No ‘design’ to crossbills’ bills

Alongside the photographs accompanying John Thaxton’s otherwise unobjectionable article about crossbills in the January/February edition of Adirondack Explorer, I found this appalling claim: “Crossbills have bills that are designed to pry apart spruce cone scales to get at the seeds inside.” Now even some biologists will occasionally make the mistake of referring to evolutionary outcomes as intentional, so I don’t want to assume that the writer of this caption actually believes that the birds’ bills are “designed,” or that the writer meant to sneak in an attack on evolution, but the correct statement would have been that the bills “evolved” to produce this phenomenon.

         Richard Strean, Elizabethtown

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The Adirondack Explorer is a nonprofit magazine covering the Adirondack Park's environment, recreation and communities.

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