Blogs by Hilary Hopkins

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April 15, 2013 / What Can You Learn From Travel? - 2 - Nature’s Ways

Those of the living natural world—plants and animals--(as opposed to the non-living, such as rocks) must solve the same problems as humans: getting nourishment and water, protecting against threats, reproducing.  One excitement of seeing many landscapes, many different faunae and florae, is seeing both the convergence and divergence of solutions to these problems.

So, for example: plants that live in deserts must get and hold as much water as possible.  In the Mojave Desert of California, the Atacama Desert of Chile, and the red dunes of Namibia, some plants grow in two-inch high tight rosettes, with deep tap roots, at a good distance from competing plants.  What water there is (often nighttime mist) gathers on the leaves and drop by drop flows to the middle of the rosette, where it trickles down to the roots.  The roots go deep, searching for water.  On three continents, the strategy is the same, though the names of the plants are different. 

In deserts, plants may have silvery leaves which reflect sunlight, or they may have leaves which hang vertically, to keep out of the sun, or even have no leaves at all, photosynthesizing only in their stems.  Same strategies, different names and places.

And what of the animals?    Animals must work hard to find food and mates.  The hard work of mate-finding must be in balance with the work of food/energy-finding: if you rush about and expend more energy than you take in, pretty soon you’re in trouble. 

Tourists may complain, in Tanzania: Well, we saw lions but they were just lying around—and there were antelope right there!  Why weren’t they chasing them?  I want to see a kill, like I’ve seen on tv!  

On Komodo Island:  Yeah, we saw the Dragons all right, and there were those little deer right next to them, but they were just lying there.  Why weren’t they chasing them?  I want to see a kill, like I’ve seen on tv!

All animals are smart that way, they know their energy economics.   They only expend the tremendous energy needed to hunt and kill when it is absolutely necessary.  Otherwise, they “just lie around.” 

Ask yourself: Why does that plant look like that?  Why is that animal doing that?  There are not that many different answers, no matter where you go in the world.

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