Genotype v. Phenotype

Animals and plants have genetic characteristics not visible to observers. DNA is the molecule in the nucleus of almost every body cell. It is responsible for the entire heredity of animals or plants. We speak of the DNA code—the ‘language of life.’ Genotype refers to this invisible ‘language of life.’ 

In contrast, phenotype refers to the traits of a living thing resulting from the genotype. These traits include morphology, the physical form or outward appearance, as well as behavioral characteristics of the living entity. The 17-year periodical cicada possesses a unique phenotype—appearing above ground every 17 years. In addition, it is a beautifully designed animal notwithstanding the fear and dislike they engender among the public.

Periodical cicadas, unique insects frequently highlighted in current news broadcasts and printed articles, are approaching the end of their lives above ground for this calendar year. Noted for their unique behavior, theyemerge from underground every 13 or 17 years. We refer, therefore, to their unique phenotype. Brood XIII, inhabiting large portions of the Midwest, will not be seen again until 2041 after tunneling underground for the next 17 years. Its life cycle is the longest of any insect on Planet Earth. In second place is the 13 year periodical cicada.

Scientists and non-scientists alike study the behavior of these insects and also the behavior of all living things. Is their time-keeping behavior programmed by the Creator of All Things? Or is their behavior a result of an evolutionary process? This question is a relevant one in view of the ubiquitous citations of evolution in our society. Genetically hardwired traits include unusual behavioral abilities of many living things inhabiting our personal neighborhoods. Scientific researchers have speculated that evolutionary processes provide optimal survival strategies. We may ask if the process of evolution is responsible for the beauty and functionality of our environment and its inhabitants? Or should we credit the omnipotent skills of the divine Creator?

During our residency in Galena, Illinois, we were able to observe many traits of animals manifesting diverse behavioral phenotypes. We explained these fascinating behaviors to our grandchildren. “God had great ideas” was a statement we used many times.

Following is a list of several of the most interesting behavioral phenotypes we observed during our residence in northwest Illinois:

Cicada killer wasps: These large wasps primarily feed on dog-day cicadas present every summer. Our grandchildren were able to watch a wasp dragging a cicada across a field on its way to provision its underground lair with an anesthetized cicada to feed its larvae:

Digger wasps: Small wasps which feed mostly on grasshoppers and katydids. They anesthetize their prey and transport them to a previously constructed underground tunnel, replete with underground side tunnels. Their prey receives an egg which hatches into the wasp larva. YouTubes capture digging events in living color and high fidelity. Our blog link:

Monarch butterflies: This animal is remarkable for its ability to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to a specific forest in Mexico after producing several generations of Monarchs in North America over the summer. Its ability to pinpoint a tiny location on Planet Earth and undertake a perilous journey to that location is one of the outstanding miracles of the insect world:

Barn spiders (orb-weavers): The ability of barn spiders to construct a web of intricate beauty using incredible engineering skills also ranks at the top of the list of remarkable insect capabilities: 

Indigo Bunting: This remarkable migratory bird is also skilled in direction finding. We have evidence that the same bird returned to the same tree on our property several years running. The following post highlights several startling facts about the remarkable indigo bunting:

Science professionals present several conceptual pillars on which evolutionary theory is anchored. They state evolution is powered by natural selection and mutation which has merged with many theorized supporting concepts. It is a complex theory which supporters have termed a “brilliant theory.” In sharp contrast, creationism and Intelligent Design (ID) have been pronounced “unscientific” or “pseudo-scientific.” In response to this opinion, we quote from a devotional in Our Daily Bread  from 6-12-24: 

  “Although neuroscience has made great progress in understanding how the brain  works, scientists admit they are still in the early stages of understanding it. They understand brain architecture, some aspects of its function, and regions that respond to environment, activate our senses, generate movements, and contain emotions. But they still can’t figure out how all these interactions contribute to behavior, perception, and memory….”

The same devotional booklet quoted Psalm 139 concerning God’s action in creating living things, especially humanity. This powerful psalm is a clear citation of God’s role in creating man, and by extension, ALL living things mentioned in the first chapter of Genesis. As we study the genotypes and phenotypes of all living things, our intuition tells us that action of the divine Creator of All Things rather than evolution more effectively explains the traits of life on our planet.

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