The description of the research makes clear that evolution is seen as an intelligent agent, like a coach deploying players. “Think of this as the biosphere’s version of choosing starters and benchwarmers based on height and weight more than skill after losing a big match. There may well be a logic to this game plan in the arc of evolution.” But can evolution be both mindless and a strategic coach?
Coyne: What they’d get would be a genetic chimera, an almost entirely Asian elephant but one that is hairier, chunkier, and more tolerant of cold. That is NOT a woolly mammoth, nor would it behave like a woolly mammoth, for they’re not inserting behavior genes.
Evolution is described in this story as if it was some sort of lesser god, making lower level decisions.
Science writer Hank Campbell vs. the apocalypse industry: Instead of dying out, there are now 10 honeybees for every human on the planet – more than 25 years ago. And that is just in one species. There are over 25,000 species of bees, we just don’t try to count them all because the others are not part of a billion dollar industry, like sending honeybees around in trucks to pollinate almond farms.
The Darwinian focus on “species” and speciation may be a handicap here. Not only are extinction listings fluid but so, probably, are a lot of species. No doubt there will be other surprises as well. Nice ones.
Of course, it’s all very interesting. That is why we listen. But a dozen different theories are called “science” only out of courtesy. And it’s not clear that Coolidge and Overmann’s thirteenth theory (if that’s the count) is any improvement.
The asteroid theory replaced any number of folk Darwinian theories about why the dinosaurs died out. You know the sort of thing: They were too big; they were too stupid to look after their eggs; mammals ate their eggs… Etc. Many non-dinos went extinct too. Small mammals may have found it easier to hide.
At Smithsonian Mag: Siraj and co-author Avi Loeb concluded from their analysis that Jupiter’s gravitational field was strong enough to bump many such long-period comets from the Oort cloud off course, bringing them very close to the Sun.
The Top Ten are not numbered but #4 from the top is “Dinosaurs Weren’t in Decline When the Asteroid Hit. The thing that still puzzles many of us is, if dinosaurs weren’t in decline, why did they ALL die out?
From The Guardian: Their date is based partly on their depictions of now-extinct ice age animals, such as the mastodon, a prehistoric relative of the elephant that hasn’t roamed South America for at least 12,000 years. There are also images of the palaeolama, an extinct camelid, as well as giant sloths and ice age horses.
We are told no. But just a minute. According to the story, some dinos evolved into birds. If so, massive changes ARE possible. It’s not clear why changed circumstances could not cause some of those changes to be reversed.
Dvorsky: Should Apophis crash into Earth, it would unleash the equivalent of 1,150 megatons of TNT, in an event 3,800 times more powerful than the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima.
Other researchers have offered some caution about the assumption that climate change is the cause, in part because of the sparseness of the fossil record.
Thought extinct but spotted at a military training base.
The interesting part will be to see whether—if both the animals and the environment have changed—reintroduction or recreation from advanced genomic techniques produces a viable independent species or a species that humans must indefinitely maintain.