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Convergent evolution: Once more, why do unrelated animals have pseudo-thumbs?

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From Juliet Lamb at J-Stor:

Take the Giant Panda, for example. Watch a panda eat, and you’ll notice the thumb-like appendage that helps it hold onto bamboo stalks. The panda’s thumb isn’t actually a thumb; it’s an elongated wrist bone that opposes the five true fingers of the panda’s hand, allowing it to grip and manipulate the delicate bamboo stalks that form the majority of its diet. For an enormous organism like a panda to survive on an energy-poor resource like bamboo, most of which is composed of indigestible fiber, maximizing eating efficiency is key. Without gripping abilities, pandas would require more effort to consume less bamboo, compromising their ability to meet their energy needs. The misleadingly named Red Panda (it’s more closely related to weasels, raccoons, skunks, and badgers than to bears) has this same strange elongated wrist bone. In fact, this bizarre trait, along with a similar bamboo-based diet, helped contribute to the assumption that the two species were related. But the trait evolved separately in the two pandas, and for entirely different reasons.

At Cerro de los Batallones, a paleontological site in Madrid, researchers unearthed the fossil remains of a Red Panda relative called Simocyon batalleri that had the same adaptation. The catch: Simocyon batalleri was carnivorous, not a bamboo-eater. The discovery suggests that the false thumbs of Red Pandas evolved to help them grip narrow branches while climbing trees, unrelated to eating bamboo. Several other arboreal species, including possums and koalas, have developed opposable or semi-opposable thumbs, although all of them have a modified digit more similar to the human thumb than the peculiar wrist bones of the pandas.More.

So the Darwinist concept of speciation (genetic fundamentalism) misled us about the pandas… not that that fact would ever count against it, you understand…

Along with speciation in general, the panda’s “thumb” is a frequent sneer behind the hand of non-explanatory Darwinism.*

If widely differing life forms converge on common outcomes, either laws of form (Denton) or common design would be an explanation whereas attempts to work them around Darwinian common descent are merely an obfuscation.

In fact, we do not really know much about how life forms come into and go out of existence, either individually or corporately. Most Darwinism (or neo-Darwinism, or whatever academic quibble you currently need) is an attempt to cloak ignorance with dogma and defend the dogma against the evidence.

*Note: The term “panda’s thumb” even gave rise to an especially obtuse site serving Darwin’s fanboys.

See also: Nothing says “Darwin snob” like indifference to the mess that the entire concept of speciation is in.

and

Evolution appears to converge on goals—but in Darwinian terms, is that possible?

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Two life forms called “panda” due to obligatory Darwinism:

 

 

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