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Evolution of Nettle

Charles Darwin

12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882 

Today is the anniversary of the death of Charles Darwin, English naturalist, geologist and biologist. Darwin’s scientific theory of evolution by natural selection became the foundation of modern evolutionary studies.  A pleasant country gentleman, Darwin at first shocked religious Victorian society by suggesting that animals and humans shared a common ancestry.  His theory contradicted the Book of Genesis. He realised that species adapt to their environments.

By the stinging hairs, nettle protects itself from grazing animals. Scientists discovered the changed morphological characteristics of the Japanese nettle (Urtica thunbergiana), due to heavy browsing by sika deer. In Nara Park, Japan, where a large population of sika deer has been maintained for more than 1,200 years, wild nettles exhibited smaller leaf area, 11–223 times more stinging hairs per leaf, and 58–630-times higher stinging hair densities than those of other areas where there was no evidence of sika deer browsing. 

Nettle adapts to the environment and grazing damage by growing more stinging weapons as a protection. It just takes a “little” time.

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