IS NOT JUST FOR HUMANS
when a phone booth was where Clark Kent went to don his Superman costume,
inside each booth hung a phone directory. At the back of the directory
was an alphabetical list of advertisements collectively known as the
Yellow Pages. Today, few people have access to printed Yellow Pages.
But advertisements are ubiquitous, which means you can still play what
I call the Yellow Pages Game.
rules are simple. How many advertised services and products can you
find that parallel activities in nature? In other words, what advertisements
targeted for people mirror the actions of plants and animals? A few,
such as ads for legal services, are uniquely human, but not many.
not look beyond ads for the home to find countless examples. Heating
and cooling, home security, house construction, all these are represented
in the natural world. Take, for example, air-conditioning. Definitely
not restricted to humans. Honeybees are the consummate climate control
experts, maintaining the hive at a near constant temperature year-round.
During hot weather, selected worker bees place water droplets in the
hive and wave their wings in unison. Fanning the hive in that way can
lower the temperature several degrees. During winter, workers become
heater bees, continually flexing their muscles isometrically
to warm the hive.
is essential throughout the plant and animal kingdoms. Honeybees, wasps
and hornets are on constant guard against intruders and have the weapons
to defend their homes. A plants home is the plant itself, and
numerous plants produce toxins or thorns that ward off many of their
predators. Sensitive mimosa plants have what is equivalent to an alarm
system. When a stem is disturbed by a hungry insect, the leaves can
rapidly fold up, which may startle the insect into leaving. Some acacia
trees of Africa have an association with ants that live on them and
protect the trees from plant-eating insects. The ants attack an invading
beetle or aphid that plans to make a meal of acacia leaves. The ants,
meanwhile, get their nutrients from the acacia tree, much like a homeowner
might feed his Doberman. Either is a good security system.
is common to innumerable animals. Honeybees come to mind again, with
their elaborate combs of hexagonal cells that serve as storage for honey
and for developing larvae and pupae. The American beaver is not to be
outdone in home building, with its dams and lodges, and most avian species
build something humans would have difficulty duplicating bird
nests. Prairie dog colonies consist of tunnels, passageways and side
chambers the quintessential underground estate.
about advertising itself? Do plants and animals advertise? Absolutely.
The phenomenon is all around us. As spring arrives, we will see myriad
examples in flowers with their colorful displays designed to attract
pollinating insects. Lots of fish and lizards are also more brightly
colored during mating season. Males of many of the usually drab darters,
small fish that have their greatest biodiversity in Alabama, are noted
for their spectacular color displays during the breeding season. As
with humans, sound is a common advertising tool. Frogs and birds give
mating calls in an effort to attract mates. Fireflies, both males and
females, use lights to advertise their availability to procreate.
our own commercials, false advertising must constantly be guarded against.
The deep-sea angler fish produces a light that dangles in front of its
mouth and means sure death for a would-be predator trying to grab a
morsel in the dark. Pitcher plants use sweet-smelling aromas to lure
unsuspecting insects into the trumpet-shaped tube filled with liquid.
Bola spiders have their own scam, producing chemicals that mimic the
perfume-like pheromones that female moths use to attract mates.
is a part of life worldwide, and most human merchandise and trades that
are advertised are duplicated in nature. Finding analogies can be a
fun and enlightening exercise at home or in the classroom.
you have an environmental question or comment, email