I was sitting out on my balcony earlier and saw a woodpecker land on a tree nearby. It began pecking at the tree, and did so about five times, in intervals of about four pecks each time, before finally giving up and flying away. My question is quite simple, were woodpeckers gifted(did probability glean favorably upon) with a positive form of evolution? Does the reward justify the amount of energy they have to exert for food? Were they given an improper and doomed form of evolution?

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Biology.SE! What do you mean by "were woodpeckers gifted with a positive form of evolution?" and "Were they given a improper and doomed form of evolution?". Do you mean "Is the pecking behaviour of woodpeckers adaptive or should they better do something else of their lives?" Out of curiosity, do you know which species you were looking at? (it might not matter much) $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Apr 27 '15 at 23:59
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    $\begingroup$ I mean, if pecking trees didn't help woodpeckers survive, they wouldn't do it. They're specialized to exploit the food niche of bugs in trees. The reward does (biologically) have to justify the energy they exert for food, or else the woodpecker would die. $\endgroup$ – Luigi Apr 28 '15 at 0:14
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    $\begingroup$ The question does not deserve downvotes. I upvote in reaction to the downvotes. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Apr 28 '15 at 3:29
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    $\begingroup$ As a +1 to @Remi.b , would downvoters care to explain why this question is bad? I cannot see why this question is in any way lacking in research effort, at most it is slightly unclear. $\endgroup$ – March Ho Apr 28 '15 at 5:42
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    $\begingroup$ @MarchHo Unjustified downvotes is kind of a regular thing when it comes to Stackexchange and its off-branches. In my opinion, downvotes should require a comment, but that's just me. $\endgroup$ – Krythic Apr 28 '15 at 8:08

My question is quite simple, were woodpeckers gifted with a positive form of evolution?

Though this has been addressed in comments, it's an opportunity to address a popular mind frame about evolution, that is anthropormorphizing it.

Evolution does not think or bestow in the sense that a philanthropist might. Evolution does not doom or treat unfairly as a dictator might. Evolution is merely the process of predominantly random changes in genetic material that result in a change in the expression of that genetic material. If it is a change that radically affects expression of a critical gene (say, that encodes the structure of hemoglobin), the organism experiences a lethal point mutation and ceases to exist. Evolution for that organism stops there; if death occurs before reproduction, the mutation is lost.

Evolution seems beneficial because the environment exerts selective pressures on life: if two animals (say, birds) in the same habitat (say, woodlands) eat the same food (say, larval insects), competition for resources exists, decreasing the numbers of both animals. However, if a mutation (say, a marginally different beak shape) allows even a slight chance that the animal will have a competitive advantage, it is kept in the population. A staggering number of mutations similarly either harmless or advantageous may eventually allow two animals to inhabit the same habitat without competition - a net gain for both animals.

But there's no gift involved. Just a mind-numbing number of non-lethal mutations over a mind-numbing number of years, under the influence of the selective pressures of the environment. You don't see all the mutations that were deleterious, resulting in countless deaths and dead ends because you are standing in one point in time, seeing what exists around you now. The woodpecker seems almost fantastical.

Were [woodpeckers] given an improper and doomed form of evolution?

Evolution follows the same principles for all species: predominantly random mutations without rhyme or reason or form. If you want to speak of doomed animals, look to mankind's effects on the environment in the last 2000 years, or the last 20. When ecological niches are wiped out, that, not evolution, dooms an animal. The Monarch Butterfly is a poignant example of dooming a species by destroying it's habitat.

A great way the understand selective pressures of habitat is to read about marsupial evolution in Australia. The effect of ecological niches on evolution is very clear.

  • $\begingroup$ When I say "gifted" I mean "did probability glean favorably upon". And I know how evolution works; my question was more or less about sustainability of the species given their current scope and path of evolution. $\endgroup$ – Krythic Apr 28 '15 at 5:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Krythic - it is as sustainable as any species given its current scope and path of evolution. That's evolution. :-) $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Apr 28 '15 at 5:22

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