Skip Navigation


Darwin's 200th Birthday, Bio Dept Style

February 18, 2009 at 2:03 pm
By Margaret Taylor '10

The Carleton biology department knows how to do it nerdy.  Thursday of sixth week was the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, so of course, they had to throw the old man a birthday party.  (Coincidentally, it was also Abraham Lincoln’s 200th anniversary, but that was the history department’s problem.)

Hulings atrium was decorated with streamers and balloons, as well as an enormous phylogeny of all 5,400 species of mammals on earth.  It took up a good portion of the wall, and even then the species names were listed in barely readable print.  “You are here” and an arrow pointed out Homo sapiens, nestled next to our nearest cousins, Pan troglodytes.

Did I mention there was a costume contest?  That would explain Moira Hough ’09, who came to the party in a lime green shirt, rainbow scarf, and green-and-yellow pants, and skipped around the atrium flapping and squawking.  She was representing male courtship behavior in birds.  Hannah Specht ‘09, as the drab female, was much more sedate.  A blue-footed booby also attended the bash, as well as DNA and that bird from the Planet Earth trailer that looks like an alien.  The best costume, however, was undisputably that of Professor Mark McKone, who came as the Beagle, the ship Darwin used to travel all over the world.  His costume was complete with a dog nose and ears, mostly historically accurate sailor suit, and an actual wearable ship from a prop shop.

For snacks, there was cake and a variety of species of chips.  (All corn chips are more closely related to each other than they are to potato chips, but nacho cheese flavor and barbecue flavor corn chips are still different species: when they interbreed, the offspring are infertile.)  There was also a game of pin the beak on the Galápagos finch, and fun Darwin trivia.  Here’s one for all you blog readers out there:  Ironically, Darwin has no living descendants and so his individual fitness was zero.  True or false?

When the singing Knightingales came to perform, they left the audience with these memorable words (to the tune of “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey):

Some will win,
Some will lose,
We all must pay our dues
To our ape-like ancestors

They go on and on and on and on…











The answer to the trivia question is “false.”  Darwin had ten children in his lifetime.  Skandar Keynes, who played Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is one of his distant descendants.