Evolution and Super Goblins

Ask Science provides an introduction to evolution. Plus, the answer to the age-old question: How could evolution have saved goblins from extinction?

Lee Falin, PhD
4-minute read
Episode #17

Evolution and Super Goblins

The word "evolution" means different things to different people. For some people it's a rallying cry to form lynch mobs against scientists and public education. For others it's a weapon to use against religious fundamentalists. To comic book fans it's the mysterious power that will one day turn us all into mutated super heroes (if we’re lucky). As usual, the truth about evolution is quieter, subtler, and yet more amazing than any of these sensationalized ideas. So what exactly is evolution and how does it work? Let's look at an example.

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a Goblin

Imagine that there exists somewhere in Earth's ancient past, a tribe of fierce goblins. While most of the goblins are relatively similar in appearance and behavior, green leathery skin, red beady eyes, etc., one goblin in this tribe sticks out from the rest. His friends call him Gulrock the Fuzzy.

Unlike the other goblins, Gulrock is covered with a soft, downy fur. None of the other goblins are quite sure what to make of Gulrock's odd complexion, but fortunately for Gulrock, goblins don't turn their backs on family, no matter how odd they look.

Like most goblin tribes, this tribe prides itself on its hunting prowess. Since their green leathery skin is a relatively poor insulator, they do all of their hunting and storing food during the warmer months of spring and summer and spend most of the late fall and winter months shivering in their dens, eating the food they've stored up.

Now let’s imagine that one year, winter happens to be much longer and tougher than usual. The goblins, being used to having a much longer time period in which to hunt, suddenly find that they are running out of food stores before winter is over. Now Gulrock, with his warm downy fur, is able to spend more time out in the cold hunting and storing food than the other goblins in the tribe. So while most of the goblins and their children sit cold and starving, Gulrock's family thrives.


Please note that archive episodes of this podcast may include references to Ask Science. Rights of Albert Einstein are used with permission of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Represented exclusively by Greenlight.

About the Author

Lee Falin, PhD

Dr. Lee Falin earned a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois, then went on to obtain a Ph.D. in Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology from Virginia Tech.