Darwin's Island, By Steve Jones

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The Independent Culture

Not the Galapagos, but Britain, where Darwin spent 40 years researching after his global adventure.

Studying hops at his home in Kent, he discovered that the plant's search for a supporting pole depended on "the ability to circle, a sense of touch and the capacity to tell up from down". All plants can sense gravity and avoid obstacles, but the hop's development of these faculties is an example of natural selection modifying existing talents.

Darwin's observation of orchids in the Kentish countryside led to his discovery of the plant's propensity for swindling insects, which resulted from natural selection. With customary brilliance, Jones demonstrates how Darwin's discoveries continue to resonate.

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