bluffing.

Liar.

Venus Mousetrap said:

The problem is that it IS hard to evidence natural selection and evolution. Not only does it only happen over huge time scales, but the mathematics of it is very difficult (to me, at least). So creationists use this ignorance to claim that no such evidence exists.

I personally would like to see a convincing explanation of the evidence for evolution by natural selection, but unlike creationists, I’m not going to assume that science is wrong/lying just because of my ignorance.

Experiments can be done with a population of captive organisms in which artificial selection can be done to change a certain trait in that population. The problem, of course, is that Creationists move the goalposts and insist that this does not prove the validity of the concept of NATURAL selection, nor does it prove that humans and other species have common ancestors.

You might as well be trying to prove the Earth is round. Flat Earth fanatics can explain away that too: “It’s all a grand conspiracy! The Bible says the Earth is flat and that’s all I need!”

http://www.alaska.net/~clund/e_djub[…]FlatHome.htm

Note: Apply Poe’s Law as you read that site. (Poe’s Law — Without a blatant indicator such as a smiley, it is impossible to tell the difference between religious Fundamentalism and a parody thereof.)

Jobb Wrote:

ONE study that support NS in Darwinism

You have been provided with sufficient resources that show your claim to be once again lacking inf fact my dear confused friend.

I, for one, feel there is NO PLACE ON THE INTERNETS for this sort of sarcastic, deceptive, if i used the word troll i’d say trolling but i don’t. Furthermore I doubt Edgar Allan Poe would welcome your so-called Poe’s laws.

But knock yourselves out. The Intelligent Design blogs are like master jewelers. They can tell the diamond from the zircon, no matter how many facets they have.

iml8 said:

I think it would be fun for PT to collaborate on a deadpan Darwin-bashing review of this book and then send it to UNCOMMON DESCENT. “It’s not like we don’t see you folks coming.” I could probably write a better hatchet job than they could. Maybe I will when I get my hands on it.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Shouldn’t jobby be required to come up with some new material before he’s allowed to hijack another thread?

PZ,

Please delete all comments by Cobby/Jobby/Bobby. It is intellectually incapable of reading any scientific literature and emotionally incapable of accepting any of the findings of science. The last thread it was allowed to hijack went on for 1500 off topic posts. PvM has already banned it on all of his threads, I suggest that you do the same. Please don’t let this microcephalic chimpanzeee derail another thread with it’s incessant whinning and feces slinging. We already know it doesn’t understand anything about science and none of us care. Make an example of it once and for all.

And again Jobby is somewhat creative with the facts as I have not only discussed various studies but also proposed some references. Remember Endler?

Why is it that Bobby has such a short memory I wonder?

WWJD Bobby?

cobby said:

PvM said:

Jobb Wrote:

ONE study that support NS in Darwinism

You have been provided with sufficient resources that show your claim to be once again lacking inf fact my dear confused friend.

.….well paraphrase the parts of it you feel are pertinent. I think all can see you are BSing and there is no such study that you have read other wise why wont you discuss it?

And thus Bobby ignores yet again a vast amount of evidence showing changes in body plans.

Why is that?

cobby said:

Experiments can be done with a population of captive organisms in which artificial selection can be done to change a certain trait in that population

.. of course that is provable. but can a MAJOR body plan change happen? it has not happened with dogs. just because things can evolve small changes does not mean those can add up to large changes. sorry charlie. no cigar.

Venus Mousetrap said:

NewLurker: Darwinism is evolution by natural selection and mutation, and it’s what creationists hate: the idea that mindless processes can be a creative force, because that neatly does away with any need for God as an explanation.

Therefore, they’ll tell you that they accept evolution (animals changing over time, which is well evidenced) but not Darwinian evolution. They pretend that they’re only doubting it for scientific reasons, of course.

Thank you, I thought it must be something like that. Like God bred MRSA as our punishment for killing so many of his bacteria with our antibiotics. This guy seems a bit odd. His response further down seems very strange

.. of course that is provable. but can a MAJOR body plan change happen? it has not happened with dogs.

Why does he pick the species with more major variations in its body plan than any other on the planet. He presumably thinks their variety is due to the efforts of dog breeders, and could never happen if the selection pressures were “natural”

Venus Mousetrap said:

NewLurker: Darwinism is evolution by natural selection and mutation, and it’s what creationists hate: the idea that mindless processes can be a creative force, because that neatly does away with any need for God as an explanation.

