Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Chalk up another one for natural selection?!

Share
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Flipboard
Print
arroba Email

Gold Strike in Science World, June 06, 2006
Source: University of Adelaide
URL: http://www.physorg.com/news68816511.html

A University of Adelaide PhD physiology researcher has discovered a world first: a diving insect that can regulate its buoyancy in water, just like a scuba diver.

The findings of Phil Matthews, 24, in relation to the backswimmer (Anisops deanei) were published in the prestigious international science journal, Nature, last month.

When Mr Matthews submitted the findings of his research in January, he was convinced “it would trickle down the tree and get buried under hundreds of other submissions.”

Instead, his paper was accepted by Nature and published on 9 May, immeasurably boosting the young physiologist’s career prospects on an international scale.

The paper discusses a significant finding in the physiology world relating to the backswimmer. It appears that these bugs use haemoglobin-containing cells in their abdomen to supply oxygen and regulate their buoyancy, a quirk of nature unique to backswimmers.

It allows these insects to remain poised in the water for around four minutes without having to surface for oxygen – something that no other insect in the world can do.

Mr Matthews and his PhD supervisor, Professor Roger Seymour from the School of Earth & Environmental Science, made the discovery by placing a submerged backswimmer on a sensitive weight balance and measuring the oxygen level inside its bubble.

Foraging insects sport an over-inflated bubble filled with nitrogen and oxygen when embarking on a dive, but the effort of dragging this buoyant cargo downwards through the water quickly uses up oxygen.

“Carrying a bubble when you are a tiny insect means you are going to be very buoyant. If you are not clinging to the bottom, or swimming very hard to stay submerged, you are going to be shooting straight to the surface,” Mr Matthews explained.
A bubble of air carried by a diving insect is always going to be shrinking. About 20% of the bubble’s volume is oxygen, so as the insect respires the oxygen, the bubble will inevitably shrink.

“Simultaneously, nitrogen in the bubble dissolves into the water, further shrinking the bubble. Without a stable bubble volume, a stable buoyancy cannot be achieved.”

Backswimmers overcome these problems by carrying extra oxygen reserves in their haemoglobin, stored in their abdomen. It means they can carry a much smaller bubble, and by releasing oxygen from the haemoglobin into the bubble, can regulate its volume to stop it shrinking.

“This buoyancy system is unique amongst all creatures,” Mr Matthews said. “This finding shows that evolution can produce the most unexpected solutions to a problem, in this case using haemoglobin in an entirely unique way.”

On a human level, the backswimmers replicate the same effect as a scuba diver’s buoyancy vest, which allows them to hover weightless in the water.

“Like many of the best inventions, the animal kingdom got there first,” Mr Matthews said.

He said entomologists had been aware of the correlation between haemoglobin and neutral buoyancy in backswimmers since the early 1900s, but this was the first successful experiment to directly measure the buoyancy and oxygen levels.

