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(Wired)   Paleontologist rips idea of "living fossils" as rebuke to evolution, says coelacanth, duck-billed platypus and horseshoe crab are more like hipsters, who find their own obscure backwater and live in it forever without growing up   (wired.com) divider line 17
    More: Obvious, horseshoe crabs, living fossils, platypus, paleontology, idea, evolution, fossils, Origin of Species  
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1821 clicks; posted to Geek » on 24 Aug 2012 at 2:21 PM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-08-25 10:48:19 PM  
1 votes:
While reading the article I couldn't help by think of an old Gould essay "The Streak of Streaks" where he writes about DiMaggio'shiatting streak. Worth a read if you have a chance (as are most of Gould's essays).

If you were to give all species an equal chance of going extinct over a give period of time (say, 50% over 1 Myr) then about half of them would go extinct after 1 million years. But of the half that didn't, another half would likely last the next million years, and so on. Essentially, the species survivorship would look like a half life curve. If you had a large enough starting pool of species, there's a good chance some of them would make it far, far longer than you'd expect given their starting odds, and that's just when playing strictly by the odds. But some of those species are probably just really well suited to surviving, and that tilts the odds in their favor. Given that there are probably between 5 and 100 million species living today, and that at least 99% of all species are extinct that's a massive starting pool of species. The odds are good that at least some of them have beat the odds repeatedly. And so, we have coelacanths and horseshoe crabs and the monotremes, who happened to be good players with good luck.

But I like what he said in the article too.
2012-08-24 11:16:34 PM  
1 votes:
These are the threads I love Fark for. Where else am I going to randomly walk into a discussion where I learn all sorts of neat things. I suppose I could wander wikipedia or something, but Fark has insight AND trolls. Sometimes in the same posts!
2012-08-24 06:40:05 PM  
1 votes:

Great Porn Dragon: And to continue the "crocs actually tend to be derived" bit--a neat critter in the "I wish it hadn't been eaten to extinction 1600 years ago" department was Mekosuchus--six-foot-long true crocs that went back to the "old body plan" of completely upright land-dwellers. Interestingly, some species were heterodont--with specialised teeth in the back of their skulls for cracking open shells of molluscs and crabs :D

Darren Naish has a really neat article on all of this if folks care to check it out--extinct crocs (and living ones) and croc-cousins are pretty darn neat IMHO :D



you see that guy and the fact he ws hunted to extinction by primitive man and it makes you wonder if the Jungian archetype of Beowulf/Sigfried/St George might not have been an aboriginal with a stone-tipped spear
2012-08-24 05:26:30 PM  
1 votes:
And to continue the "crocs actually tend to be derived" bit--a neat critter in the "I wish it hadn't been eaten to extinction 1600 years ago" department was Mekosuchus--six-foot-long true crocs that went back to the "old body plan" of completely upright land-dwellers. Interestingly, some species were heterodont--with specialised teeth in the back of their skulls for cracking open shells of molluscs and crabs :D

Darren Naish has a
really neat article on all of this if folks care to check it out--extinct crocs (and living ones) and croc-cousins are pretty darn neat IMHO :D
2012-08-24 05:06:38 PM  
1 votes:

Warrener: Don't crocodiles and alligators also count as living fossils since they are largely unchanged for a few million years?


1) As others have noted, the article DOES mention crocodilians. :D

2) For those who are not paleogeeks (professional or otherwise) or who did not RTFA--modern surviving crocodilians are actually surprisingly derived little guys; the "ur-crocodilians" actually looked like upright-running small critters, and diversified into everything from dedicated dinosaur-hunters to deep-sea predators (the aforementioned Dakosaurus) to shoreline hunters (the modern niche for crocodilians).

Probably the earliest of the "modern crocs" would be Isisfordia which is one of the first fossils of something living a "modern croc" lifestyle--and which actually looks rather caiman-esque. It's also still only about 90 million years old...the group of crocodyliforms that includes critters that actually lived like modern crocs and had similar body plans (the Neosuchia) is roughly on par with how long birds have been around, something like 140 mya. Much like in the case of dinosaurs where all that survived the K-T were the insectivorous-bat-analogues (modern birds), the only crocodylomorphs that survived were the odd little "sea lion" analogues (modern crocs).