Therefore, they’ll tell you that they accept evolution (animals changing over time, which is well evidenced) but not Darwinian evolution. They pretend that they’re only doubting it for scientific reasons, of course.

Thank you, I thought it must be something like that. Like God bred MRSA as our punishment for killing so many of his bacteria with our antibiotics. This guy seems a bit odd. His response further down seems very strange

.. of course that is provable. but can a MAJOR body plan change happen? it has not happened with dogs.

Why does he pick the species with more major variations in its body plan than any other on the planet. He presumably thinks their variety is due to the efforts of dog breeders, and could never happen if the selection pressures were “natural”

Venus Mousetrap said:

NewLurker: Darwinism is evolution by natural selection and mutation, and it’s what creationists hate: the idea that mindless processes can be a creative force, because that neatly does away with any need for God as an explanation.

Therefore, they’ll tell you that they accept evolution (animals changing over time, which is well evidenced) but not Darwinian evolution. They pretend that they’re only doubting it for scientific reasons, of course.

Thank you, I thought it must be something like that. Like God bred MRSA as our punishment for killing so many of his bacteria with our antibiotics. This guy seems a bit odd. His response further down seems very strange

.. of course that is provable. but can a MAJOR body plan change happen? it has not happened with dogs.

Why does he pick the species with more major variations in its body plan than any other on the planet. He presumably thinks their variety is due to the efforts of dog breeders, and could never happen if the selection pressures were “natural”

NewLurker said:

Why does he pick the species with more major variations in its body plan than any other on the planet. He presumably thinks their variety is due to the efforts of dog breeders, and could never happen if the selection pressures were “natural”.

Exactly. They act as if intelligence is a contagious disease, so the moment anyone gets involved with an experiment, he infects it with intelligence.

The prompt for a “major” body change is a Beheish dodge. The key is that they will never objectively define “major”, thus allowing them to slide those goalposts and claim any example is not sufficiently impressive.

cobby said:

.… dogs have very little variation in body plan. if any.

.. do you even know what body plan means. youre a dummy.

So please explain why there is little variation or difference between a Great Dane, Shar Pei and Chihuahua.

It’s pretty hard to argue with people who don’t need science’s (i.e. the real world) pathetic level of detail… The problem with creationists is that God created a complex, interesting universe. And they want a simple cartoon one.

chuck said:

It’s pretty hard to argue with people who don’t need science’s (i.e. the real world) pathetic level of detail… The problem with creationists is that God created a complex, interesting universe. And they want a simple cartoon one.

Creationists don’t care about this world/universe, and virtually none of them care about studying this world/universe. Some even regard the very idea of studying the world around them to be utter sin.

How can anyone reason with such a person?

Sorry for my triple post, but I got a message something like “Preview or submission failed” and gave up after the third tweak. I was surprised the post appeared at all.

Stanton said:

Creationists don’t care about this world/universe, and virtually none of them care about studying this world/universe.

If this is true, then the real surprise is that it is a logical position. With only three score and ten years in this life, and an eternity in the next, trying to understand this world is an unnecessary waste of limited intellectual resources.

If this is true, then the real surprise is that it is a logical position. With only three score and ten years in this life, and an eternity in the next, trying to understand this world is an unnecessary waste of limited intellectual resources.

What other use should be made of intellect - studying the opinions of people who just make it up as they go?

Henry

NewLurker said:

Stanton said:

Creationists don’t care about this world/universe, and virtually none of them care about studying this world/universe.

If this is true, then the real surprise is that it is a logical position. With only three score and ten years in this life, and an eternity in the next, trying to understand this world is an unnecessary waste of limited intellectual resources.

Yet, they are gravely insulted when I infer that this is what a death cultist would say.

NewLurker said:

Stanton said:

Creationists don’t care about this world/universe, and virtually none of them care about studying this world/universe.

If this is true, then the real surprise is that it is a logical position. With only three score and ten years in this life, and an eternity in the next, trying to understand this world is an unnecessary waste of limited intellectual resources.

Then why do they spend so much time and effort trying to convince people that they do try to understand this physical world? They seem to have very strong feelings about how the universe works physically, else why complain about evolution?

chuck said:

Then why do they spend so much time and effort trying to convince people that they do try to understand this physical world? They seem to have very strong feelings about how the universe works physically, else why complain about evolution?

They feel that they have a patent on “TRUTH(c)” and have no absolutely no qualms about lying, cheating, slandering, or misinforming in order to enforce what is, in their own opinion, their divinely appointed mission to dispense love, truth and charity at their own discretion.

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on October 13, 2008 10:37 AM.

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