Friday, February 19, 2010

Does ontogeny recapitulate phylogeny?

Ontogeny refers to the the growth and development of an organism from embryo to adulthood. Phylogeny refers to the biological evolution of an organism over time. The phrase "ontogeny recapitulates phlyogeny" is the largely abandoned concept in biology that the course of evolution of a species can be reconstructed through the stages of its development. So I don't have a bunch of creationists using this post as evidence that evolution is some kind of scientific conspiracy, I suggest that you if you are really interested in evolution, spend some time studying the fossil record, genetics, and taxonomy; then get back to me.

While this concept does not work so well in evolutionary biology, does it apply to bowling? In other words, can we look at the stages of development of a series of bowlers of different levels of experience and reconstruct our own evolution as bowlers? In short, I have no idea, but my best guess is that the answer is a qualified "yes". Unfortunately, there isn't much of a fossil record of bowling.

What inspired this question was another question. Is there a correlation between the ability to get strikes and pick up spares? In other words, as you improve as a bowler, do you improve in both aspects of your marking game? If it is simply a question of accuracy, then the answer should be yes. To this end, I compared strike percentage to pickup percentage for this year for five BM bowlers including the four core bowlers and K-terk our sub. I also added in last year's stats for Gee-off, the Canuck, who left for greener pastures at the end of last season. Here's what I found:

Notice how all of the early stage bowlers, those I have labeled "Rookies" fall within a fairly tight cluster. Invariably, they strike 15-20% of their frames and pick up 34-38% of their spares. Joe, John, and I (labeled "veterans") form our own cluster, although it is more dispersed. Without exception, we pick up more than 40% of our spares and strike more than 25% of our frames, although we each have our own strengths and weakness.

If I had data from our first seasons in the Memorial League of Bernaski, would we plot down there with the rookies? I don't know. I think the answer again is "yes" but the grouping would probably be more dispersed. All three of those guys have an average in the high 120's. Our first season averages were: JD: 118, JL: 128, TS: 135. I was really proud of that 135. Wow, things have changed.

Here is what I do know for sure. I think that graph nicely speaks to the second question. Yes, there is a relationship between the ability to get strikes and spares. As you get better at one, you will improve at the other, but we will all take our own path. Some folks have a better spare game. Others have a better strike game. Also notice in that graph that no single bowler is the best at both aspects of the game, nor the worst at both. We all have strengths and weaknesses.

Also, I think it is likely that we all have different starting points based on prior experience bowling and general athletic ability. So while we can generally look at a series of bowlers with different levels of experience and reconstruct a general trend of evolution, the exact path taken will be unique to each bowler.

p.s. I was hoping to add some PBA players to that graph, but the PBA provides such lousy statistics that I was unable to do so.

An update: After collecting some data on PBA bowlers by watching ESPN, I was able to do this. Here is how we compare to pro's. Only a massive gap to cross before we join the tour!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Maybe the phrase "ontogeny recapitulates phlyogeny" is largely abandoned for another reason? ;)

    (I should assign my high school English studens to your blog, man-- I'm always harping on risk-taking in writing. You take great risks when you use words like those in a place like this. Orate with care, lest some mook with a smaller, er, vocabulary put his cigarette out in your beer.)

    Okay. Seriously. ANYONE who can use those two words in one sentence, much less in a bowling blog, gets props from the south side.

  3. And, besides. No one understands -eny words anyway, what they mean or how to use them.

    (Oh no! The child progeny fell off the piano seat! Call 411!)

    Still, I applaud you for using such a lefthanded vocabulary in a righthanded world. :)

  4. I very much appreciate your appreciation of words. You know, I don't even think about my audience much, but I like the idea of bringing bowling beyond the 3rd grade.

  5. Your blog needs more pictures for people like me to color.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.