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No. 95: Sep-Oct 1994

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The urge to replicate: part i

The inside front cover of the March 1944 issue of BioScience displays five pairs of colorful butterflies. Each member of each pair is virtually a duplicate of its partner in shape, design, and colors. Yet, each member of each pair is a different species. Although the pairs are from the same geographical regions, it is not obvious why this astounding mimicry should occur. Here, one cannot invoke the explanation that one species gains an evolutionary advantage by mimicking an unpalatable species, as with mimics of the Monarch Butterfly. That is, there seems to be no evolutionary advantage to looking alike.

(Miller, Julie Ann; BioScience, inside front cover, March 1994. Miller's editorial remarks are based upon a later article by H.F. Nijhout, who also supplied the photographs. Nijhout's article explains how butterfly wing patterns may have evolved.)

Comment. Cases of remarkable mimicry also occur among geographically separated species. For example, the North American Meadowlarks are dead ringers for the African Yellow-throated Longclaw. "Convergent evolution" names the phenomenon but doesn't tell how or why long chains of random mutations can come up with the same designs where there seems to be no "guidance" by the forces of natural selection. Perhaps genomes contain "subprograms" for those patterns and structures often used in biology. Of course, Sheldrake's idea of "morphic resonance" also applies here!

From Science Frontiers #95, SEP-OCT 1994. 1994-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987