Interestingly, the neosuchians also include the really derived "seal and orca analogue" metriorhynchoid crocodylomorphs, of which the aforementioned Dakosaurus is one--much like how some of the more derived "sea-faring" early birds didn't make it across the K-T, the same seems to have happened with the really derived crocs.

3) Not mentioned in the article, but something to note--some of the traits of modern crocodilians thought to be "primitive" may actually be adaptations for a shore-hunting lifestyle. Among other things, the evidence points to early crocodilians actually being homeothermic (like modern dinosaurs, aka birds) and ectothermy in modern crocodilians being an adaptive trait to conserve oxygen whilst underwater. (Secondary ectothermy isn't all that unknown; crocodilians split from the rest of the Archosauria after homeothermy showed up in that clade so "warm blooded ur-crocs" are likely, and naked mole rats are an example of mammals that are secondarily ectothermic (and for very similar reasons as modern crocs--more on naked mole rat thermoregulation here.) Modern crocodilian gait is also known to be a specific adaptation for shore hunting.

This is especially true if we go above "eusuchid crocs" into crocodylomorphs, including the "ur-croc" spenosuchids which can be best described as "archosaurian greyhound-analogues"--a general lifestyle and body build that practically requires homeothermy. (And frankly, I find some of those spenosuchids cute. Then again, I also find baby modern crocodilians cute; it never ceases to amuse me how little baby scalybutts can quack like chicks. And momma crocodilians can be nearly as broody when they hear those little quacks...)
2012-08-24 05:06:16 PM  
1 votes:

LordJiro: Bondith: Warrener
Don't crocodiles and alligators also count as living fossils since they are largely unchanged for a few million years?

I'm a sharrrrrk, I'm a sharrrrrrk, suck my unchanged-for-hundreds-of-millions-of-years diiiiick, I'm a sharrrrrrrk.

Actually, sharks haven't been 'unchanged' for quite that long. Sure, there've been sharks for hundreds of millions of years, and some time during the dinosaur era, they settled on a 'design', but some of the earlier ones were pretty farking wacky lookin'.


Not to mention that sharks are still a pretty diverse group, and lots of them are pretty whacky looking.
2012-08-24 04:51:51 PM  
1 votes:

Bondith: Warrener
Don't crocodiles and alligators also count as living fossils since they are largely unchanged for a few million years?

I'm a sharrrrrk, I'm a sharrrrrrk, suck my unchanged-for-hundreds-of-millions-of-years diiiiick, I'm a sharrrrrrrk.


Actually, sharks haven't been 'unchanged' for quite that long. Sure, there've been sharks for hundreds of millions of years, and some time during the dinosaur era, they settled on a 'design', but some of the earlier ones were pretty farking wacky lookin'.
2012-08-24 04:35:39 PM  
1 votes:

redmid17:

Can never trust them 19th century Hungarians!


I admit I've got the "Carpathian wild man" eyebrows. Whenever I go to a movie, they get there a couple minutes ahead of me and save me a seat.
2012-08-24 04:28:50 PM  
1 votes:

FloydA: Warrener: Don't crocodiles and alligators also count as living fossils since they are largely unchanged for a few million years?

The point of the article is that the species that get called "living fossils" are not actually unchanged. The species that are alive in the present are recognizably different from their ancient ancestors. They have simply retained plesiomorphic traits that were present in other species in the past. Calling archosaurs "living fossils" is equivalent to calling me a 19th century Hungarian because I have the same last name as my grandfather.

In the past, archosaurs were a much more diverse group than they are today, and some of them resembled modern crocodiles, alligators and caimans. But the archosaurs of today are also different in many ways from their ancestors. So it's sort of misleading to call them "living fossils."

Technically speaking, a fossil is any trace of life from a prior geological age. The most recent prior geological age was the Pleistocene, which ended about 10,000 years ago. So in order for something to be a "living fossil," it would have to be a living organism that is more than 10,000 years old. The oldest living individual organisms are less than half that, as far as I know.

