Monday, March 21, 2011

Meet Safa, five-year-old skink expert

Imagine you are five years old. Come on, feel that crayon in your hand.

One day, your mom tells you about lerista skinks, these Australian snakes that used to have legs but evolved to lose them. This evolution happened so fast -- only 3.5 million years! -- that there are still several old species of skinks crawling about, some with complete legs and toes, some with fewer toes, some with just stump legs and so on. It's a living parade of transitional forms.

The crayon gets itchy, doesn't it? You want to draw some skinks, right?

Well, that's what happened with young Safa, the winner of our Evolution & Art Contest in the 4-6 age category. When Safa heard about the skinks from her mom and about the contest from us, she put everything together brilliantly. Instead of four-legged lizards evolving into legless snakes, she imagined the reverse: snakes evolving to have legs. What kind of environment would lead to that? She picked up her crayon, expertly.

Her entry has two panels. The first shows the original snakes in their grassy environment. The second, helpfully labeled as "one million years" later, shows the evolved four-legged lizards in a rocky environment where legs make it much easier to move around. Perfect!

Here's our interview with Safa.
Kate from Charlie's Playhouse: I love your evolved snakes! How did you come up with the idea of using snakes and moving them to a rocky land?

Safa: Mom showed me a picture of lizards turning into snakes, so I decided to turn snakes into lizards. I wanted to do something with legs, and rocks are hard to slither on.

Kate: Your snakes evolved in three ways: color, antennae and legs. How did you think of these?

Safa: I chose gray because it is easier for them to hide and the cave is gray and the cave is their home. I chose antennae to help them if they fall on the rock. I chose legs, so they could walk on the rocks.

Kate: You know a lot about evolution, especially for someone who is just five years old! Where did you learn about evolution?

Safa: From a library book and some things my mom told me.

Kate: Do you know who Charles Darwin was? If you could travel back in time and visit with him, what would you like to ask him?

Safa: I have a book about Charles Darwin but I haven't read it yet. I would ask him things about evolution, snakes and tigers.

Thanks, Safa! You've got a great imagination, and a great future in art and science.

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