ABSTRACT

Biological extinction has been associated with events of geological magnitude.

Events have been both exogenous (the meteor, for instance, which created the

Chicxulub crater in Mexico, associated with the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) disconti-

nuity (Schulte et al. 2010) and the extinction of 95 per cent of all life on Earth

including the dinosaurs) and endogenous (the eruption of the Deccan Trap, an

outflowing of lava which probably exacerbated the K-T events)). In more recent

times, variability of climate is associated with significant disruptions in European

populations (Buentgen et al. 2011). Emerging successfully from these and other

changes, biological life forms have shown great talent for survival. The nests and

burrows which animals make provide shelter from changing external conditions

(Hansell 2005). These structures are adaptive responses to local conditions and

increase the survival of the organism. In some respects the same is true of the

botanical survivors, in that although plants do not commonly build protective struc-

tures (except for their gametes) they can adapt their shape to local conditions and

so are more durable (Mattheck 1998). One can therefore look at animal or plant

structures with a trained eye and appreciate the problems of survival that have been

overcome with the added realisation that in most cases the solution to those prob-

lems is integrated with the survival of the ecosystem rather than just the individual.

But there is a difficulty: given a problem, it is not too difficult to arrive at a workable

answer. However, given the answer (e.g. an organism) it is much more difficult to