We've all heard examples of evolutionary perfection: The cheetah's sleek, long-legged body, built for speed on the African savanna, or the parrot's tough, ridged beak, ideally shaped for cracking open nuts. These adaptations may make us marvel at nature's inventiveness and engineering skill. But you know what I love more than these shining examples of evolution? The less elegant creatures-the ones that survive despite being awkward, ugly, slime-covered, or completely absurd.
I collect these evolutionary oddities on my blog, WTF, Evolution?, and in the new book of the same name. In captions, I try to imagine: If there had been a thought process behind these organisms, what would it have been?
In reality, of course, evolution doesn't think. It doesn't sit down and plan out the best course for an organism to take. Instead, mutations happen at random, the useful ones stick, and over time they become adaptations that help the animal survive in its environment. But they're not necessarily the features you'd choose if you were designing something from scratch.
And if evolution were sentient? Well, if the things it's created are any indication, then it would clearly be spending most of its time plastered, distracted, or entirely out of its mind. Below are just four examples of the more than 100 in the book.
Scientific Name: Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis
Habitat: Wet forests in the Western Ghat Mountains of southern India (Photo: © K Jayaram/Science Source)