Updated date:

Metamorphosis - When genes are in a hurry for change


"The more things stay the same, the more they change!"

What extraordinary miracles has Nature performed over the millennia. Evolution produces nothing that is far short of remarkable, although we mostly can't see what has changed in all the creatures and plants we see around us when all we have is present evidence.
The one staggering exception is what evolution has built into its creations causing some to change their appearance, behaviour, and mode of being in a short time, sometimes in hours, days and weeks.
We are all aware from a young age of the wriggly tadpoles becoming frogs. We were taken to muddy ponds by our teachers to catch tad -and toad - poles, finding many is several stages of evolving from fragile mites depending on gills to breathe, into large hopping -croaking adults which now had lungs and an interior skeleton.
Too, most of us were apprised of the miracle of the butterflies and moths, changing from caterpillar to chrysalis, finally becoming some of the most beautiful insects on the planet.
Why has nature decided such changes are beneficial? For example, the caterpillar seems to be happy with his role of munching plants all day. Yet scientists have observed caterpillars proving so successful they ate all the food in the immediate area and are ill equipped to make long journeys in the search for new sources. But in the adult form, they can journey far and wide, attaching their eggs to many a succulent leaf for their soon-to-hatch progeny.
Metamorphosis first began in the sea among the early forms of life. One such creature undergoing a curious metamorphosis is the Sea-Urchin. Thanks to modern methods of observation scientists have observed the change as the free swimming larvae sinks to the sea bed while the juvenile urchin dispenses with the larval sack and emerges as a miniature and perfect sea urchin all in as little as one hour! You will have to read further in scientific journals to understand the incredible complexity of the ten cycles which quickly lead to the urchin's birth.
Metamorphosis does not just mean physical change but behavioural as well...although the two are inevitably linked.
One of the most curious examples of this is found among grasshoppers known as locusts. The common green colored locust is a solitary insect and would never gang up with it's fellows to form a plague of biblical proportions. However, when it detects drought conditions, or an abundance of crops somewhere, serotin released in its brain cause the winged nymph stage of the locusts to become gregarious, swarm-forming adults with powerful wings and finally the scourge which has been with us for all our recorded history. Perhaps this is where R.L. Stevenson got the idea for his book and why Jekyll and Hyde sprang from the pages. And the literati still hotly discuss where Kafka got the idea for his novella The Metamorphosis. His central theme of a man waking to find he had changed into an insect might not seem so far fetched in the light of modern understanding of change.
Metamorphosis can show the dramatic physical changes such as in the frog and butterfly, or some apparent fine-tuning, (shape changing), such as the eyes which migrate and come together in certain flat fish, such as the plaice.
Do humans metamorphosize as well? You only have to look at the changes occuring in the womb as the foetus changes. At about 7 weeks of age, we are merely a .5 cm. cluster of cells. Running the film covering the 9 months of our development will convince even Doubting Thomas of our ability to change.
After our birth, the baby is undergoing profound changes during the first 24 hours and no wonder he puckers up a bit!
As he or she lands in the midwife's arms, the newborn's lungs are full of a fluid which is absorbed as his blood flow increases and his lungs inflate. His brain is informed that he is cold and initiates a process to burn a special brown fat...(which is why babies rarely shiver). Changes are also taking place in all his organs such as the gastro-intestinal and urinary tract. (I urge readers to read more of the subjects mentioned in today's sip of a very complex broth indeed...wikipedia is good to begin as ever).
During life we undergo many mental and physical changes resulting in old age; we run down until we are ready for the eternal rest. We do indeed change -metamorphosize- as in some way, so do all earthly creatures.

Note. I feel as if I must beg forgiveness for this rather trite article when compared to all the scientific literature available in libraries and on the Internet. I hope some may be interested enough to delve further into this fascinating subject and the amazing creatures which can change almost while we watch.


diogenes (author) from UK and Mexico on September 08, 2018:

Thanks for kind comment, Genna...I agree with your sentiments

Bob x

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on September 08, 2018:

I loved your hub, Bob, and it is anything but trite. We need more articles like this to bring us closer to understanding the natural world, without which we cannot survive. Our dissociation from nature has threatened the very future of humanity. I so hope you write more like this!

Related Articles