Intelligent Design

Elephants forget, … when they are lonely

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They forget assumed species differences, that is.

In “Researchers Solve Mammoth Evolutionary Puzzle: The Woollies Weren’t Picky, Happy to Interbreed” ScienceDaily (May 31, 2011), we learn that DNA studies suggest that the woolly mammoth interbred with a “completely different and much larger” species 12,000 years ago (it went extinct 10,000 years ago). They suggest,

“We are talking about two very physically different ‘species’ here. When glacial times got nasty, it was likely that woollies moved to more pleasant conditions of the south, where they came into contact with the Columbians at some point in their evolutionary history,” he says. “You have roughly 1-million years of separation between the two, with the Columbian mammoth likely derived from an early migration into North American approximately 1.5-million years ago, and their woolly counterparts emigrating to North America some 400,000 years ago.”

Modern African elephants behave this way when species overlap, with the larger species getting most of the mates, they note.

The discovery raises the question how separate elephant species have ever been; notice that the researcher puts the word species in quotation marks.

11 Replies to “Elephants forget, … when they are lonely

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: Of technical interest:

    This following experiment provides solid falsification of Rolf Landauer’s original contention that information in a computer is merely physical since it always required energy to erase it;

    Quantum knowledge cools computers: New understanding of entropy – June 2011
    Excerpt: No heat, even a cooling effect
    In the case of perfect classical knowledge of a computer memory (zero entropy), deletion of the data requires in theory no energy at all. The researchers prove that “more than complete knowledge” from quantum entanglement with the memory (negative entropy) leads to deletion of the data being accompanied by removal of heat from the computer and its release as usable energy. This is the physical meaning of negative entropy.
    Renner emphasizes, however, “This doesn’t mean that we can develop a perpetual motion machine.” The data can only be deleted once, so there is no possibility to continue to generate energy. The process also destroys the entanglement, and it would take an input of energy to reset the system to its starting state. The equations are consistent with what’s known as the second law of thermodynamics: the idea that the entropy of the universe can never decrease. Vedral says “We’re working on the edge of the second law. If you go any further, you will break it.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....134300.htm

  2. 2
    GilDodgen says:

    Researchers Solve [fill in the blank] Evolutionary Puzzle

    I love this. In a rational world the headline would read: “Darwinian pseudo-scientists speculate once again about how the mathematically impossible could have happened.”

    That would be responsible journalism.

  3. 3
    DrREC says:

    “Darwinian pseudo-scientists speculate once again about how the mathematically impossible could have happened.”

    I’m unclear why a larger Mammoth mating/hybridizing with a smaller one is mathematically impossible?

    Do you have some figures* I’m missing, or are you speaking in the abstract?

    *Parental guidance may be suggested, if they are of the square peg/round hole variety…..

  4. 4
    idnet.com.au says:

    If individuals can mate and produce fertile offspring, doesn’t that mean that they are of the same species by definition?

  5. 5
    idnet.com.au says:

    spe·cies/Noun: A group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding. The species is the principal natural taxonomic unit, ranking below a genus and denoted by a Latin binomial, e.g., Homo sapiens

  6. 6
    Doveton says:

    idnet.com.au @ 5:

    If individuals can mate and produce fertile offspring, doesn’t that mean that they are of the same species by definition?

    Not necessarily. Take a look a the definition you provided (a good one btw) and note where it includes, A group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals. The term species then does not mean all organisms that can reproduce together, but rather individuals that regularly and normally group together. Individuals that are not normally in each others’ territories are not usually considered the same species and may have very different characteristics outside their sexual similarity.

    For example, Spotted Owls of western North American can and do mate with Barred Owls that live in eastern North America. These two species differ by about 13.9% in certain genetic sequences, yet do produce hybrid offspring (called Sparred Owls) of which some are fertile.

  7. 7
    James Grover says:

    Gil Dodgen:

    I love this. In a rational world the headline would read: “Darwinian pseudo-scientists speculate once again about how the mathematically impossible could have happened.”

    That would be responsible journalism.

    Could you explain what you mean by “mathematically impossible”? Do you mean instead “very improbable”?

  8. 8
    Mung says:

    Individuals that are not normally in each others’ territories are not usually considered the same species and may have very different characteristics outside their sexual similarity.

    Thank God those pygmies aren’t real humans.

    How many different species of humans do you estimate there are?

    I mean, I don’t usually hang out in Harlem.

  9. 9
    Doveton says:

    Individuals that are not normally in each others’ territories are not usually considered the same species and may have very different characteristics outside their sexual similarity.

    Thank God those pygmies aren’t real humans.

    How many different species of humans do you estimate there are?

    I mean, I don’t usually hang out in Harlem.

    *chuckle* Creative thinking, I’ll give you that.

    Alas, how exactly did you determine the limits of a human group’s territory?

    See, there in lies the rub – territorial dimensions are based on a number of factors, not least is a given species’ ability to get around, settle, and thrive in given environments. Humans are, as I’m sure you’ll agree, exceedingly adaptable and not exactly limited by locomotion.

    Of course, that you’ve never been to Harlem or the Kalahari doesn’t mean that other humans haven’t managed to trot themselves out to such places and settle there. Be that as it may, given Homo sapiens locomotion, adaptability, and…heh…our sexual proclivity, there is, I’m afraid, but one species of humans at the moment.

  10. 10
    Mung says:

    So it seems like species is whatever one can get away with expanding it or contracting it to mean, depending on the demands of the particular situation or argument.

    So I wonder why critics of YEC object to the term “kind”? Seems like a species to me.

    But I guess it’s safe to say as travel increased, and humans began to interact more, the number of species of humans must have decreased drastically. I mean think of all the former remote island and remote jungle and remote tribal species of humans that must have once been. Why aren’t we on the endangered species list?

    Doveton, I’m not sure what your proclivities are in the debate over ID, maybe you have none.

    But do you see anything wrong with your response at #6? It’s so plastic as to be pretty much useless, as I’ve tried to show.

  11. 11
    Doveton says:

    Mung @ #10 said:

    Doveton, I’m not sure what your proclivities are in the debate over ID, maybe you have none.

    But do you see anything wrong with your response at #6? It’s so plastic as to be pretty much useless, as I’ve tried to show.

    I don’t see anything wrong with my response at #6. I provided an explanation of what the term species actually means from a scientific perspective.

    Terms in language, particularly within distinct fields of human interaction, arise out of a need to better establish an understanding of some expressed idea. So, in scientific taxonomy, we have a term called species which arose to delineate specific, related groups of organisms that can and do interbreed and under normal circumstances produce viable offspring. As with any term used to denote something reflected in the world around us, however, “species” is artificial. Not all organisms neatly fall into a relationship of “always breed in natural situations” or what-have-you. That doesn’t diminish the overall utility of the concept of species, but it does mean that in some situations, we need to use some extra words to elaborate on a given group of organism’s relationship.

    As for critics of YEC on the term “kind”, I can’t say. I can tell you why I don’t particularly care for the term – it has less utilitarian explanatory value when talking about groups of organisms. While some further discussion may be necessary when discussion some groups in terms of species, I can’t think of any group of animals that isn’t an exception to the concept of kind in general and thus require far more elaboration than I find useful.

    To each his or her own I suppose.

    So, just curious Mung, but would you not differentiate between Spotted Owls and Barred Owls?

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