Biologist, students use hummingbirds, flowers to unwrap evolution’s mysteries

Submitted on Thursday, 3/6/2014, at 11:07 AM

By Peter Rooney

In a jungle-like enclosure the size of a basketball court on one of the Caribbean’s most ecologically diverse islands, Ethan Temeles, Amherst College's Thomas B. Walton Jr. Memorial Professor of Biology, has devised an audacious experiment he hopes will help answer one of evolution’s most vexing questions once and for all.

Arsenic: Poison and Building Block for Life?

The press conference announced last week by NASA promised to reveal details about “an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.”

The news, that researchers conducting tests in the harsh environment of Mono Lake in  California had, according to NASA , “discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic,” was indeed intriguing.

Nature Episode to Feature Professor Ethan Temeles’ Hummingbird Research

December 22, 2009Ethan Temeles

Tiny birds will be the big stars of an episode of Nature airing Jan. 10 on PBS. The episode will feature the hummingbird research of Ethan J. Temeles, professor of biology at Amherst College.

The show, titled “Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air,” will feature Temeles’ research on the purple-throated carib hummingbird on the island nation of Dominica. The film is spectacular for its high-speed cinematography: viewers can literally see hummingbirds trying to kick each other as they squabble over food and get birds’-eye views of them feeding from flowers.

How Pigeons Helped Change Everything

The Missing Piece

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Flowers have evolved to fit the bills of female (above) and male (below) hummingbirds—and the birds have evolved to fit the flowers.

By Sarah Auerbach '96