The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ain't Evolution Grand?

I took the day off work today and went to the Toronto Zoo with Mrs. Heathen and TinyGirlHeathen. It was tons of fun and, as usual, I got to learn a lot about different animals and - also as usual - got another level of appreciation for how evolution works and how interesting it can be.

Take, for example, the Jumbo Gourami. This is a fish that has adapted a "labyrinth organ" which allows it to extract more than normal oxygen from low-oxygen water or, in the case of emergency, even crawl across the land and breathe air. How cool is that? I think it's pretty damn cool.

Or hippos, for chrissake. Their noses and ears close up upon contact with water and when they're chillin' in the sun, their skin excretes what is essentially a sun-block/antibiotic. And naked mole rats have no sweat glands or fat layers making them the poorest thermoregulators of all mammals, so they live underground in colonies like ants or bees and survive that way. It really is too awesome.

There is so much to learn about the creatures around us, so much wonder - and yet some people persist in believing that there is something out there that we can never prove that is the best thing ever. Why make up stories when the reality is so fantastic that you can't even imagine it? It boggles the mind.

Well, PZ might be able to imagine it. Especially the labyrinth organ.

8 Barbaric Yawps:

At 18/9/07 12:06 am, Blogger Paul said...

I love Gouramis. I commonly keep them in my aquarium. Very graceful fish, and will populate the top half of the tank quite nicely.

At 18/9/07 9:29 am, Blogger King Aardvark said...

Cool fish. I just read the zoo link and it says that people eat them. Any idea how they taste?

At 18/9/07 10:55 am, Anonymous JohnF said...

And naked mole rats have no sweat glands or fat layers making them the poorest thermoregulators of all mammals, so they live underground in colonies like ants or bees and survive that way.

The way you say it makes it sound like they lost the ability to sweat and thermoregulate, then they moved underground to survive. It's likely the other way around: they lived underground for so long, they didn't need to sweat or thermoregulate, so those expensive systems were genetically shut down.

Not that it makes much difference; it's still pretty badass.

At 18/9/07 11:02 am, Blogger BigHeathenMike said...

Johnf: Good point. I did sort of say it backwards. And yeah, they're badass. I think they require a t-shirt saying as much.

At 18/9/07 2:25 pm, Blogger King Aardvark said...

Maybe humans should follow the naked mole rat example, since they're so badass. Unlike most of the mammals, we and the naked mole rat share nakedness; however, we wear clothes to keep warm. I propose that instead of wearing clothes, we should all live together in big naked heaps underground. Anyone with me?

At 18/9/07 11:33 pm, Blogger StefRobrts said...

I hate to get all skeptical on you, but I'm pretty familiar with labyrinth fishes, and I've never heard of one that was able to get out and crawl to another place. Their bodies are not really shaped for crawling. They can breathe air while they're flopping about though. Where did you get the crawling reference? I'm always open to learning something new.

I've always found there is nothing like a trip to the zoo to really cement my belief in evolution. I always come out wondering how other people can see and not believe. Ironically, that's probably the exact same thing the fundies come out thinking.

At 19/9/07 10:15 am, Blogger BigHeathenMike said...

Hey Stef,
I read the "crawls over land" bit in the blurb above the tank where the fish was. It said something like, "evolved the labyrinth organ to extract more O2 from low O2 water, and it can breathe air if necessary, or even use its fins to crawl for short distances across land in an emergency"

Something along those lines. It wasn't like the fish could jump out and do the Icky Shuffle or anything, although that'd be sweet.

At 19/9/07 1:02 pm, Blogger StefRobrts said...

Totally :) However they use it, the labyrinth is an amazing adaptation to the environment they developed in. Of coursse, there are those who would just say God gave it to them, in which case there's nothing you can do but go bang your head against the wall (or their head, whichever).


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