(Note: there are a few clonal organisms that have persisted for longer, but that kind of blurs the notion of "individual.")


Why must you always make me want to hump your leg? (I'd buy her a beer afterward.)

You should be a teacher or something.
2012-08-24 04:15:22 PM  
1 votes:

FloydA: Warrener: Don't crocodiles and alligators also count as living fossils since they are largely unchanged for a few million years?

The point of the article is that the species that get called "living fossils" are not actually unchanged. The species that are alive in the present are recognizably different from their ancient ancestors. They have simply retained plesiomorphic traits that were present in other species in the past. Calling archosaurs "living fossils" is equivalent to calling me a 19th century Hungarian because I have the same last name as my grandfather.

In the past, archosaurs were a much more diverse group than they are today, and some of them resembled modern crocodiles, alligators and caimans. But the archosaurs of today are also different in many ways from their ancestors. So it's sort of misleading to call them "living fossils."

Technically speaking, a fossil is any trace of life from a prior geological age. The most recent prior geological age was the Pleistocene, which ended about 10,000 years ago. So in order for something to be a "living fossil," it would have to be a living organism that is more than 10,000 years old. The oldest living individual organisms are less than half that, as far as I know.

(Note: there are a few clonal organisms that have persisted for longer, but that kind of blurs the notion of "individual.")


Can never trust them 19th century Hungarians!
2012-08-24 04:04:03 PM  
1 votes:

t3knomanser: I'm shocked nobody has mentioned crocs, alligators, or sharks. COME ON.


They are mentioned in the article and he points out they HAVE changed.
2012-08-24 03:27:34 PM  
1 votes:

Warrener: Don't crocodiles and alligators also count as living fossils since they are largely unchanged for a few million years?


The point of the article is that the species that get called "living fossils" are not actually unchanged. The species that are alive in the present are recognizably different from their ancient ancestors. They have simply retained plesiomorphic traits that were present in other species in the past. Calling archosaurs "living fossils" is equivalent to calling me a 19th century Hungarian because I have the same last name as my grandfather.

In the past, archosaurs were a much more diverse group than they are today, and some of them resembled modern crocodiles, alligators and caimans. But the archosaurs of today are also different in many ways from their ancestors. So it's sort of misleading to call them "living fossils."

Technically speaking, a fossil is any trace of life from a prior geological age. The most recent prior geological age was the Pleistocene, which ended about 10,000 years ago. So in order for something to be a "living fossil," it would have to be a living organism that is more than 10,000 years old. The oldest living individual organisms are less than half that, as far as I know.

(Note: there are a few clonal organisms that have persisted for longer, but that kind of blurs the notion of "individual.")
2012-08-24 03:11:08 PM  
1 votes:
Hipster coelacanth didnt yield much, but...

farm6.staticflickr.com

i.imgur.com

3.bp.blogspot.com
2012-08-24 03:02:51 PM  
1 votes:
i.imgur.com

/oppa Gangnam style!
2012-08-24 02:28:11 PM  
1 votes:

MadSkillz: Horseshoe crabs live in Williamsburg now? At least the other guys won't eat 'em.


i.imgur.com
2012-08-24 01:23:06 PM  
1 votes:

brap: [i253.photobucket.com image 152x115]Hear that Dopey? You are a figment of my imagination. Who knew that comically oversized strawberries had pscyhedelic properties? Oh well, if it ain't broke don't fix it, right Dopey? Let's go make a gigantic fruit salad trip balls and go make fun of Chaka by putting up these posters I had made up. [i253.photobucket.com image 320x240]RAWR!I'll take that as a HELLZ YEAH! my imaginary friend!


[snort, chuckle, guffaw]
2012-08-24 01:15:48 PM  
1 votes:
i253.photobucket.comHear that Dopey? You are a figment of my imagination. Who knew that comically oversized strawberries had pscyhedelic properties? Oh well, if it ain't broke don't fix it, right Dopey? Let's go make a gigantic fruit salad trip balls and go make fun of Chaka by putting up these posters I had made up. i253.photobucket.comRAWR!I'll take that as a HELLZ YEAH! my imaginary friend!
 
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