Ecology and Evolution | VOL. 10
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Endless forms most stupid, icky, and small: The preponderance of noncharismatic invertebrates as integral to a biologically sound view of life.

Publication Date Dec 1, 2020

Abstract

Big, beautiful organisms are useful for biological education, increasing evolution literacy, and biodiversity conservation. But if educators gloss over the ubiquity of streamlined and miniaturized organisms, they unwittingly leave students and the public vulnerable to the idea that the primary evolutionary plot of every metazoan lineage is "progressive" and "favors" complexity. We show that simple, small, and intriguingly repulsive invertebrate animals provide a counterpoint to misconceptions about evolution. Our examples can be immediately deployed in biology courses and outreach. This context emphasizes that chordates are not the pinnacle of evolution. Rather, in the evolution of animals, miniaturization, trait loss, and lack of perfection are at least as frequent as their opposites. Teaching about invertebrate animals in a "tree thinking" context uproots evolution misconceptions (for students and the public alike), provides a mental scaffold for understanding all animals, and helps to cultivate future ambassadors and experts on these little-known, weird, and fascinating taxa.

Concepts
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Endless Forms
Invertebrate Animals
Biology Courses
Biodiversity Conservation
Future Experts
Evolution Of Animals
Future Ambassadors
Metazoan Lineage
Biological Education

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