In “Why Don’t Any Animals Have Wheels?” (Live Science, August 6, 2012), Natalie Wolchover opines,
Animals flap, flutter, float, run, walk and hop. They swim, slide, skate, oscillate, glide and paddle. Occasionally, they’ll even curl up into balls and tumble head over heels. But not one animal rolls around upon a rotating body part: a biological wheel.
She makes it all into some evangelical message around Darwinism.
Here’s the deprogram: First, there is at least one rotary device in nature, the bacterial flagellum.
The key feature of a wheel is that its rolling part floats free on an axle. Not that it travels on a road.
So, in a life form, the wheel must turn swiftly without twisting any living part. The flagellum’s rotor does that.
The reason that wheels are not more common in nature is that their usefulness – for travel, if that is the need – depends critically on reliably flat, hard surfaces. In nature, such surfaces are rare and not reliable in the long term.
In the human environment, roads must be routinely maintained to stay in a state suitable for wheels, as anyone who has suffered through summer roadwork will know. Wheels and roads are sym-abiotic.
But this is reality, not Darwinism.