Centennial Museum gecko logo

Desert Diary


The mention of natural selection leads most people to immediately think of the phrase "survival of the fittest". To many, this means the sometimes violent struggles of predator against prey, the wolf against the deer; one trying to kill for food, the other trying to avoid being eaten. But this is not what natural selection means for biologists; it is only one small part. Survival of the fittest does not mean that the organism has to be the biggest, strongest, or the fiercest. It simply means the fittest is the one that is able to survive long enough to reproduce and ultimately produce the most descendants.

As an example, in the United States alone, there are around 70 million dogs. But there are only about 70 thousand wolves in the U.S. and Canada combined. Based on these numbers, which is the more successful? Dogs, of course! They're the ones that have been able to adapt to the human-dominated world much better than have the wolves and so are "fitter" than the wolves.
pen and ink

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Angela Chavez, museum studies student, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.