When I was a grad student back in the eighties it was required to give a lecture on a subject of interest within my major. I thought that “biological clocks” were pretty cool and gave a lecture on some things I had learned about them. Living creatures are full of wonderful machinery which includes different kinds of timing devices. All corals around the world seem to be programmed to release their eggs on a single day every year. Some kinds of lobsters join together in trains following each other in a tight single file that can stretch for hundreds of feet as they move from deeper water to the shallows each year at the same time. Cicadas spend either 13 or 17 years many feet under the ground and the 17 year kind will emerge from the ground together during a period of several days every 17 years as a winged flying adult.
We are waiting for the baby toads to emerge from our pond. The adults lay their eggs in the pond every spring and the tiny tadpoles grow pretty quickly and when they begin to sprout the back legs we know that in a few days they will be ready to shed their tails and climb out of the pond as tiny baby toads the size of a fingernail, but looking almost identical in form to the adults. They all seem to exit the pond as little toadlets on the same night. Thousands of them smaller then peas hopping around the edge of the pond and all the tadpoles will be gone. Hoping to get this event on tape this year!
Been reading Charlie Darwin’s famous book about his so-called, “Favored Races” or “Origin of Species” and it’s a good example of how you should never judge a book by it’s reputation. If you look at the Amazon.com reviews, you’d think that it was the greatest piece of literature ever produced! Well I have to say that if the first chapter is any indication of the rest of the book, it’s not looking very positive. Charlie just goes on and on about all this BS about how all these breeders have been capable of transforming this creature into that within just a few short generations. I feel badly that he really believes half of it. Then he pipes in with some of his own breeding prowess claiming that he had, “produced every sort of feather in his pigeons that you could imagine in just a few generations”. Let’s see, how many bird of paradise tail feathers did he come up with, much less peacock,,, well.
But, we all know how guys are prone to BS, especially when there’s a little competition goin on! Then there’s the dude that brags about how he can breed any sort of sheep he wanted at will in only 3 generations!!! Charlie seems to hold that character in the highest regard… Of course that’s not to say that in very controlled conditions some very odd varieties of creatures can be sustained for multiple generations. That’s humans selectively breeding various creatures, which is a far cry from how nature works. Humans choose creatures both male and female that have the traits desired and form a “pedigree”. Creatures that are unnaturally isolated and artificially nurtured and carefully inbred.
Honestly, I was expecting more even though I know how bad his “science” really was. Maybe the second chapter will not be as bad? After all he didn’t know a thing about genetics and how inheritence really works. He mentions the “reversion to wilds” rule of breeding that reminds us of the power of nature to unravel all our best breeding efforts and return a creature to more or less its original natural type in only a few generations. If not, they probably won’t survive in the wild at all. He claims “but natural selection, as will hereafter be explained, will determine how far the new characters thus arising shall be preserved”. And indeed they shall, not to the help of significant change.
Nature breeds for genetic health and physical and behavioral conformity, whereas human-bred creatures are notoriously plagued by, and even selected for, genetic disease. If Darwin was looking to build a case for variability by showcasing that kind of stuff, it is a foolish and irresponsible way to go about it. As a naturalist himself he should know quite well that nature operates on an entirely different criteria from man.
Well, I’ll keep reading. Maybe things’ll get better…