Through Earth’s entire existence, many creatures have developed Tremendously Impressive Morphologies.
Fascinating adaptations span all life. Among plants, nitrogen-poor environments have led the Droseraceae (sundews and flytraps) to develop leaves capable of capturing prey to provide nutrients soil cannot. Among molluscs, the blue-ringed octopus has developed glands that secrete a deadly poison into its saliva; the cuttlefish may produce a vast range of colors and patterns on its skin; giant and colossal squid may grow to be 40 feet long (we think); and clams convert dissolved calcium into protective shells. And millions of years ago dinosaurs developed traits ranging from the 100-foot-long gigantism of some sauropods to the fearsome size, teeth, and jaw-and-neck strength of Tyrannosaurus rex to stranger adaptations like ankylosaurs’ osteoderm armor and therizinosaurs’ three-foot-long forelimb claws — not to mention the hollow bones and feathers that grace today’s birds.
I am not a scientist; I am a lawyer. And I know that human responses to Tremendously Impressive Morphologies can create problems. Some people see money value in fascinating adaptations; these people may smuggle whale teeth, rhinoceros horns, elephant ivory, or fossilized dinosaur bones. Smuggling creates and sustains a black market that threatens extant species with extinction, limits our ability to understand extinct species scientifically, and infringes on poorer countries’ natural heritage. Other people inadvertently transfer fascinatingly adapted species to new environments where their adaptive advantages threaten to upend existing ecosystems.
I plan to write about these things here: odes to various creatures, explanations of their Tremendously Impressive Morphologies, and ruminations on the things people do with these fascinatingly adapted creatures — and the consequences of these doings.