Comments
we need dick dawkins to come in here with his fertile imagination and supply us with a nice kipling-esque scenario for this... "Now it happened once, best beloved, that there was a little bug that lived on the edge of a stream." jacktone
If it could be shown that this unexpected (and apparently unique) solution to this problem could not possibly have occurred by successive slight gradual random modifications preserved by natural selection my theory would completely break down. Mung
“This buoyancy system is unique amongst all creatures,” Mr Matthews said. “This finding shows that evolution can produce the most unexpected solutions to a problem, in this case using haemoglobin in an entirely unique way.”
I don't get it. What was the problem for which evolution produced an unexpected solution? For me, what is truly unexpected is that evolution can produce a solution to any problem. Not only is this solution unexpected, apparently it is also unique. Now why would that be, if evolution is so good at solving problems? We predict that evolution will produce similar solutions to similar problems, except when it doesn't. Mung
You’re right, saying that evolution did it is very much like saying God dit it. If evolution did it, then who/what created evolution? How come they never have to answer that one? Lurker
>>what biologists love to claim “evolution could do” is more like someone >>jumping the Grand Canyon. >Biologists love to extrapolate evolution... Exactly! I don't have to leap across the Grand Canyon in one jump. I can stand on the edge and jump five feet, then jump five feet more, then... oh, wait... sagebrush gardener
Wow! Based on feedback from their environment, these little backswimmers decided to manufacture haemoglobin-containing cells in their abdomen. How did they come up with that idea? Amazing little fellas. Saxe saxe17
This finding ..... shows ..... that evolution can produce the most unexpected solutions to a problem, in this case using haemoglobin in an entirely unique way. Should read. "This finding assumes that evolution can produce the most unexpected solutions." There is nothing in the data itself that has any relevance to the origin of the beatle's amazing ability. It seems that as JS Bach always wrote thanks to Jesus on his manuscripts, so there is an obligation when biologists find amazing things, to give homage somewhere in their paper to the almighty creator EVOLUTION. Otherwise the ignorant "creationists" may give praise where it is not deserved. idnet.com.au
Raevmo- There's absolutly nothing wrong with extrapolating, or with assuming certain premises which are themselves not certain and then deriving a conclusion that follows from those premises. Doing this kind of thing is often a valuable exercise. However, I get the sense that it's not usually clear to outsiders or to the public that scientists are often just offering up conjectures rather than sound arguments or proofs. I'm not saying anyone is being purposefully dishonest, and in a techinical paper aimed at academics it's proably not as important to state cleary what's reproduceable and what's just conjecture. BUT, and this is a "big but" in my mind, lots of science books aimed at a popular audience seem to me to fail to clearly demarcate between what's been established in the lab and what's been established in the providence of the author's mind. That is, we get a bunch of books aimed at a lay audience that start with premises like "the axioms of evolutionary psychology are demonstrably true" or "the mind is identical with the brain" and then the author proceeds to tell us what the consequences are. For example, think for a moment about the sheer audacity of a book like "How the Mind Works." On this level I think there needs to be more clarity on the part of science authors about when they have hard evidence and when they're just reasoning through some counterfactual or just b.s.-ing. LowenheimSkolem
Raevmo, Indeed astrophysicists (rightly) don't feel the need to prove Einstein correct over and over again, because his theory, at the scale at which they are applying it, already has abundant empirical support. It would be reasonable for biologists to claim that they needn't prove Darwin correct over and over again if they actually had even a handful of cases proving him right in the first place (detailed step by step accounts at the molecular level of how individual species evolved by RM+NS alone). It's not as if they already have a number of these, and IDers are just harrassing them with new examples which the biologists haven't had time to explain yet; they don't have such accounts at all. Yaakov
Raevmo: perhaps a better defense than "Doesn't mean they are wrong.." would be appropriate to a delusion which enjoys total exclusivity as a theory about the development of life on earth... tinabrewer
"It also a far cry what been proven about evolution and all the claims biologists loves to claim evolution has done." Absolutely. Biologists love to extrapolate evolution. Doesn't mean they are wrong, doesn't mean they are right. Raevmo
The "Evolution that has happen" is like someone dunking a basketball while what biologists love to claim "evolution could do" is more like someone jumping the Grand Canyon. It a far cry for someone dunking a basketball to someone jumping across the Grand Canyon. It also a far cry what been proven about evolution and all the claims biologists loves to claim evolution has done. Smidlee
You're right, saying that evolution did it is very much like saying God dit it. Most biologists take evolution for granted. There is little chance that they will ever be able to prove that this particular behavior really evolved. But the biologists' conduct is not entirely unlike, say, astronomists taking for granted Einstein's theory of gravity when they say a black hole at the centre of the galaxy explains the dynamics of the spiralling stars. They don't feel they have to prove Einstein right over and over again. Biologists behave in the same way. One might argue that biologists have less reason to be as confident as astronomists, and rightly so, but it's standard practice. Not much wrong with that I would say, since we are pretty sure that evolution has happened. What's really important is to identify the mechanisms that caused the evolution, but who would argue with that? Raevmo
"Instead, his paper was accepted by Nature and published on 9 May, immeasurably boosting the young physiologist’s career prospects on an international scale." What some will to for fame. Not saying he did it for this reason, just that the lure of it can (and does) produce bogus papers. Lurker
Instead of saying "God did it" they just said "Evolution did it". It's the same ole "evolution of gaps" answer. Smidlee
“This buoyancy system is unique amongst all creatures,” Mr Matthews said. “This finding shows that evolution can produce the most unexpected solutions to a problem, in this case using haemoglobin in an entirely unique way.” Again i fail to see how evolution has accomplished this. Just because ya say it so does not necessarily make it so. I dont remember ever hearing about evolution saying, i think i can, i think i can, i think i can. Charlie Charliecrs

Indeed, the finding is so "unexpected" that biologists don't have a clue how evolution did it. Expectation and prediction -- aren't these roughly the same? Doesn't one have to have an expectation of what will happen to predict it? If evolution keeps doing completely unexpected things, how can the theory properly be said to be predictive? Maybe it isn't really a science. Gosh, what a horrible thought. All those well-meaning biologists completely out to lunch and spending our tax dollars like drunken sailors. There ought to be a law against it, I say!

William Dembski
“This finding shows that evolution can produce the most unexpected solutions to a problem ...” Yes, indeed, now together: THERE IS NO GOD BUT SECULARISM DARWIN IS THE APOSTLE OF SECULARISM Rude

Leave a Reply